Christian Shaw is a professional kiteboarder and avid waterman from Ithaca, NY. He recently graduated from Cornell University where he studied sustainability and business. While at Cornell he continued to pursue his passion for watersports and founded the SUP, Surf, and Kiteboarding clubs on campus. His lifelong goal is to combine watersports with environmental education and awareness in pursuit of a sustainable future. Christian is the team leader of the Plastic Tides Project who will be collecting samples for ASC's marine microplastics project this summer.
I grew up in Ithaca; a small college town nestled in the beautiful Finger Lakes Region of upstate New York, spending my summer days sailing, wakeboarding, fishing, and enjoying everything lake living has to offer. From a young age I was fortunate enough to visit the beach every year, and developed a deep appreciation for the ocean early on. Now, my attraction to the sea has only grown and I get to travel the world kiteboarding and surfing in places as far away as western Australia and Indonesia. While scouring the most barren stretches of uninhabited coastline in Australia or remote surf breaks of East Java I've noticed one common denominator: the unsettling presence of plastic debris. As a lifetime waterman I feel I have a responsibility to to work towards protecting my playground for generations to come. That's why my latest project will take me will take me and my friends, also athletes and devoted conservationists, to Bermuda for a ten day, muscle powered, stand-up paddle expedition. The expedition, the Plastic Ocean Project, is dedicated to raise awareness about coastal plastic pollution, collect scientific data for ASC's microplastics project and ultimately inspire other passionate watermen and women to get out there and stand up for the environment.
Plastic Tides was conceived in the fall of 2012 at a National Geographic Young Explorers workshop at Cornell University. I eagerly attended alongside fellow team members Celine Jennison and Gordon Middleton. The workshop really opened our eyes to what was possible, and that afternoon the ideas were flowing. I knew that I wanted to raise awareness about ocean plastic pollution through my passion for water sports. I am a professional kiteboarder, so the original idea was to kite across a section of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and get helicopter footage to create a compelling visual story. I soon realized this was unrealistic. After a year of contemplation a stand up paddle boarding (SUP) expedition was set in motion, and Gordon and Celine were readily onboard. Bermuda’s location in the Sargasso Sea and North Atlantic Trash Gyre makes it the perfect place for documenting natural beauty beside the ever-growing presence of coastal plastic pollution.
During the summer of 2013 I had the pleasure of working as a sustainability and education consultant for Matt Sexton at Keys Cable and Adventure Park, an adventure sports eco-farm in Grassy Key, Florida. The park is situated on a 7-acre saltwater lake that backs up to over thirty acres of mangroves and rare tropical hardwood hammocks. While adventuring down old hobo trails that wind through the mangroves I was appalled by the overwhelming amount of trash that washes in. Matt, an entrepreneur and professional waterman, doesn’t take the pollution in his backyard lightly, and when approached about the expedition he was keen to join the team.
Though the Plastic Tides team is headed for Bermuda in June, we don’t see this as a one off thing and want to emphasize the interconnectedness of a global issue. During the first week of April, Gordon took his spring break to join Matt and I in the Keys to train for the expedition, get Matts personal take on the issue and experiment with shooting photos and video from a paddleboard. While busy preparing for the expedition, the team remains focused on outreach goals at the heart of the Plastic Tides mission. Matt and I recently visited Plantation Key Elementary to speak with the second grade about pollution in their backyard and what they as young people can do about it. The students helped us make a list of their best tips against plastic that we promised to bring with us to share with second graders in Bermuda. Instilling kids with the entitlement and sense of responsibility to protect their ocean will remain a central goal for the plastic tides team.
Keep up with ASC and the Plastic Tides Project by subscribing to ASC's blog, liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter (@AdventurScience), Instagram (@AdventureScience) and Google+. You can also learn more about the project on the Plastic Tides Project website.
Meet the rest of the Plastic Tides Team!
Matt Sexton - Equipment Specialist
Matt Sexton is a professional waterman and entrepreneur who lives in the Florida Keys. Matt grew up as a wakeboarding and sailing instructor on Long Island Sound just outside of New York City. He founded the Collegiate Kiteboarding Association at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida which brought together college students from all over the country to break down the expensive barriers that exist in the sports he loves. Matt still travels as a professional kiteboarder but has expanded his horizons to include free-diving, spearfishing, and skydiving. In 2012 Matt partnered with Mike and Shana Walsh of oTHErside Boardsports in Islamorada, Florida to open Keys Cable and oTHErside Adventure Park, in Grassy Key where he is currently developing state of the art techniques to create the most advanced learning environment available for wakeboarding, kiteboarding, and paddleboarding.
Gordon Middleton - Photographer/Videographer
Born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Gordon Middleton’s passion for film is only rivaled by his passion for adventure. He was given the unique opportunity to work on the television show Survivor in 2010, which lead him to realize his true potential as an adventure videographer. He founded Quiet Sun Productions in 2012 with the aim of combining his love for film with his passion for adventure and extreme sports. Frequenting the beautiful North Carolina coast as a child, he has a deep connection with the ocean and looks to positively drive change and create environmental awareness through his work.
Julian Rodriguez - Field Coordinator
Philippines native, Julian Rodriguez grew up exploring the 7,107 islands that make up his home country. He has had a visceral passion for film from a young age and has since integrated this passion with his love for exploration and conservation. He has worked on the hit TV show Survivor and now hosts the adventure show Game Plan TV in the Philippines.
Celine Jennison - Plant Scientist
Celine’s passion for plants is truly engrained in her: at the age of ten she developed an immune deficiency. An herbalist restored her balance within a year, and this opened her eyes to the power of plants in general. As a windsurfer and Sorbonne University Intern, her passion for terrestrial flora now encompasses marine flora: seaweed.
“The supreme reality of our time is… the vulnerability of our planet.” John F. Kennedy
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