The Coral Reef Challenge Is Here

Photo: Rozanne Holmes, a wave breaks in front of the Scripps Institution in La Jolla.

The coral reef challenge is here! Two big wave surfers from La Jolla, California, and Hawaii, Clinton Edwards and Clifford Kapono, are spear heading the challenge to image the world's best surf spots. Through The Surface, is a one-year project to visually and chemically map the coral reefs under the world's most famous waves. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla and the University of Miami are aiding in this reef project of mapping the ocean floor, 25 - 50 feet deep around atolls and coral reefs, think Google-Earth. Through the Surface, competed with 700 projects before being chosen as a top-ten finalist and a front runner for the grant of $50,000. Voting is until September 29.

Photo: Clifford Kapono and Clinton Edwards.

Clint masterminded this project with his surf buddy Cliff from the Big Island. He has a masters from the Coral Reef Ecology lab at Scripps and Clint and the reef team oversee data from the photo mosaic images taken 30 feet down by a group of scuba divers filming under the big surf breaks of the Hawaiian Islands, Pipeline, Teahupo'o, P-Pass and Cloudbreak as well as the Caribbean Islands, Solomon Islands and every reef that surfers dream about. "Our aim is to engage the public in coral reef ecology and awareness of coral conservation, the Nat Geographic grant for $50,000 will help us to do this" explains Clint.

"Surfers are a surprising and small international group of very fit men and women, who understand and care deeply about the state of the ocean, not just the size of the waves and the health of marine life, but the ocean floor. A slight change under a big surf break will ruin the wave pattern for those who can get out there and ride the giant 20-to-40-foot waves. Coral reefs around the world are in decline with rising threats such as coastal development, overfishing and climate change. The structure and health status of the reefs that created these waves are seldom studied by scientists. In fact the majority of surfers have never seen the reefs they surf over. Good waves do not equate to healthy reefs. Without a healthy and growing coral ecosystem the reef will eventually erode and the life it supports will disappear. We are motivating the surf community to act fast and will use new and groundbreaking large scale underwater photo-mosaic technology to image the reefs under some of the worlds most famous surf spots. This is the surf world's opportunity to prove that we are not just rebels out there having fun!"

Photo: Rob Machado.

The popular young gun surfer, with the famous long blonde locks, Rob Machado, is a passionate supporter of coral reef conservation. He has worked with the Coral Reef Systems at Scripps and SDSU to communicate the importance of the issues and produced a video "Get Involved," describing the importance of saving the reefs. This is a seriously tough sport and there is no way that this group of intrepid surfers will allow the coral reefs to erode and change wave patterns. Surfing is not a sport for the faint hearted and they will fight climate change and erosion. The National Geographic Expedition Grant will help them do just that!

Visit here to vote.