Wicked Water Problems: Island-style Solutions

bahama3Imagine you are enjoying a cool drink while overlooking the beautiful crystal blue water of the Caribbean and the white sand beaches of the Bahamas. As you think about it, you wonder — where did these ice cubes come from, and where did the water come from that made the punch?

You’re surrounded by the beautiful seawater, but you know you can’t drink it. That leaves a small dot of an island as the only source for your water. More than likely the water in your drink came from a well. But given the small size of the island, the amount of fresh groundwater available is limited.

So the question: Where do tourists get their water? Do they get from it from the same well that the island’s residents do, or does the resort ship in its own water?

A bigger and better question: Could our youngest generation- who will be inheriting such water issues- be inspired to imagine solutions both creative and effective for solving such wicked problems?

(Pause for a moment and watch a video that will inspire and knock your socks off)

More than likely, the resort takes the water out of the island aquifer and treats it to make the water a level of freshness acceptable to tourists. Unfortunately, as the water is drawn from the local aquifer and treated, the fresh water that remains for the Bahamian residents becomes saltier.bahama1

Is this fair to the residents? Which is more important, fresh water for the tourism industry or freshwater for island residents? Is the salty water from the aquifer a minor inconvenience for the residents who can buy bottled freshwater, or is it a social injustice that takes away a basic human right from the resident?

There are no simple answers to these questions. The fact is the residents need the tourism industry to earn money and make a living. On the other hand, the degradation of water quality is a negative impact on the islanders’ quality of life. 

bahamas4Such a dilemma represents a “wicked problem” (Rittel and Webber 1973). A wicked problem represents a conflict between stakeholders (tourists and Bahamians in this example) that has no clear-cut answers and no clear winners or losers. More than likely such a wicked problem will continue over time and never be resolved to either side’s satisfaction. 

Around the world as people gobble up resource, create too much trash, plastic and waste – and as global weather cycles ebb and flow, the need for creative, unique and imagination-rich solutions is becoming more crucial. Did you watch the video about the billboard that makes water?

bahama2 - CopyWe CAN empower our tech-savvy and vulnerable youth who will be inheriting our planet. We can begin with one youth, one school and one community at a time. We can invest in solutions by empowering the very youth for whom we hope to save our global waters. We can begin with a hefty dose of FUN, the SUP kind.

Connecting technology, active ocean sport, resources and fertile ground for nurturing solutions can empower solutions for island communities challenged by wicked water issues. That is the premise of ELDER SUP’s crowd-funding project: STANDUP FOR MOTHER OCEAN. We will begin connecting our support and advocacy in than the incredible Commonwealth of the Bahamas.

Want to learn more? FOLLOW ELDER SUP on Facebook


Waldo Lake, OR: Pristine is just the beginning

First the facts : The water is clear, nearly equal in purity to distilled, because the inflow comes only from precipitation and snow-melt. Visibility through the water is staggering. Scientists have measured it to depths of 157 feet, a world record. Gas motors were banished in early 2010. Sailboats use small electric motors, but they emit little noise, so the quiet can be intense. Designated wilderness surrounds the lake on three sides. The non-wilderness shore on the east side has 200 developed campsites, tucked discreetly among the trees of the Willamette National Forest, clean, large and beautiful.

Taking the “airplane view” above a map of Oregon it is weird to know how much high desert there is – and how many wonderful lakes. I’ve dropped my SUP board into a good many of them for all-season paddling. By far, the most amazing days have been on Waldo Lake’s water.  The gin-clear shallows give way to varied shades of blues and greens. When we reached the deeper areas – wow! Breath-taking.  the water was the same as the deep blue of the Gulfstream. What a trip down memory lane. Ed and I grew up sailing across the Gulfstream from south Florida to the Bahamas. While we’re solidly addicted to the Oregonian life, there are times when we seriously miss the colors of our 50 years in the tropics.  No more – we know where to get our fix now.

We stayed at the Islet campground on the north end, getting settled in just in time to leap on our boards for the full sunset/full moon experience. Our friend, Pam, and her “coolest dog ever” Sprocket joined us. In one word Pam summed up the evening: Magical! Right on.

Where do you grab the SUP Perspective in your home state? Got a great moonlight shot (I did not) – or sunset?  Send them along  or post them on our Facebook page. YES! We’d love it if you LIKE us  and we love it more when you share pics and video.

Grandma to Molokai?

I have always had this notion that to paddle via SUP  from Miami to Bimini would be amazing. In my mind it would be one of those dead calm days in May when the Gulfstream is not clocking too fast.  The brilliant blue of the ‘Stream would be a source of focus on the journey. Will I do it? I hope to – before too long.  There is something about a “crossing” that is appealing to adventurers, often in the form of a race.  I’ve enjoyed plenty of sailing races from Florida to the Bahamas and back. As a standup paddler, while I train hard to go fast and efficiently, I can’t seem to connect to racing as the main focus. There is such a fantastic connection between seeing the water, being outdoors, acknowledging currents, wind, waves and temperature that the journey is already full of challenges and opportunities to go hard and be my best. Being an “elder” has definitely brought new perspective.

Since moving to Oregon a decade ago, trips to Hawaii are way easier to accomplish than trips to the Bahamas.  Being aware of the connection to Hawaiian culture and waterman values right  in my hometown of Bend gave me more than an enhanced vocabulary around tradition and the ocean.   Several trips to the various Hawaiian islands we have visited opened my eyes to what should have been obvious.  The culture of people whose history, traditions, stories and livelihood are connected to the earth’s waters, especially to the sea, have rich similarities.  Whether an island chain is derived from volcanic action or eons of coral buildup, the people who protect their waters, their traditions and their culture are similar. Just as our move to Bend brought a lifestyle that is more connected to nature, more gentle in personality, it has provided connection with some amazing people.

Purchasing my first standup board and Kialoa paddle was much more than the addition of a new sport to the quiver.  Balance, yoga, friends, strength and new dimension to life in the high desert were bonuses to the sport and fun.  Journeys – like Miami to Bimini seem more attainable.  Today I opened my Facebook and found this great interview from Bend’s own Gerry Lopez.  The night before the Molokai Race he generously shared his time to chat about the race, about yoga and a terrifying experience at Pipeline – take the time to view the entire interview.

This re-kindled the “crossing” wanderlust for me – definitely NOT in the form of a race!  The idea of sharing the crossing with a group of friends, each completing portions of the journey toward a collective finish solely for the journey sounds amazing.  Have any of you gone to the planning of such an endeavor? Safety and support with a “mother ship” and a group of like-minded SUPers and a crossing you’ve dreamt of completing – please share your stories and pictures.  This Grandma will continue to paddle, train, focus and plan – maybe Molokai one day! Maybe something a bit more sane!

If you haven’t completed your summer reading list (year-round good read) you will want to get SURF IS WHERE YOU FIND IT by Gerry Lopez.  Good read while you plan your surf journey.

Gerry Lopez interview at Molokai race from Zen Waterman on Vimeo.

Global SUP – Protecting Marine Mammals

We are looking for members of the Elder SUP community who have had the chance to paddle in the very areas where our support is needed most.

The 11 sites deemed irreplaceable were the Hawaiian Islands, Galapagos Islands, Amazon River, San Felix and Juan Fernandez Islands off the coast of Chile, Mediterranean Sea, Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal in Russia, Yangtze River, Indus River, Ganges River and the Kerguelen Islands in the southern Indian Ocean.

In addition, the nine sites picked for their species richness were along the coasts of Baja California, much of the eastern coast of the Americas (the Atlantic coast of the U.S. and including coastal areas of Cuba, Hispaniola, Colombia and Venezuela), Peru, Argentina, Northwestern Africa, South Africa, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Have you experienced any encounters with marine mammals during any SUP adventures in the places mentioned?  If you have, please share your stories with us.  Until a critical mass of non – stand-up paddlers (or non-water-people) have the chance to hear about our encounters with the beings who inhabit the world’s waters it will be difficult for them to empathize with the threats to their existence.

Pictures are so valuable in sharing your stories:

HAWAII – GALAPAGOS – THE AMAZON – CHILE – THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA – CASPIAN SEA.… and all the rest.  Your stories can energize awareness and change.

SUP Perspective

This blog is meant to become a collection of shared stories and powerful actions generated by those who have reached “the age of influence.” That is just another way of saying, ‘We have been hanging around this planet long enough to have grandchildren, social security, achy joints, more than a handful of decades and maybe a pretty big network of influence.”

What’s the SUP Perspective?  It’s the view from above. Literally, for ocean, bay, lake and river loving “elders” it is the view we get when we hop on our standup paddle boards and see our watery world from a new vantage point. That high level view has always been a much clearer view of the world – whether we talking politics, religion, education, or the environment.  In the world of SUP the views is more often literal.

Yet, using SUP Perspective as a metaphor around awareness of the threats and injuries our global waters have sustained over the decades I started to consider a means for making a difference. Our family of ocean/lake/river loving “elders” can create momentum for and awareness of the plight of our world’s waters.   Are you a dedicated lover of nature? Has the ocean always reigned as the epitome example of our “big blue marble” planet?  Does a charging river, a glacial lake, a tropical bay or meandering tributary hold meaning or value to you? Do you have the time and energy to add small changes and big attitudes to a cause driven by stories, pictures and heritage – not money? Have you spent some time balanced and paddling on your favorite waters on your SUP board?

While this blog project is not limited to the silver haired adventurers, at age 62 I am solidly in that group. At this age I find that there is more time to make a difference. Looking toward the planet we might bequeath to the youngest generation it seems we’d better build awareness and future through our stories and influence. Search the category menu on the right – there should be something for everyone. if you don’t see what you’d like, just let us know.  This quest for a healthier water-life for our planet belongs to all of us. Please join the conversation via e-mail, by commenting on this blog and by joining our Facebook group.

An indie documentary could result from our collective stories, actions, adventures and insights.  Funding is in the works. If that aspect of this endeavor sparks your imagination, please let us know.