We are tied to the ocean- and when we go back to the sea- whether it is to sail or to watch it- we go back from whence we came. – John F. Kennedy

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While we didn’t go back to the sea from whence we came, recently we went to clean the ocean. This ocean has given us at Valpo Surf Project (VSP) a summer full of wonderful surf sessions. In an attempt to reciprocate, and to show our gratitude to the sea, VSP dedicated two whole sessions this week to picking up trash at our local beaches. It shocked us to see how much trash there was. Though we combed our way down the beach, we saw more cigarette butts and plastic trash that seemed to crawl back out of the sand to replace those we picked up. It was almost as if the trash had become part of the natural environment. This is scary.

Whether it be tires in Valpo, Chile bottles in Cape Elizabeth, ME or Styrofoam in Marseille, France trash washes up on beaches around the world everyday. There is even an island completely made of trash, as big as Texas, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We cleaned the beach to stop this harmful pollution, so that the marine animals, instead of living in our trash, can live in a clean environment.

We spiced up our beach clean with some friendly competition and a trophy for the winning team. A team of VSP students from Cerro Toro and Laguna Verde won the first clean, and their names inaugurated the new VSP beach clean trophy. On the second day, the trophy went to a team from Montedónico and Cerro Mariposas, despite the valiant efforts of the other two teams, including one team that collected four and a half tires!

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Okay, while I said we dedicated the whole session to cleaning the beach, we also played some whacky team building games which were equally fun to watch as they were to take part in. My favorite activity was the blindfold beach bucket balance challenge. Using small plastic cups, each team had to bring ocean water to their respective buckets one at a time. But, each team member was blindfolded, except for one person who was the eyes for the whole team. It was so funny watching 9-year-old Mario bring our team to the water’s edge where we timidly entered as the sound of the waves made the water seem much closer than it was, and in a few cases it was closer than we thought and we got soaked!

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All in all, it was a great day to be at the beach together, cleaning, playing games, and sharing the good vibes!