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August 2, 2012 / Wave Tribe

Surfer Chadd Konig to paddle from Santa Cruz to Santa Barbara, hopes to raise awareness about oil drilling

By ROMAIN FONSEGRIVES – Santa Cruz Sentinel

SANTA CRUZ – Santa Barbara surfer Chadd Konig is set to paddle out of the Santa Cruz Harbor early Wednesday, steering his efforts toward a statewide campaign against hydraulic fracturing.

The athlete set sail for Point Lobos for the first stop of a three-week, 250-mile paddling trip along the California Coast, that will take him back to Santa Barbara.

Konig, 24, is riding an 18-foot prone/knee paddleboard, large enough to carry him and a few pounds of tightly packed camping gear on coastal waters.

Coming ashore after a training session off Twin Lakes State Beach on Tuesday, Konig explained that he hopes to raise awareness about hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” in California. Fracking is a technique using sand, water and undisclosed chemicals under high pressure to fracture geological formations and stimulate the flow of oil or gas while drilling.

“My main intention is to educate people,” Konig said. “Most people you can talk to here have no idea what fracking is.”

Konig is concerned that oil exploration could happen in the Monterey Shale Formation, which is estimated to contain nearly two-thirds of the nation’s oil reserves. The formation runs mostly east of Highway 101, stretching from Santa Clara County through the Central Valley to Ventura County.

Konig, a professional surfer, often travels to surf spots north of Santa Cruz, and chose Surf City to kick off his journey because he “thought it’d be relevant. From there I can explore a region that I love while following the shale line that goes through the mountains on land.”

The activist surfer partnered with public interest environmental law firm Environment Defense Center in Santa Barbara for his expedition.

Santa Cruz geologist Jerry Weber tempered concerns about fracking. A retired geology researcher from UC Santa Cruz, Weber worked nine years in the oil industry and is now a consulting engineering geologist.

“It works out fine 98 percent of the time,” Weber said. “But sealing off these wells is a very complicated process. There’s potential for problems and mistakes to occur.”

Weber said the Monterey Shale Formation underlies many aquifers and water sources, but that contamination risks vary widely from one drilling site to another. The main factor is to ensure a sufficient depth separates the water source from the oil reservoir, Weber said.

Recently, residents of Aromas began a campaign against fracking around their community after a company surveyed the area looking for oil.

Konig’s paddle trip may be educational, but it also will be recreational, he said. Despite paddling an average 15 miles a day, Konig is confident he will have enough energy to surf swells that come his way. The eco-friendly surfer built on strength during two previous paddling journeys to Mexico, one advocating for whale protection, the other to preserve the Gaviota Coast from development.

Konig considers his environmental activism a natural payback from the surfing community.

“Not only do I depend on the Earth and its resources to live but I derive so much joy from the ocean that I’m forever indebted to the Earth,” Konig said.

ON THE NET

To learn more about Chadd Konig’s 250-mile paddle, visit the Environment Defense Center’s website at http://www.environmentaldefensecenter.org.

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