Lewis Pugh, the United Nations Patron of the Oceans, and Bruckner Chase, NOAA’s Wave Safe Ambassador, did a little training swim in Huntington Beach, California years ago. They both commented how lovely the water was, but also what an unsightly shame the visible offshore oil rigs were.
In their own spheres of influence, the two liked-minded ocean advocates – Pugh from Cape Town, South Africa and Chase from New Jersey (USA) – are both concerned about the effects of climate change as glaciers increasingly melt, ocean temperatures increasingly get warmer, coastal storms become more dangerous and marine life becomes increasingly impacted.
They both adhere to what the famous French inventor and creative Jacques Cousteau long advocated: “People protect what they love,” and “When one person, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to live an extraordinary life, they have no right to keep it to themselves.”
It is clear that watermen like Pugh and Chase love the ocean and the wonders it holds – and focus their skills and talents to protect it and our communities.
In a creative sense, these real-world issues that ocean-goers and ocean-lovers face in contemporary times reminds us of the 1995 Hollywood movie Waterworld starring with two-time Academy Award winner Kevin Costner. Waterworld was centered around a post-apocalyptic Earth where the polar ice caps melted, leaving all but the highest mountains were covered by water.
The protagonist of the film was The Mariner, played by Costner, a loner who sails the Earth in his trimaran. Along the way while avoiding capture by pirates and death by the gang of Smokers, The Mariner discovered the mystical Dryland, which turned out to be the top of Mount Everest that was covered with vegetation and wildlife.
Similarly to The Mariner, Chase has long traveled the world, from American Samoa and Australia to all corners of America, independently sharing how experienced and inexperienced ocean-goers can exist safely along all types of coastlines and conditions.
Like the protagonist played by Costner in the film, Chase moves easily among various groups: within the surf clubs of Australia, in the corporate offices of Red Bull, and inside the halls of the US government agencies like NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). He develops open water programs for underserved individuals with spinal cord injuries who would normally never have the opportunity to enjoy oceanic pursuits. He teaches water safety programs and motivates young people in local communities to be able to be an ocean hero and help minimize potential tragedies by non-swimmers.
In Waterworld, The Mariner ultimately found Dryland and became the hero. (or Mount Everest in the year 2500 AD).
In contemporary times, Chase is headquartered on the South Jersey Shore where he lives by the mantra, “What we do IN the ocean makes us athletes. What we do FOR the oceans and FOR our communities makes us heroes.”
Chase, along with Becky McGill and Michelle Evans-Chase, are the principals with the Ocean Swimming & Prone Paddleboarding program for Athletes with Spinal Cord Injuries together with the Bacharach Rehabilitation Hospital, and the City of Upper Township. They help individuals with spinal cord injuries learn how to move through the water and guides open water prone paddleboarding and swimming sessions.
Chase and his wife Michelle enable a diverse community of athletes to unite in discovering a personal connection to the ocean. The boldly innovative program in New Jersey creates transformative evidence-based ocean engagement experiences to positively impact the fitness, well-being and quality of life. For those unwilling to accept just being an observer on shore, the program brings together ocean lifeguards, triathletes and swimmers of all ages and abilities to help those with spinal cord injuries learn how to train and race through swimming and surf lifesaving-inspired sports.
Through the Legion of Ocean Heroes Surf Lifesaving Festival, able-bodied and challenged athletes compete side-by-side as paddlers and swimmers. Spinal cord injured athletes leave their wheelchairs behind to explore their potential as ocean athletes while members of the community learn the value in training together.
For more information, visit bcoceanpositive.org.
© 2023 Daily News of Open Water Swimming