A bewildered seagull is tangled up in the discarded plastic rings from a six-pack of canned drinks. A crab chews on garbage before realizing it’s not edible. Images like this in Joel Harper’s All the Way to the Ocean (illustrated by Marq Spusta) supply a friendly visual of the ugly reality of ocean pollution for young children who might not otherwise understand the impact their everyday activities have on the environment.

When WetSand owner Chuck Menzel first got wind of the book, he immediately envisioned a partnership. WetSand, which began as a commercial Web site and evolved into a brick-and-mortar establishment in downtown Ventura,  is built on an eco-conscious foundation, so finding a way to connect to a children’s book that teaches environmental awareness was easy.  

“We try to be green-oriented,” said Menzel, who developed a special “bio-foam” for surfboard blanks. Everything from the fabrics used for clothing to types of material used for surfboards is evaluated before it is purchased for the store.
Menzel tossed around some ideas with Harper (whose brother is the musician Ben Harper), and together they decided to team up with surfers to distribute the books to children along the coastal U.S. When this proved too pricey, they decided to have the books scaled down to a more manageable size, both physically and financially.

Having successfully spread the word about conscious living and protecting our oceans to children here, they’ve decided to take the mission to Latin America, where environmental awareness has yet to catch on.

“In Second and Third World countries there is not a huge knowledge about recycling and polluting,” says Shannon Menzel, WetSand store manager. “Surfers see that when they visit there.”

Mexico, says Shannon, is a prime example of a country that’s hungry for knowledge about the environment. “There are these amazing surf spots and the water is really dirty,” she says. “People get sick and the beaches can be really polluted.” Unfortunately, in the short term, the environment takes a back seat to survival.

According to Worldwatch Institute, nearly 80 percent of Latin America’s wastewater finds its way into the ocean, and 80 percent of the ocean’s pollutants originate on land. The Menzels believe that teaching kids early about keeping waste out of the ocean is key to keeping the ocean out of peril.

To this end WetSand in partnership with surferswithoutborders and wildcoast.net is hoping to raise enough funds to publish 5,000 full-color mini-versions of Harper’s book to distribute to children in Latin American countries. They will hold an in-store fundraising party and fashion show this weekend, and Harper will be on hand to sign his award-winning book. There will be surfboards and gift baskets raffled, food, drink and live music by Emilbus. A $25 donation is suggested.    

Sunday, July 26, at WetSand Surf Shop, 446 E. Main St., Ventura.  (800) 750-7501, www.wetsandsurfshop.blogspot.com.

michel@vcreporter.com