By: Cameron Say
Microplastics Adventure Scientist

Sampling setup. Bottle attached to the leg rope. Photo: Cameron Say

The ocean has shaped the life that I live today. The feeling of being in the water waiting for a wave is as special to me as riding one to the shore. I can’t help but want to protect something which has become such a big part of me.

Following the best winter of surfing I’ve ever had, I was excited about catching more waves throughout the summer. But as the season got going, surfing started to feel self-centered. I would pull up in the car, catch the best waves I could, then jump right back in the car to head home. I wanted more out of surfing, not more waves, but a way to give back to what has given me so much.


South Australia’s rugged coastline. Photo: Cameron Say

When, I discovered on the ASC website that only a handful of samples had been collected in the entirety of Australia for their Global Microplastics Initiative I was genuinely shocked. I surely thought with Australia having such a famous, and rugged coastline that more sampling would have taken place along its endless shores. I wanted to change that so I made it a simple goal for my summer to collect one sample each time I went for a surf at a different beach. ​​

South Australia’s rugged coast. Photo: Cameron Say

It became a routine. Prior to paddling out, I attached a 1L water bottle to my leg rope. Duck diving under the waves and paddling over the surf became little more tense since I could no longer rely on my leg rope. I would be in for a long swim if I lost my board. Once successfully ‘out the back’ with my board and bottle, I collected a sample, usually thankful for the chance to catch my breath after a heavy paddle out. Bottle capped and reattached to my leg rope, I would ride my board back to shore and quickly fill out the data sheet on my phone before paddling back out to catch a few waves for myself.

Cameron Say ready to head back to shore with his microplastics sample.


A favorite summer surf spot and a new sampling location. Photo: Cameron Say

Joining the ASC Microplastics project added purpose to my surfing by allowing me to make a positive impact on the health of South Australia’s waters. It motivated me to check out different surf breaks I wouldn’t have otherwise, just to sample a different location. I felt like I was a kid riding a bike for the first time, excited and full of wonder about the new places I could explore. With the ability to give back to the ocean through surfing, I am more motivated to be in the water than ever before.
After a successful summer, Cameron will be sampling further up the coast into Victoria through the winter and hopes to encourage others to get involved in the project. Stay up to date on his progress and other read other stories on Cam’s blog.
Learn more about the Global Microplastics Initiative and other ASC projects on our website, the Field Notes blog, and our FacebookTwitterInstagram and Google+ pages.