The thing that caught my eye and got me very interested in Cali Paddler was a challenge posted on Facebook. It was the “Trash Pickup Challenge” for World Ocean Day. But it’s a habit we can enjoy every day. From the website, “For every mile we paddlers enjoy, let’s commit to one piece of trash. Do #cpcleanup in a photo post on social media of your mileage and equivalent trash haul (from the water or beach after) and watch how your actions will inspire others.” Our actions can inspire others. This simple truth resonates in an essay by Greg Gagnon
I was struck Greg’s question of “How a single bottle cap can alter the future” got to the heart of both the problem and the solution in a few short paragraphs in his essay. Simple and profound “After a while, a gentleman walked up to me and asked why I was picking up plastic bottle caps. You are no doubt shaking your head, saying to yourself ‘really dude?,’ and I felt that way too. I told him, “they don’t belong on our beaches or in our oceans. Animals eat them, they don’t biodegrade, and it’s just plain nasty.
The gentleman said to me, “what’s the point? It won’t matter if you pick it up, because down the beach there are far more people dropping them, who could care less about it anyway.”
“I was struck thinking how two people could posses such different points of view. My point of view was one of hope, compassion, effort, and possibility. His view was who cares, why bother, save your energy because it won’t make a difference.”
How can we change the way the world treats plastic – and the Ocean – through connecting hope, compassion, effort and possibility?
Co-founder, Clarke Graves, filled in some more background, “At Cali Paddler, we feel that community is a solution to many things. And there are a LOT of paddlers out there. So, if we can build momentum as a whole to make it our everyday practice to be good stewards, that it will trickle on to other non-paddlers as well. We encourage paddlers to attend cleanup events, or host their own, help with petitions to reduce plastics and Styrofoam, and hold races and events accountable to be eco-friendly, that we can affect a lot of positive change. We also feel that it is our duty to shine a spotlight on those doing amazing things. And re-enforce their behavior with well-deserved public praise. For that reason we started our CP Spotlight program awhile back that does just that.
Sometimes making a difference seems daunting, but any effort, big or small is important, so we try to share every day tips, that don’t take a lot of effort but can go a long way, such as reusable coffee mugs, declining straws, carrying water bottles to name a few.
Cali Paddler takes their community building efforts further through their Paddle Pledge program. Clarke explains it like this, “When Cali Paddler launched in 2015 we established our Paddle Pledge. Where we take 5% of all proceeds (not just profits mind you) and donate quarterly to wonderful groups and non-profits that make a solid difference in our waterways, on our beaches, and with our wildlife.
Initially we had 4 amazing groups that customers would choose from. Then in 2016 we added a specific ‘Cause Product’ to benefit a certain non-profit. In 2017 we took our model to a new level, where now every quarter we switch to a new non-profit to donate to and promote. This lets us give exposure to more groups, and support regions. Since our launch, paddlers who have bought our products have supported groups like Keep Tahoe Blue, Clean Oceans International, H20 Trash Patrol, Ocean Discovery Institute, Cal State Parks, San Diego Coast Keeper, and the Marine Mammal Center.”
Cali Paddler is full of E.P.I.C. paddlers (Every Paddler In California). Like one of their featured paddlers, Loraine Gruber, I did the Battle of the Paddle in 2013 at age 64 – and won my age group (no one else was in it LOL!!!!) I love the idea that everyone can be E.P.I.C and an ambassador. I asked Clarke to tell us more about E.P.I.C. individuals that have been real “stars” in your eyes.
Clarke replied, “Oh wow, what a fun question. When we first started, we made it a point to not neglect anyone in our paddle community. Too often we felt companies catered to the elite, or a certain demographic. And yet it was the every-day-paddler who really made us love this sport. We made it our mantra to ‘Be EPIC’ (Every Paddler in California)! We make it a point to shine a light on those who may not be the fastest, but enjoy the sport the most, and those who help teach and share their stoke in the community. There are plenty of companies out there that will cater to the top 1%, a certain age, or body type. But we aim to embrace inclusivity to the max. Because really, paddling is fun, healthy and a lifestyle, regardless of who you are…if you paddle, you get it.
As to who some of our favorite individuals are, we hesitate to name individuals, but there are a few things that just really make us beam…
• People who smile when they paddle.
• Loan their craft to anyone interested in trying it out.
• Are willing to paddle anywhere, anytime, on any craft.
• and finally, those who cheer for the paddlers in front of them, and the ones behind them.
Community building across a state as large as California is a huge task. Social media is a tool that helps Cali Paddler. Their approach is a great example for any paddling organization hoping to connect “their” community.
Clarke shared some tips, “Social media is a big tool for us. We use it, along with our website, to share events, groups and news. Too often the little races or shops get overlooked, so we do what we can spread the word about them in our calendars, directories, and social media. We also try our best to tell the stories of paddlers in their own words, about their experiences and knowledge. We have had locals share their favorite paddle places, stories of overcoming fear, showcased people taking on huge paddle challenges, and written about safety issues so can all come home with a smile after a paddle. Our main hashtag is our slogan #ifyoupaddleyougetit.
I asked Clarke to tell me some more about Cali Padller’s trash pickup challenge #miles = #pieces of trash. He shared, “In honor of World Oceans Day, we launched what we call the CP Clean Up Challenge (#cpCleanUp). It is our goal to create a new normal for when we finished a paddle, to pick up trash. Many awesome paddlers already do this, but we figured we could put a little twist on it by suggesting paddlers pick-up one piece of trash for every mile they paddle. So, if you get 4 miles in, then before you leave the beach or dock after, you hunt down 4 pieces of trash. We then encourage people on social media to tag #cpCleanUp with a picture of their trash, and maybe their gps data. Others will see this effort, and hopefully take part as well, and it will become a badge of honor and a movement as we earn the miles we got to enjoy. Word on the street is we will be reaching out to folks too we see taking part and occasionally sending out a little something as a thank you.”
Throughout the year Cali Paddler hosts cleanups as well. In the past they have done a July 5th cleanup with various locations in the state. Last year they had 11 locations that they supported and promoted where teams, businesses and individuals adopted a beach to clean after the 4th of July celebrations. They provide their reusable Cali Paddler Blue Buckets (#cpBlueBucket) to these efforts and to anyone who wants to have cleanups on their on schedule and make a difference.
Want to get some cool products and give back 5% in the process? Even if you don’t live in California you might like the spring launched Golden Poppy Design t-shirt (California’s state flower) which is printed on a tri-blend of recycled plastic, organic cotton and acrylic. It is soft, sturdy and one of many products they offer with an eye on the environment.
Clarke concludes his interview with, “We understand that our business model of being a lifestyle brand (clothing and hats) is based on consumerism, so we try and make efforts to introduce eco-friendly items whenever possible. Just like all our products, 5% of proceeds from sales of this goes to non-profits. Currently the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito California!”
How cool if every state developed their own State-Paddler-community!