Baywatch and the BEACH are pretty synonymous, right?! Our local celebrity and, (in every sense of the word), Hometown Hero, Wyatt Werneth, along with a group from Lifeguard TV, organized a Baywatch Promo Event where we had a water challenge game of "Skwim"... It's SO MUCH HARDER than it looks! But also great fun. I was honored to be included in the promo.
This lead to my education in ocean safety concerns with un-guarded areas of beach, not only in Cocoa Beach....
...but with any body of water used for swimming without the presence of a lifeguard. Often times a bystander, family member, or friend will witness someone in distress out in the water and attempt a rescue without a floatation device. More times than not this creates an extremely dangerous situation for both parties and can lead to TWO rescues, or unfortunate fatalities, in the end, instead of one.
Wyatt decided to help do something about this problem and has been on a mission to educate the public and install floatation rings at the end of Cocoa Beach beach access streets with his Drown Zero Initiative. Though controversial with some, (it can be considered a false sense of security for new comers to see the floatation rings), I (we) fully support Wyatt in his initiative to continue doing what he's doing. EDUCATE and give people the tools they need to make a difference.
The education I received from Wyatt compelled me to support his initiative and I was privileged to be included in accepting a proclamation from the City of Cocoa Beach to claim May 22, 2017-May 29, 2017 "National Beach Safety Week", and I brought (the old style) floatation device to the Black Tie and Baggies Event, (more on that later...), to help raise awareness for the project among the like-minded individuals and watermen/women in the Cocoa Beach Surfrider group.
While acting as Chairman of the Cocoa Beach Chapter of Surfrider Foundation, I (Sandy this time!) was honored to travel to Washington DC for a lobby day. While there I met Florida State Senators and members of the House of Representatives ...
...to discuss several environmental issues pertaining to the ocean in our state and
along the East Coast.
Firewire surfboards had donated a board to the Florida chapters of Surfrider Foundation. The board was to be signed by businesses that opposed the offshore drilling proposal on the East coast from Delaware to the Florida Keys. The board started in Miami and travelled up the East coast. Once it reached Cocoa Beach, I was given permission to take it to the Surf Expo in Orlando, Fl. There I had over 1000 surf related companies and interested parties sign the board. The board then travelled up the coast from chapter to chapter until it arrived in Washington DC. When I arrived in DC, I was reunited with the board and took it with me to the meetings we had on Capitol Hill, gaining the signatures of several members of both houses of Congress.
In 2018, Sandy and I were fortunate to have an opportunity to travel to El Salvador with a local group geared towards helping the children/families in Mizata/surrounding areas. We were new to the group, and at the time loved their message-- To spread positive vibes and needed supplies to communities through a shared love of surfing. We jumped right into their family and immediately started helping where ever we could. After coming up with a format and directing their first annual Boom Shaka Loco Silly Surfing Social in Cocoa Beach in November of 2017, we had gained enough funds and donations to provide water filtration systems, hygiene items, books, baggies, surfboards, dresses, and other items to not only families in Mizata, but also at a local orphanage. With goodies and boards in hand, we booked our tickets and lodging, and were on our way.
During our trip we spent time playing kick ball and pizza/movie night with the children of the Remar Orphanage, (we seriously wanted to adopt every single one of them). Bought/packaged/delivered groceries to families, and provided water filters and training to families in the area. Spent time setting up and participating in a pizza and surf movie night, where we showed Under The Arctic Sky, (which was an awesome experience or two reasons-- Not even a few months earlier we had the opportunity to view this film in Cocoa Beach with the Florida Surf Film Festival; and Second- the ooh's and ahh's from all the kids in a hot weather climate seeing surfing with snow and ice was comical and one of the most endearing things ever). We topped off our serving work with a little beach soccer session, and a surf day camp where we got out in the water with local kids and offered a hand in their training for the day, with the help of local surf camp and hotel owner, Alex.
On our off time we took the initiative to explore as much of the local wildlife and environment we could-- We went cliff jumping at the Tamanique Waterfalls with an amazing guide, Salva- We partially hiked the rim of the volcano, El Boqueron- Super rainy day washed us out! We snorkled in tide pools outside of La Libertad, and visited an amazing boutique hotel/surf academy called Puro Surf. Exploring the beaches of El Tunco and El Zonte ,among other local spots, was a lot of fun, and we had the opportunity to meet and hang out with another surfer/hotel owner in the area, Aldo, who hooked us up with some awesome fresh coconuts. We took a trip to a private residence, owned by Cocoa Beach local Steve Povilaitis, in Mizata and had a blast borrowing a motorcycle to take a ride on the beach, and visited the Mizata Turtle Preservation across the street. None of the trips or experiences would have been possible without the help and local knowledge of Renato Salazar, Coordinator Extraordinaire at Christian Surfers El Salvador.
As the "unnamed" photographer for the trip I was able to capture so many touching moments between our group and the children. (Check some of those images out below)-- The thing that struck me the most about El Salvador was not the poverty conditions that many other American travelers can't seem to get past and feel sorry about, but the love/laughter/togetherness that their culture exudes despite not having great material wealth.
We can connect you with:
Renato Salazar can be contacted with Christian Surfers El Salvador if you are interested in a Surf and Serve mission of your own.
Alex Novoa can be contacted if you'd like to book surf lessons, hotel accommodations on his property, Esencia Nativa, or if you'd like to help him in funding a skate park in El Zonte for the local kids.
Aldo Luna can be contacted for hotel stays on his beautiful beach front property.
Steve Povilaitis is a great resource and host in Mizata if you'd like to speak with someone who travels between Cocoa Beach and El Salvador often. His house is amazing, and you'd be hard pressed to find someone more witty and entertaining.
Just us....A little visual story telling about our hikes to the volcano and waterfalls, and playing in salt pools.
Sandy will tell you a little about his two ecological expeditions to Guyana with globally recognized biologist and turtle expert Dr. Peter Pritchard and his work and research in neotropical biology with Dr. Steve Myers. Check out his blog post(s) below.
If you're curious about how Dr. Pritchard got started in Guyana, and would like to hear about his turtle research, and the Chelonian Research Institute- Check out this video while we prepare more content to show you.
Yep, I'm a true Cocoa Beach native- But, believe it or not, one of my truest passions lays with training young horses and equine dentistry. I'm a 2010 American School of Equine Dentistry graduate. While not busy with other "normal" career related objectives, I took (cumulatively) a few months out in Wyoming and Colorado exploring the back country trails, streams, lakes, and prairies, and of course horse ranches- While there I attended the Fall 2010 ASED course at the Bitterroot Ranch, in Dubois. The class was an amazing experience where I was instructed in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, equine behavior, terminology, performance dentistry, disease, principals of equine biomechanics, floating, malocclusions, extractions, and that's just a small part. Our class worked on over 200 horses on ranches surrounding the Dubois area.
After completing that I came home and had a thriving dental practice that included horses all around the state of Florida, and I focused a lot of my time on offering discounted or free services to abandoned/rescued/mistreated horses. Improving their quality of life was the most rewarding work I could provide.
If you're interested in adventure travel to western Wyoming, let's chat. I have picked up a lot of great locals only spots to experience fossil digging, petroglyphs, high wildlife activity, and more fun stuff. More photos of the local ecology and wildlife will be on our photography page.
Over those years I also had an apprenticeship with trainer, Rick Davis. Rick personally trained under Ray Hunt before he passed, and had years of experience starting colts and pushing cattle in the Bitterroot Mountains of Idaho/Montana. Rick taught me natural horsemanship techniques and principles, and we worked together starting colts and helping older horses with "people problems". When Rick decided it was time for him to retire, it coincided with me being ready to start a family, so I backed off the work with horses and went back to a less physically strenuous office job.
In the future, one of my goals is to offer dentistry relief and education to those less fortunate in rural areas of Nicaragua, El Salvador, Belize, the Bahamas, and India.
For many years we've been on a mission to educate people about the decline in our oceans' shark populations due to factors such as excessive shark finning and commercial by catch. If you're not sure what those things are, I'll explain a little later. Public perceptions of sharks have been heavily influenced (in a negative way) by Hollywood movies, and it's made it an uphill battle to gain strong support in protecting these creatures who are really just "the garbage men" of the sea, when they've been villainized and had their character smeared. The global abundance of sharks and rays has declined an estimated 70% since 1970. It's not sustainable.
Recently, we had an amazing experience free diving/snorkeling with sharks in Jupiter, FL. aboard the Salty Too, with Salty Divers. We met other shark enthusiasts, and talented photographers, along the way, which I'll also write about a little later. Interacting with these sharks is something I hope everyone gets a chance to do in their lifetimes.
More on sharks soon....
In the meantime, follow @TheSharkJunkie and amd_underwater on Instagram for their fantastic underwater photos. Photos shown on this page are courtesy of Greg Tally/SharkJunkie.