My classes at UCSB are over for the day. The scents of low tide fill the chilly spring air as I walk out the dock in the Santa Barbara Harbor. After spending a semester studying abroad in Australia, the only way Dad could entice me to come home and finish college was by sailing Endless Summer up from San Diego so that I could live aboard her in the harbor.
Not only was the surf excellent Down Under, but I observed an underlying respect for nature in the small seaside community where I studied. On the contrary, I’m disillusioned by America’s general disregard for the environment. It frustrates me that businesspeople only chase profits, while compromising our most vital resources fresh air, clean water, and healthy soils, rivers, and oceans. Why aren’t students required to learn about the natural systems on Earth that sustain our daily lives?
I walk past where the harbor patrol can see me, and then set down my skateboard to push the rest of the way out on the cement dock. I have to be at work in an hour. My girlfriend Katie picked me up before dawn this morning for a surf mission, so I need a catnap. Katie and I are a couple of kelp flies. The beaches can’t get rid of us. We love everything about surfing even the smell of our peed-in wetsuits, towel changing in parking lots, and the tar and seaweed that collects in our hair. The crowded lineups of wave-hungry surfers are the only bummer. That’s what’s so great about having a boat. Last weekend my friends and I took Endless Summer up the coast to a spot without public road access. It was my first voyage without my brother or Dad onboard. We scored a long right under the coastal bluffs with no one around!
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Now I’m even more excited for my sailing dream. What could be better than waking up on the ocean, traveling the world, exploring for perfect waves with no crowds, and sailing away from this short-sighted society that’s ruining the Earth?
When it’s time, I pull on black slacks and a white blouse. I recently landed an afterschool job working on a handsome megayacht named Tamara, docked nearby. This evening they are hosting an open house for influential people in Santa Barbara.
Behind the bar on the aft deck, I carefully fill champagne flutes. I’m nearly ready to take off with my tray of glasses when a lovely elderly diva in a glorious fuchsia pantsuit approaches.
“May I have a glass, sweetheart? ” she asks.
“Of course. ”
“Are you a student here in Santa Barbara? ”
“Yes, I’m finishing up my degree in Environmental Studies. ”
“Oh! Then you must meet Dr. Barry Schuyler. He’s one of the founders of that program. ”
I follow her with my teetering glasses over to a noble-looking elder gentleman, well-built and dressed in a handsome blue blazer with square, metal-rimmed glasses. His thinning hair is combed back cleanly.
“Barry, you must meet Liz. She’s about to graduate from the ES program. ”
“Nice to meet you, Dr. Schuyler, ” I say. “Wouldyou like champagne or an appetizer? ”
“Thank you, my dear, I’m pleased with my wine, ” he says, lifting his glass. “Are you enjoying your studies? A few of my colleagues and I created the program after the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969. ”
“Thank you for doing so. I’m loving it, ” I say. We chat casually about my favorite classes and about sailing. Then he pauses.
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