Green Foam In the Brown Room

Words by John Angiulo. Photos by Eric Schwab and Mike Nelson.

The tube, the hollow, cylindrical recesses of liquid waves, has often been referred to as the green room. However, I live on Long Island and for the majority of my life that hallowed room has been a brown one. Sure, when the light shines through the cascading curtain it becomes a more translucent amber and occasionally the gulf stream pushes in water of more turquoise hues but still the tube here is most consistently brown.

And that is something that I, and most surfers in this area have gotten used to. Does it hint at the water being dirty? Of course but aside from pollution we have sandbars, silt flow from inlets and plenty of stormy weather so its that combination of things that we have assumed makes the water take on that… earthy feel.

Yet, in the current world, with climate change becoming widely accepted and noticeable, the state of the environment and of the ocean is something that should be on everyone’s mind. And due to a recent experience I had, it’s acutely on mine.

A few weeks ago we were due for a blizzard here on Long Island. All the weather and news channels had people sprinting to stores to stock up on provisions. Schools and work were cancelled preemptively. It was a media frenzy and, of course, completely disproportionate to the weather we received. What would have been a few feet of snow years past was an odd array of conditions that varied from one part of the island to another. However, the waves that were forecasted definitely arrived.

Resized_DSC_5868-01 Photo: Eric Schwab (@saltyvisionz)

My friend Erik and I combed most of the Island and what was clear from the beginning was that this storm had generated a massive swell. The place we usually check first was victory at sea and breaking further out than we had seen in years. As we continued the search we found a similar theme, pushing us further west towards the city.

It was with the sun beginning its descent, the wind screaming off shore and great surprise that we pulled up to one of the hundreds of jetties in Rockaway Beach to find the set up I had been dreaming of. To the left of one jetty there was a drop off, and the waves dissipated in size there, making what looked like an easy paddle out. To the right, the waves magnified in size and funneled into well sculpted peaks. It was everything we were looking for.

I changed into my suit in a moment, racing the celestial clock in the sky, and was in the water immediately. Just as it looked, to the left of jetty was an impossibly easy paddle out. I duck dove once and was out. I floated over into the line up and within minutes was into the best waves I’d had in months. They jacked up outside of the jetty, threw over and peeled in brown, gurgling, glistening gutters that shot entrants out onto wide open shoulders, peppered with the occasional closeout lip to the head, just to make things exciting.

IMG_2170 Photo: Mike Nelson (@fullnelson_photo)

The waves poured in as the sun lowered towards the horizon and I took a moment to stand on the shore, considering if I should call it quits. As a set poured in I regained my senses, said what the hell am I thinking, and ran back to paddle out. And it was then that the whole point of this story revealed its self.

I waded out to the point where I would hop onto my board and paddle. And there, perhaps because the tide had come in, was a thick layer of green foam. A vibrant, disconcerting green, which naturally caused me to straighten my body, keep my mouth closed and avoid any skin contact with the effervescent toxic looking flotsam. I paddled out, caught another great wave and went on to celebrate with my friend. But when I came home to reflect upon the session it was that green foam that came to the forefront of my mind.

I’ve grown up in a place where the green room is known to be brown, and I’ve come to terms with that. However, now the foam around the brown room has turned green, when it should be white. To me, we have reached a crucial tipping point and this signals a time for change.

Humans really should be stewards of this planet and no one more so than surfers. We live a blessed life that is usually associated with joy and fulfillment, all due to our close connection with nature and the ocean. We have watched as our world has suffered, as the environment has become infected with pollution and as our oceans have begun to die. Worse is that government and corporations aren’t making the strides necessary to meet these critical challenges. So what to do?

The answer lies in our daily existence. How we change our world is with our focus and our energy, and that is most easily tracked through our money. Though we all love to live carefree lives, we are reaching a point in our collective evolution that points towards conscious choice. That is, making responsible choices that our future selves will thank us for. This mean becoming a conscious consumer.

To do this we must pay attention to why we are buying things, who we buy them from and what the producer’s intentions are. By doing so we can collectively defund corrupt institutions that do not serve the health of our world. Just as importantly, we fully fund those businesses and individuals who are making great strides towards producing work that is both good for those who consume it and the planet as a whole. By making conscious choices, and altering each of our daily lives, we make the changes necessary to alter the course of our world.

If we choose to do this we may live in a world where the brown room may become green again.  And if not, I’d at least like the brown room to be without a radioactive looking green foam. Wouldn’t you?


IMG_2171 Photo: Mike Nelson (@fullnelson_photo)