Saturday, August 7, 2010

Generating energy from ocean waters off Hawaii

The $250 million successful USA renewable energy effort dismissed with one paragraph in 1997 and dropped even from the NREL website

From ScienceDaily

Researchers at the University of Hawaii
at Manoa say that the Leeward side of Hawaiian Islands may be ideal for future ocean-based renewable energy plants that would use seawater from the oceans' depths to drive massive heat engines and produce steady amounts of renewable energy.

The technology, referred to as Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC), is described in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, which is published by the American Institute of Physics (AIP).

It involves placing a heat engine between warm water collected at the ocean's surface and cold water pumped from the deep ocean.
Like a ball rolling downhill, heat flows from the warm reservoir to the cool one.
The greater the temperature difference, the stronger the flow of heat that can be used to do useful work such as spinning a turbine and generating electricity.

The history of OTEC dates back more than a half century.
However, the technology has never taken off -- largely because of the relatively low cost of oil and other fossil fuels.
But if there are any places on Earth where large OTEC facilities would be most cost competitive, it is where the ocean temperature differentials are the greatest.

Analyzing data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Oceanographic Data Center, the University of Hawaii's Gérard Nihous says that the warm-cold temperature differential is about one degree Celsius greater on the leeward (western) side of the Hawaiian Islands than that on the windward (eastern) side.

This small difference translates to 15 percent more power for an OTEC plant, says Nihous, whose theoretical work focuses on driving down cost and increasing efficiency of future facilities, the biggest hurdles to bringing the technology to the mainstream.

"Testing that was done in the 1980s clearly demonstrates the feasibility of this technology," he says. "Now it's just a matter of paying for it."

Links :

Friday, August 6, 2010

UK update in the Marine GeoGarage

Chart 4148 Approaches to Table Bay (South Africa)

745 charts from UK are now integrated and updated in the Marine GeoGarage UK 'private' layer (+24 since the previous update).

15 charts have been updated from the previous update :

  • 675 Harbours and Anchorages on the Coast of Sudan
  • 1534 Great Yarrmouth and Approaches
  • 1535 Lowestoft and Approaches
  • 1543 Winterton Ness to Orford Ness
  • 2154 Newhaven Harbour
  • 2249 Orkney Islands Western Sheet
  • 2250 Orkney Islands Eastern Sheet
  • 2695 Plans on the East Coast of England
  • 2715 Killala and Donegal
  • 3292 Eastern Approaches to Yell Sound, Colgrave Sound and Bluemull Sound
  • 3294 Shetland Islands Harbours in Southern Mainland
  • 3418 Langstone and Chichester Harbours
  • 3741 Rivers Colne and Blackwater
  • 3783 Mesaieed (Musay'id or Umm Said)
  • 4158 Republic of South Africa - South Coast, Plans in Algoa Bay

Note : new chart data obtained under license with the UKHO and some other international Hydrographic Services :
  • Argentina ‑ Servicio de Hidrografia Naval (SHN)
  • Belgium ‑Vlaamse Hydrografie
  • Spain‑ Instituto Hidrográfico de la Marina
  • Croatia ‑ Hvratski Hidrografski Institute (HHI)
  • Iceland ‑ Hydrographic Department of the Icelandic Coast Guard
  • Malta ‑ Malta Maritime Authority
  • Netherlands ‑ Netherlands Hydrographic Office I Dienst De Hydrografie
  • Oman‑ National Hydrographic Office, Sultanate of Oman (NHOSO)
  • South Africa ‑ South African Navy Hydrographic Office
are right now displayed in the UK layer.

8 charts for Argentina :

  • 227 Church Point to Cape Longing including James Ross Island
  • Rio Parana - Rosario to Parana
  • 2505 Approaches to the Falkland Islands
  • 2517 North-Western Approaches to the Falkland Islands
  • 2519 South-Western Approaches to the Falkland Islands
  • 3560 Gerlache Strait Northern Part
  • 3566 Gerlache Strait Southern Part
  • 4207 Falkland Islands to Cabo Corrientes and Northeast Georgia Rise

12 charts for Belgium & Netherlands :

  • 99 Entrances to Rivers in Guyana and Suriname
  • 130 Anguilla to Puerto Rico showing the Approaches to the Virgin Islands
  • 266 North Sea Offshore Charts Sheet 11
  • 572 Essequibo River to Corentyn River
  • 1187 Outer Silver Pit
  • 1408 North Sea, Harwich and Rotterdam to Cromer and Terschelling.
  • 1503 Outer Dowsing to Smiths Knoll including Indefatigable Banks.
  • 1504 Cromer to Orford Ness
  • 1630 West Hinder and Outer Gabbard to Vlissingen and Scheveningen
  • 1631 DW Routes to Ijmuiden and Texel
  • 1632 DW Routes and Friesland Junction to Vlieland
  • 2047 Approaches to Anguilla

5 charts for Malta :

  • 36 Marsaxlokk
  • 177 Valletta Harbours
  • 211 Plans in the Maltese Islands
  • 2537 Ghawdex (Gozo), Kemmuna (Comino) and the Northern Part of Malta
  • 2538 Malta

3 charts for Oman :

  • 2854 Northern approaches to Masirah
  • 3171 Southern Approaches to the Strait of Hormuz
  • 3511 Wudam and Approaches

47 charts for South Africa :

  • 578 Cape Columbine to Cape Seal
  • 632 Hollandsbird Island to Cape Columbine
  • 643 Durban Harbour
  • 1236 Saldanha Bay
  • 1769 Islands and Anchorages in the South Atlantic Ocean
  • 1806 Baia dos Tigres to Conception Bay
  • 1846 Table Bay Docks and Approaches
  • 1922 RSA - Simon's Bay
  • 2078 Port Nolloth to Island Point
  • 2086 East London to Port S Johns
  • 2087 Port St John's to Durban
  • 2088 Durban to Cape Vidal
  • 2095 Cape St Blaize to Port S. John's
  • 3793 Shixini Point to Port S Johns
  • 3794 Port S Johns to Port Shepstone
  • 3795 Port Shepstone to Cooper Light
  • 3797 Green Point to Tongaat Bluff
  • 3859 Cape Cross to Conception Bay
  • 3860 Mutzel Bay to Spencer Bay
  • 3870 Chamais Bay to Port Nolloth
  • 4132 Kunene River to Sand Table Hill
  • 4133 Sand Table Hill to Cape Cross
  • 4136 Harbours on the West Coasts of Namibia and South Africa
  • 4141 Island Point to Cape Deseada
  • 4142 Saldanha Bay Harbour
  • 4145 Approaches to Saldanha Bay
  • 4146 Cape Columbine to Table Bay
  • 4148 Approaches to Table Bay
  • 4150 Republic of South Africa, South West Coast, Table Bay to Valsbaai
  • 4151 Cape Deseada to Table Bay
  • 4152 Republic of South Africa, South West Coast, Table Bay to Cape Agulhas
  • 4153 Republic of South Africa, South Coast, Cape Agulhas to Cape St. Blaize
  • 4154 Mossel Bay
  • 4155 Cape St Blaize to Cape St Francis
  • 4156 South Africa, Cape St Francis to Great Fish Point
  • 4157 South Africa, Approaches to Port Elizabeth
  • 4158 Republic of South Africa - South Coast, Plans in Algoa Bay.
  • 4159 Great Fish Point to Mbashe Point
  • 4162 Approaches to East London
  • 4170 Approaches to Durban
  • 4172 Tugela River to Ponta do Ouro
  • 4173 Approaches to Richards Bay
  • 4174 Richards Bay Harbour
  • 4204 Walvis Bay to Maputo
  • 4205 Agulhas Plateau to Discovery Seamounts
  • 4700 Port Elizabeth to Mauritius
  • 4160 Ngqura Harbour

10 charts for Spain & Portugal :

  • 144 Mediterranean Sea, Gibraltar
  • 690 Cabo Delgado to Mikindani Bay
  • 1448 Gibraltar Bay
  • 1455 Algeciras
  • 1727 Bolama and Approaches
  • 1740 Livingston Island, Bond Point to Brunow Bay including Juan Carlos 1 Base and Half Moon Island
  • 142 Strait of Gibraltar
  • 1595 Ilhas do Principe, de Sao Tome and Isla Pagalu
  • 3578 Eastern Approaches to the Strait of Gibraltar
  • 310 Ponta Grossa to Kuene River
We hope to include charts for Croatia, Iceland plus more charts for Spain and Portugal in our next update.

Note : don't forget to visit the UKHO Notice to Mariners web page for updates to Admiralty Charts by Chart or NM number

Scientists plumb the depths to ask how many fish in the sea

From The Guardian

It has been the biggest and most comprehensive attempt ever to answer that age-old question – how many fish are there in the sea?

Published today, a 10-year study of the diversity, distribution and abundance of life in the world's oceans attempts just that. The Census of Marine Life, which hopes to paint a baseline of marine life, estimates there are more than 230,000 species in our oceans.

"From coast to the open ocean, from the shallows to the deep, from little things like microbes to large things such as fish and whales," said Patricia Miloslavich of Universidad Simón Bolívar, Venezuela and co-senior scientist of the COML. The study also covers crabs, plankton, birds, sponges, worms, squids, sharks and slugs.

A team of more than 360 scientists around the world have spent the past decade surveying 25 regions, from the Antarctic through the temperate and tropical seas to the Arctic to count the different types of plants and animals.

The results show that around a fifth of the world's marine species are crustaceans such as crabs, lobsters, krill and barnacles. Add in molluscs (squid and octopus) and fish (including sharks) and that accounts for up to half of the number of species in the world's seas. The charismatic species often used in conservation campaigning – whales, sea lions, turtles and sea birds – account for less than 2% of the species in the world's oceans.

The surveys have also highlighted major areas of concern for conservationists. "In every region, they've got the same story of a major collapse of what were usually very abundant fish stocks or crabs or crustaceans that are now only 5-10% of what they used to be," said Mark Costello of the Leigh Marine Laboratory, University of Auckland in New Zealand. "These are largely due to over-harvesting and poor management of those fisheries. That's probably the biggest and most consistent threat to marine biodiversity around the world."

The main threats to date include overfishing, degraded habitats, pollution and the arrival of invasive species. But more problems are around the corner: rising water temperatures and acidification thanks to climate change and the growth in areas of the ocean that are low in oxygen and, therefore, unable to support life.

The COML identified enclosed seas such as the Mediterranean, Gulf of Mexico, China's shelves, Baltic, and the Caribbean as having the most threatened biodiversity. "Enclosed seas have the risk that, when you impact it and throw chemicals or other garbage into it, it will not go away so easily as it will from the open ocean," said Miloslavich.

Dense coastal populations of humans also tend to be packed along enclosed seas, meaning increased pollution and extraction of more biodiversity from the water.

The Mediterranean, which contains almost 17,000 identified species, scored the maximum threat rating of five for four of the categories. Scientists studying the Mediterranean identified problems related to increased litter from shipping and munitions across the sea as well as bombs discharged during the Kosovo war.

The Mediterranean also faces problems because of invasive species displacing the creatures that already live there. This sea had the most alien species out of all the 25 regions surveyed by the COML, with more than 600 (4% of the all species present). Most had arrived from the Red Sea via the Suez Canal.

The most diverse regions identified by the COML are around Australia and south-east Asia. "It's also a hotspot for terrestrial biodiversity as well and this has been known for about 100 years," said Costello.

"It looks like that region with the coral reefs has always had a very high rate of speciation. It also has a very diverse range of habitats – from the deepest areas of the oceans to large areas of shallow seas, which can support coral reefs."

Both Australian and Japanese waters contain more than 30,000 species each and are among the most biologically diverse in the world. Next in line are the oceans off China, the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.

Apart from algae and the seabirds and mammals that travel around the sea, the COML identified the manylight viperfish (Chauliodus sloani) as the most "cosmopolitan" marine creature. Its presence was recorded in around a quarter of the world's seas.

"This inventory was urgently needed for two reasons," said Costello. "First, dwindling expertise in taxonomy impairs society's ability to discover and describe new species. And secondly, marine species have suffered major declines – in some cases 90% losses – because of human activities and may be heading for extinction, as happened to many species on land."

Miloslavich said the COML data would "allow policy-makers to make better and more informed decisions on what areas should be protected for the better management of resources and the ecosystems as well, in order that they keep providing good services."

The results of the survey are published today online at the PLoS ONE journal.
More detailed results will be published in October, at which time the COML will confirm how many species it estimates are in the world's oceans.

And for every marine species of all kinds known to science, COML scientists estimate that at least four have yet to be discovered. They said that around 70% of species of fish have been discovered, for example, but for most other groups likely less than one-third are known.
As of February, the number of marine fish species known to science stood at 16,764, and was growing at around 100 a year.

Scientists estimate that there are almost 22,000 fish species in the world.
The most fruitful potential areas for discovery include the tropics, deep seas and southern hemisphere.

"At the end of the Census of Marine Life, most ocean organisms still remain nameless and their numbers unknown," said Nancy Knowlton, a biologist at the Smithsonian Institution, leader of the COML's coral reef project.
"This is not an admission of failure. The ocean is simply so vast that, after 10 years of hard work, we still have only snapshots, though sometimes detailed, of what the sea contains. But it is an important and impressive start."

Links :

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Looking for the oil ? NOAA says it's mostly gone

video : Allen, 'High confidence' no more oil will leak

From Richard Black, BBC News

While listening to the latest briefing on the Gulf of Mexico oil leak, I've been wondering whether the questions being answered are the right ones.

The key factoid presented by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) is that about three-quarters of the 4.9 million barrels that entered the Gulf waters has been dealt with.

About one quarter has naturally dissolved or evaporated, and another quarter was captured at source or skimmed or burned. Those portions have effectively been eliminated from the sea.

A further quarter has been dispersed, either naturally or chemically - leaving the remaining quarter that, in Noaa's words...

" either on or just below the surface as light sheen and weathered tar balls, has washed ashore or been collected from the shore, or is buried in sand and sediments."
In the early days, the scale of the leak became a vital statistic, central to questions both about the incident's politics ("Is BP telling the truth? Is the government?") and about the eventual ecological impact.

Daily we followed maps of where the slick was blown; and the revelations of underwater oil plumes, and the succession of new estimates projecting successively higher flow rates, made for compelling reading.

But at what appears to be the tail end of the affair, arguably size matters less than ever.

Just as with fishing or anything else you do in the marine world, the issue isn't only "how much?" but "where?"

Heavy trawls dragged over grey, boring sea floor will leave behind grey, boring sea floor. Use the same gear on deepwater coral, and you wreak ecological carnage.

Likewise Deepwater Horizon. Oil flecked across the wide Gulf seas will have far less impact on wildlife or fish or anything else than if blobs of the stuff happen to congregate in a marsh vital for a threatened species of breeding bird, or an aggregation of spawning bluefin tuna.

Along some beaches, people are still rescuing oil-soaked pelicans; on others, they're already toasting themselves in the Gulf sun, as though the oil never happened.

At present, as I discussed in my analysis article on Tuesday, evidence for widespread ecological damage is thin; so we have to presume that as of now, the significant volume of oil that remains (even a quarter of 4.9 milion barrels is still far more than released by the Exxon Valdez) is not hitting enough of those key zones to be having a major impact.

The other question posed by the Noaa analysis is a "who?" question, as in "who looks good now?"

Away from the oil-washed segments of Gulf coast where hydrocarbons pervade the air, arguably the strongest aroma generated by this whole affair has been one of political fragrance.

It's been said that US politicians could heavily and publicly blame BP because of what the B stands for. That's not to excuse anything the company has done, and it has admitted culpability in a number of ways; but it's hard to imagine good ol' Southern boys being quite so disparaging if the oil company in question had been of good ol' Southern origin.

Shifting everything onto the company's shoulders was also a way of distracting attention from anything the Bush or Obama administrations, or indeed the Houses of Congress, could have done differently - such as insisting on a regulatory regime with more stringent safeguards.

With mid-term elections approaching, having a government agency proclaim a kind of victory over the oil now is what you might term a fairly slick piece of business.

Does Noaa's analysis add up? Not everyone thinks so, with Florida State University oceanographer Ian MacDonald saying:

"There's some science here, but mostly it's spin, and it breaks my heart to see them do it... I'm afraid this continues a track record of doubtful information distributed through Noaa."
Perhaps the most doubtful aspect of it, though, is that for ecological purposes it appears simply to be addressing a question that doesn't matter very much.

Links :
  • Nature : a scientist at the centre of the spill
  • : despite oil disappearance, scientists say dangers could linger in the Gulf
  • NRDC : many questions still unanswered on dispersants following EPA report
  • WSJ : Timeline, key developments since the initial explosion

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Top Fish Predators decline in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

From Stellwagen Bank

The numbers of top-level predators in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, such as halibut and swordfish, decreased significantly from population levels 100 years ago, according to a new NOAA report released today by the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

The National Marine Sanctuaries Conservation Series report, "Stellwagen Bank Marine Historical Ecology Final Report" describes fish populations in the sanctuary that are resilient, but have suffered declines in numbers and species diversity over time.

The report, produced by the Gulf of Maine Cod Project at the University of New Hampshire, presents results of a three-year survey and analysis of historical documents and manuscripts relevant to the historical ecology of the sanctuary.
The authors, Stefan Claesson and Andrew Rosenberg, former director of NOAA Fisheries Northeast Regional Office, said the report’s findings challenge currently established baselines "and should influence the direction of management actions needed to improve overall ecosystem integrity."

Key findings from the research include:
  • Halibut, swordfish and other top predators in the sanctuary were overfished to near commercial extinction in the late 19th and 20th centuries;
  • Declines in diversity of bottom-dwelling species in the western Gulf of Maine, including the sanctuary, from 1900 to 2000;
  • Maximum annual catch levels of important commercial species declined by nearly 50 percent over a 100 year period; and
  • Proportional catch ratios of haddock and cod in the sanctuary have reversed in the last 100 years from 3:1 to 1:7.
"These findings present a serious wake-up call to marine resource managers, the fishing community and environmentalists," said Craig MacDonald, superintendent, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.
"Biodiversity conservation is one of the key management priorities for the sanctuary, and a major focus in our new management plan."

According to the report, the waters of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary have been fished for nearly 400 years, since European mariners came to the New World even before the Pilgrims.
Near-shore fish populations and micro-banks, such as Stellwagen, were already showing declining numbers by the early 1800s, the report notes.

Since the late 19th century, human interactions with the Stellwagen Bank ecosystem caused dramatic changes to animal populations, according to the report’s authors.
They attribute the relatively quick ecosystem shifts to the development of new fishing technologies, such as gill nets and trawl gear, which were invented and adopted to improve efficiency and catch levels in an environment of declining numbers of fish caught and increasing market demand.

The report recommends additional analysis that examines historical trends for fish populations and habitat conditions back to 1800, and identifies socio-economic and cultural drivers related to shifts in catch levels.

Designated in 1992, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary encompasses 842 square miles of ocean, stretching between Cape Ann and Cape Cod. Renowned for its scenic beauty and remarkable productivity, the sanctuary supports a rich diversity of marine life including 22 species of marine mammals, more than 53 species of seabirds, more than 80 species of fishes, and hundreds of marine invertebrates.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cowes week 2010 : amazing onboard footage

From ExtremeSailingSeries

There was plenty of dramatic action on day two of the Extreme Sailing Series at Cowes Week today.
With 18-20 knots of breeze, gusting over 20 at times, the nine teams were racing right on the edge, demanding 100% concentration and a constant rush of adrenalin for both the sailors and the spectators from the near capsizes, near misses and some not so near misses…

In race 11 (the fourth inshore race of today), approaching the windward mark Yann Guichard’s Groupe Edmond de Rothschild hit Franck Cammas’ Groupama 40 wiping out both rudders, leaving Groupama with no steerage whatsoever. Groupama 40 were heading straight for the shore at speed and for safety the crew leapt into the water to avoid the impact of hitting the rocks – deciding they would prefer getting wet than being thrown forward on the boat and potentially injuring themselves.
Groupama 40 has sustained both rudder and daggerboard damage and it will be a long night for the shore team to get them back racing tomorrow.
Groupe Edmond de Rothschild has lodged a protest which the jury will hear and award redress if relevant.

Paul Campbell-James, the youngest skipper on the circuit at just 28, ensured The Wave, Muscat finished inside the top four in today’s races including the morning offshore race and the five inshore races this afternoon held off Egypt Point.
Two wins this afternoon, two seconds and two third places put them top of the Extreme Sailing Series leaderboard on 85 points: “We got good starts which is a big part of today and we were pushing really hard downwind when we needed to. Sometimes we were so close to capsizing but you have to push it hard at times and back off at others.”

Yesterday, British skipper Mike Golding said he didn’t mind if they didn’t score any ‘bullets’ today, stating finishing inside the top four was more important.
But his helm Leigh McMillan and the crew had other ideas – posting a win in the offshore race in the morning, then two further bullets in the penultimate and ultimate race of the day to finish in second place with 80 points.
This kept the home crowd, who packed into the Extreme Bar and along the shoreline, happy as they cheered Golding’s crew all the way.

All the skippers talk about the importance of consistency but yesterday’s leader Loick Peyron on Oman Sail Masirah found his top form elusive today, only posting a third place in the second race this afternoon which leaves Peyron’s team in third place overall with 74 points – 7 points ahead of Guichard’s team in 4th.

Double Olympic Gold Medalist Roman Hagara had another day of mixed fortunes – one race win and a second place in the penultimate race, keeps them in contention in the middle of the leaderboard in 6th place, five points behind Mitch Booth’s The Ocean Racing Club who did well in this morning’s offshore finishing in second.
Another frustrating day for Roland Jourdain’s Veolia Environnement who had rudder problems before the start of the first race then had to drop the mainsail between races to sort out another problem.
The team unpracticed in the art of Extreme 40 racing, put a reef in early and raced cautiously throughout the afternoon, although the 1989 Formula 40 World Champion demonstrated why he clinched that title with a couple of great starts.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The shark whisperer of Cuba

From David Guggenheim, 1Planet1Ocean

Though a bit unnerving at first to dive with so many sharks in the water, after a few days we became quite accustomed to these magnificent animals circling us throughout out dives.

Unfortunately, this is becoming an increasingly rare sight as more than 90 percent of the world’s large predators, including sharks, have been eliminated over the past 50 years due to overfishing. Sharks certainly have more to fear from us than we do from them.

Areas like Jardines de la Reina in southern Cuba are called “predator-dominated ecosystems” because of the presence of many large predators, including sharks and groupers.
These predators play an important role in maintaining the health and integrity of marine ecosystems, and this was the healthiest marine ecosystem any of us had seen in the Caribbean.
The corals were vibrant, as were the fish populations. Jardines de la Reina is part of the largest marine protected area in the Caribbean and has been protected since 1997.
Fishing is not permitted within the reserve, and the positive effects of this policy are striking.

If you heard The Ocean Doctor radio broadcast or saw the YouTube video (above) of my very first dive with these sharks, you’re probably as curious as I was as to how our divemaster, Noel, who was snorkeling, was able to grab a large silky shark by the tail, place it on his lap, and pet it, without being torn to shreds!
It turns out that folding the shark’s tail in a particular way causes a nervous system reaction that temporarily puts the animal into a trance.
You’ll see in the video that Noel never lets go of the tail.
It appears to work quite well, though Noel later told us he’s been bitten four times!

Please: Never do this! These are wild animals and need to be treated as such.
There are numerous examples of humans treating animals as pets and paying a dear price for it. I am sharing this video with the hope that it helps focus attention to the importance of these animals to the health of marine ecosystems around the world.
If you enjoyed the radio broadcast and/or the video, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution of $1.00 to The Ocean Foundation’s Cuba Marine Research & Conservation Fund, a portion of which is focused on the ongoing study and protection of Jardines de la Reina, home of these sharks and the Shark Whisperer of Cuba, Noel.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Surfing breaks the silence: autistic kids turn out in waves for program

From FloridaToday

If you get close enough, you will see plenty of emotion. Parents and volunteers will be overjoyed. But the most notable phenomenon will be the emotion from the kids participating in the second annual Surfers for Autism (SFA) event.

Many of the children, who fall somewhere on the autism spectrum, have a history of showing no emotion and some of not even talking. But bring them to the ocean and put them on a surfboard and everything changes.

"Total transformation, instantaneous and complete," is how SFA communications director Dave Rossman described it.

"It's unbelievable to see a child come to the beach who doesn't communicate, hasn't spoken in a year plus, who didn't want to walk on the sand, to see a child go from that to high-fiving their instructor."

Rossman continued to list all the means of enthusiasm displayed by the children who participate in the SFA events -- children who are diagnosed with a condition known for suppressing expression -- and it choked him up.

"It's an amazing scene, to see something like that," he said. "If it doesn't touch you, you don't have a heart."

Rossman decided to leave a job as a journalist after he learned of surf buddy SFA president and co-founder Don Ryan's mission for the nonprofit and after he covered an SFA event in Deerfield Beach.

"Within five minutes, my objectivity was gone and I was completely hooked," Rossman said. His work for SFA is pro bono, and he makes a living as a teacher at several colleges in South Florida.

Rossman and Ryan put together three SFA events last year, and this year have eight scheduled from South Beach to Jacksonville.

Some families have registered their children for every event, Rossman said. They had to cap the Cocoa Beach event at 200 participants, keeping it manageable for the 300 volunteers to offer each child a great surfing experience for an entire day.

"The outpouring of support and generosity in your community is overwhelming to us," said Ryan, who lives in Boca Raton.

Ryan said he thinks as many as 3,500 people could pack the beach Saturday for this event, despite weather concerns. Families are coming from as far away as Texas, Utah, Arizona, New York, New Jersey and Maine.

Local businesses have donated items for raffles and fundraising, and local restaurants will be feeding the families and volunteers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that an average of one in 110 children in the United States have an autism spectrum disorder.

"These events are examples of inclusion at the highest level," Ryan said.

Lynda Ayers of Merritt Island will be returning with her 6-year-old son, Gavin. He was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome last year just before the event.
"He's so excited, he already has his bathing suit set out for Saturday," she said.

But Ayers said trips to the beach are not the same on their own and that Gavin responded to how the volunteers worked with him.

"It was absolutely awesome . . . He has a lot of anxious and anxiety issues, but the surfers were so patient with him," she said.

The involvement of the Brevard community has made it easy for such an event to succeed.
"People are so passionate about the ocean, it's a very easy market to get things done in," Rossmsan said.
"The ocean's healing powers are undeniable. When I'm surfing, whatever is ailing me disappears. It's the same for everybody. It's a great equalizer."

Links :