(Bloomberg) -- “I’ve been surfing for 25 years and in the last 10 years, I’m like, ‘Where did all the kelp go?’ As surfers we’re constantly immersing ourselves in nature and seeing climate change firsthand.” Thinking about the decimation of California’s kelp forests keeps former pro surfer and entrepreneur Kassia Meador up at night. — As told to Todd Woody.
Kelp grows, like, 2 feet a day in good conditions, and it’s a huge sequester of carbon. It’s such a life source for so many creatures—a sanctuary for sea otters and sea lions and other marine life—because it keeps them away from predators. Kelp creates glassy conditions for surfers, and because sharks can’t swim through the kelp, it’s also keeping us safe on our boards.
Kelp really plays so many different roles on so many different levels to keep the ocean ecosystem healthy. It’s also amazing for our own health, a fantastic source of protein.
We had a huge marine heat wave in California’s waters a number of years ago that killed off these giant starfish that were predators of purple urchins. With the starfish gone, the urchins have eaten all the kelp. At so many of the beaches where I surf, there used to be giant kelp beds and all these fish. That’s totally gone.
Here and there, you see patches of it. But when you go under the surface, you really see how there’s just, like, urchins upon urchins upon urchins and no other life forms.
I have a company, Kassia+Surf, which makes women’s wetsuits. We put 2% [of our annual gross sales revenue] back into SeaTrees, an organization that partners with groups all over the world to restore kelp forests and plant mangroves, which act as barriers to rising sea levels. I’m an ambassador for SeaTrees and help educate people and give them the tools and resources to be part of that change and help in some shape or form.
I was on a dive a couple of weeks ago with the SeaTrees people, and one of their partners [they support] that has this whole project here in Los Angeles reseeding the kelp forest off Palos Verdes. And it’s crazy seeing how what was urchin barrens just two years ago has been turned around, and the kelp is coming back and thriving. That’s the kind of rapid change we need right now.
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