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Reduce Reuse Recycle Surf Off brings educational twist to Huntington Beach surf contest, beach clean-up

The trophies are trashy – and that’s the point.

“I had to get really creative,” said Seth Matson, founder of the upcoming Reduce Reuse Recycle Surf Off in Huntington Beach. “They are basically one-of-a-kind art pieces.”

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Matson turned old wood pallets into frames. Inside, he used a rainbow of colored water-bottle caps collected at beach clean-ups, held together with an eco-resin for a final touch.

And that’s what the Reduce Reuse Recycle Surf Off, scheduled for Saturday, May 18 at Ninth Street north of the pier, is about.

It’s not just catching waves and winning the event — although that’s good too — its more about having fun while learning about the environment.

It’s the third year Matson, a longtime Huntington Beach surfer and the founder of nonprofit Drains to Ocean, has held the contest. It debuted in 2014, took a few years off and returned last year.

“We’re running an environmental surf contest, so it’s totally different than all the other ones,” Matson said. “It’s super fun for the kids – they almost don’t even realize there’s education going on.”

Because of the event’s popularity — nearly 100 participants in six divisions — Matson and co-organizer Jeff Deffenbaugh, a former pro surfer, decided to continue the event this year.

“Last year’s event was super fun,” Matson said. “We had a great turnout, great surfing and an all-around good vibe down at the beach.”

Drains to Ocean holds clean-ups on the beach and on the inland side of Pacific Coast Highway, trying to capture debris before it reaches the ocean.

The $30 entry donation for the surf contest helps fund programs throughout the year including beach, street and mountain clean-ups and an art show, “Salt Water,” coming up in June at the Artery in Costa Mesa, featuring ocean artists.

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Casey Wheat, co-founder of the Sport of Kings and West Coast Boardriders Club, said the Surf Off is great for the community, bringing awareness about the importance of cleaning up the beaches. At last year’s event, even longtime surfers learned how sunscreen can affect the ocean.

“I never thought about it, that it was killing coral and sea life,” Wheat said. “It’s going to take the effort of the community to really give a difference.”

There will be a beach clean-up from 8 a.m. to noon with a goal of plucking about 500 pounds of trash off the beach, with anyone welcome to lend a hand.

Spots are still open for the surf contest, which runs from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Divisions include: groms, youth, men’s, women’s, longboarding and masters. The entry fee also gets participants an event T-shirt, a Sambazon Bowl, refreshments from Suja and a one-year membership to Drains to Ocean.

Event organizers are making sure their event is as environmentally friendly as possible, using eco-friendly propane generators for power, re-using last year’s jerseys and offering organic Matunas surf wax to contestants.

“This year, we are encouraging the contestants to ditch the plastic water bottles and bring only reusable bottles, carpool with a buddy or ride your bike to the event for a smaller CO2 footprint,” said Deffenbaugh, vice president of Drains to Oceans.

“Most of us surfers grew up at the beach and it’s our responsibility to help keep it clean, even if it’s not our trash,” he said. “Pick up a few pieces every time you go for a surf and throw  it in the trash. It’s pretty simple.”

Getting the kids stoked on being good stewards is especially important, he said. “They are the generation that is going to make the change.”

Wheat, who won last year’s men’s division, has his unique trophy made of plastic straws and other trash proudly displayed at the Sport of Kings warehouse.

“It’s different than any trophy I’ve ever seen,” he said. “This one stands out like a sore thumb, and it’s a good sore thumb. It’s not like any other trophy and that’s what’s cool about it.”

He said putting on an event such as this is a thankless job, and Matson’s efforts are appreciated.

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“He’s doing it because he truly believes in it and is passionate about it,” Wheat said. “That’s something that can rub off on the kids. I think it’s an uplifting thing for the community and the kids.”

The surf event will include a booth with environmental education information, driving home the message of not bringing plastic bottles to the beach and to “pack it in, pack it out.” Eco-minded groups including 5 Gyres, the Sierra Club, Bolsa Chica Land Trust, OC Earth Stewards and Heirs to Our Oceans will have representatives and information on hand on the sand.

By LAYLAN CONNELLY | lconnelly@scng.com | Orange County Register

PUBLISHED: May 13, 2019 at 9:55 am | UPDATED: May 13, 2019 at 9:56 am
Photos by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

https://www.ocregister.com (full story)