“Everyone I know loves the ocean.  I mean the capital “L” kind of LOVE, the Love that’s unfathomable and ineffable, a fusion of respect, understanding, awe, sensuality and mystery”.  His words are profoundly moving, and I remembered them immediately as I spotted him walking up to our table during the orientation phase of the International Annual Coastal Cleanup Day.  Dave and I were serving as volunteer co-captains for Davenport Main Beach, it was early though certainly not ‘bright’ (the famous California coastal fog had clearly decided to park itself directly on top of us before dissipating a few hours later to reveal another glorious day), and of the 36 wonderful volunteers, there stood Dr. Wallace J Nichols.  J is one of the world’s most recognized marine biologists with a passion for sea turtles and he leads marine conservation efforts globally, so it was a real honor to have him join our team, and what a team it turned out to be!  J was accompanied by his beautiful daughters Grayce and Julia, and his lovely niece Ruby Hoy (she came all the way from Martha’s Vineyard just in time to help clean up the big mess on our beloved beach!).

J and I in tidier times

Folks of every age, gender, and background arrived as the sun was rising behind the veil of fog, ready to make a difference, folks that feel what J calls that capital “L” kind of love for the sea.  A large group of enthusiastic boy scouts showed up first and not a one of those young men considered picking up trash to be ‘gross’ or without merit.  Their excitement was palpable and even though they were all quite young, they appeared fully cognizant of the fact that volunteers are truly the glue that binds a community together and that their mission that misty morning was of monumental importance.  Everyone jumped into action and the results were disturbing in terms of how much trash littered our iconic coastline, yet we all came away with the feeling that we made a real difference for the denizens of the sea that we all have come to “Love”.  Let us also remember what the ocean gives back to us, over 50% of the oxygen we breathe (thank you, phytoplankton…the beautiful plants of the sea)!

Most of our volunteers were Scouts!

Davenport Main Beach – 233 lbs of trash; 141 lbs of recyclables

Cell phone!?

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary – 16,800 total lbs of pollution

3,500 volunteers!

I once heard somebody say that volunteers don’t get paid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.  I believe volunteers are paid in 6 figures: S-M-I-L-E-S!!   Dave and I met many amazing people and we were all stoked to be a part of the largest volunteer effort in the world.  Hundreds of thousands of sea birds, marine mammals, sea turtles, and other species that call the ocean home will benefit from these efforts.  Each and every one of us can make a significant difference.  As Mother Teresa once said, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is but a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop”.

Our beach, our motivation

850 sites were cleaned, California’s largest volunteer effort to date!  Looking at the bigger picture, it really is about so much more than picking up trash.  It’s a chance for Californians to join like-minded people everywhere in expressing that “Love” for our oceans and waterways.  It’s a few hours to share with our families, neighbors, sporting pals, and fellow inspired stewards from all walks of life, coming together to accomplish something paramount and noble on behalf of our environment.

Dave and I, in situ…

Shawna Peak – Naturalist


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