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Interview: Eco Surfer and Surf Reporter Pat Zabrocki

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Back in December, we ran a contest with Solspot to give away a pair of boardshorts to one of their lucky readers. The winner, Pat Zabrocki, turned out to be an awesome guy from San Diego with deep roots in the SD surfing community, through both his prolific surf reporting and passion for clean beaches. He was generous enough to answer some of our questions about all of the cool stuff he’s up to. The full interview is below!
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Boardshorts.com: Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? How did you land in San Diego?

Patrick: I was raised a Navy brat. I was born in Bethesda, Maryland but moved a few times back in forth between Washington D.C. and San Diego before my dad retired and settled in San Diego and I have lived here for 23 years straight.

BS.com: How long have you been surfing?

P: I hadn’t started surfing until I was about 15 years old but caught on quick and was competing within a year. Doing the math that makes 21 years of surfing but now that I have a boys, aged 5 and a 1 year, my water time has slowed down but should pick up soon as my 5 year old is getting into the lineup with me.

BS.com: For our readers who aren’t familiar, could you briefly describe the world of surf reporting and how surfers use surf reports?

P: In the past, it used to be if you wanted to surf, you went to the beach to check it out in person. Now, surfers collect lots and lots of meteorological and marine monitoring data online to use in deciding when and where to surf. We have gotten much more scientific and refined about surfing because we now have the ability to predict when and where the best surf is going to be.

There are basically two types of reporting: Current Reports and Forecasting Reports. The first tells you what the surf is like right now and, of course, the other will tell you what it will be like in the future. Most reporting sources and websites combine the two reports however, because of the overwhelming amount of information I decided to simplify things and just focus on what the surf is like right now. So when you wake up in the morning you can check out Surf Your Earth and get my personal description of the surf, the important data summarized, and a few pictures to provide a complete overview to help you decide whether to paddle out or not. It’s as simple as you can get because surfing really is not that complicated and reporting shouldn’t be either.

BS.com: What’s something that most people don’t know about surf reporting?

P: Most people don’t realize how many layers of data surfers use to consider where and when to paddle out. Swell size, swell direction, swell interval (or intensity), tide height, whether the tide is rising or falling, water temp, wind direction, etc. Then we have to consider how those things are going to change in the two hours we are in the water. I get the impression the general public think of surfers as the stereotypical beach bum dude but really every surfer is a fairly skilled meteorologist.

One thing most surfers don’t realize is that when looking at the buoy data, the size of the swell on the buoys don’t directly tell you the size of the waves in the lineup. What matters the most is the interval of the swell. Take the size reading from the buoy and factor in the interval and you can get a good idea of the wave height and shape as well (or you could just go to Surf Your Earth and I will tell you right there).

BS.com: We know you’ve been a big supporter of the Surfrider Foundation and you’re a huge proponent of eco-surfing and living green. What are your top 3 environmental tips for people who care about living low impact and keeping beaches clean?

P: Here goes:

  1. Realize that everywhere inland washes out to the beaches. All of our storm drains, rivers, and streams dump out into the lineup we surf in and when it rains it is like a conveyor belt of trash and pollutants. So please don’t litter, pick up trash everywhere you see it, fix oil leaks on your car, and if you smoke PLEASE throw your butts in the trash.
  2. Reduce your use of disposable items, especially of plastic bags and water bottles. There is a HUGE problem with plastic entering our ocean, so much so that many cities are banning the use of them all together. The impact on our earth associated with making THINGS is so huge and to just use something once and then throw it away it the biggest waste. Here is how to start making better choices.
  3. Reduce Your Carbon. It is sad to think that our beaches could all be underwater but that is exactly what is happening as the sea level rises due to climate change. It is a huge problem so it is difficult to think one person’s emissions matter but it is the ONLY way it will happen. Don’t think you can’t make a difference because you can. Team up with Surfrider and START HERE.

BS.com: I know that I could improve with my plastic Outside of San Diego, what is your favorite beach?

P: That is tough question… If I had to pick one it would be Trestles up in San Clemente. It is one of the most rippable waves in the world however it is under threat from development so I would recommend helping to protect it. It’s easy. But this is a trick question because there are a million breaks around the world that I have not been to…

BS.com: If you were stuck on a desert island and you could only bring 3 things with you, what would you bring?

P: My surfboard (hoping there are waves on this island), a snorkel to explore the reefs, and assuming I couldn’t bring people with me a picture of my wife and kids.

BS.com: Rest assured Patrick, we wouldn’t torture you by sending you to a desert island with no surf. Thanks so much for answering our questions, keep up the good work!

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