29 August 2006

I'm Still Here

I just haven't felt like blogging. I surfed on both weekend days, but something was pissing me off. Thus the reason for my silence. I don't want to speak in depth about what was pissing me off even though it was related to surfing. Both sessions were good ones nonetheless. We made a run to the Breakwater on Saturday. It wasn't spectacular. In fact, it was basically closed out. But for some reason I was fine with that and kept on going for it. CYT kept saying "tiger in your tank"—what is that from?—with regard to how I was surfing. Am I more aggressive than I used to be? I'm not sure. When I'm not dealing with a crowd, I tend to surf more aggressively simply because it's safe to do so. There wasn't what I would consider a crowd in the water. Had 10 more people been in the water, then it would have been crowded. I like that spot. The vibe can get a little testy, yes, but it's still a place I enjoy. The locals always treat me well, even if that means they ignore me. In surfing, being ignored by the locals means you're not pissing them off, right?

Somehow I ended up at El Porto on Sunday and once again enjoyed myself. I always think El Porto is going to kick my ass. Why? I guess I still flashback to my days as a cyclist, riding past El Porto and seeing all of the broken boards in the trashcans. I've heard stories about fellow surfers almost drowning or having to be rescued there. The mystique of that break is what gets to me. Thankfully, it was basically flat out there. That was perfect since I was meeting a friend from work who's learning how to surf. Once again, fun was had by one and all. The shape of the waves left much to be desired. However, there were rideable waves. That's always good enough for me. The place wasn't crowded when we paddled out. By the time I took my last wave in, the place was packed. I inadvertently dropped in on a guy during the session. I didn't see him when I started paddling for the wave. So when I dropped in, I realized I was cutting him off. That rarely happens. I'm so good about not snaking people. But that shows that sometimes you do accidentally cut people off. I immediately chanted: "Sorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorry." Then I pulled out of the wave to let him have it. It took me awhile to find him after that. I wanted to let him know I did not intend to do it. When I found him, he told me he knew I hadn't meant to do it and that we were cool. He was a nice guy named Gabe who gives lessons down there. Anyway, he told me he knew what I'd done was an accident. The interesting thing is then he said, "But your friend . . . ." Hmmmm. Yes. My friend. Yes. Hmmmmm. He wasn't referring to the friend who was learning. He was referring to my other friend, the one who (in my opinion) always cuts people off. I'll end this post there since I'm now close to talking about what was pissing me off.

26 August 2006

So I Lied

This post is not about surfing. I'm going to post a picture of my head . . . okay, a picture of my hair. I've not taken a picture of it in awhile. It certainly has changed since I started the locking process last year. Unfortunately, those things on my head still aren't mature locks. I think these are what they call teenage locks. Or maybe they aren't. This dreadlock thing is so confusing. I had no idea it would take this long. It's been worth it though. Now that I see how far I've come, I'm glad I stuck with it. It's safe to assume that by this time next year, I will be sporting the real things.

24 August 2006

Dear Multi-National Corporation That Owns Chuck E. Cheese:

Your food sucks. How hard is it to make a mediocre pizza? It's not hard. You know what? Your pizza doesn't even rise to the level of mediocre. I bet the food at McDonalds, a place I NEVER patronize and haven't patronized in decades, serves better, healthier food than you do. I guess this one was my fault. Next time I'll feed us all at home and then take little man to Chuck E. Cheese for the games. I mean really! A frozen pizza—CPK, Freshetta, DiGiorno—would have been light years better than that slop you people serve.

Rant over. I'll return to surfing in my next blog entry.

22 August 2006

For Uncle Grant

Surfed Sunday at the home break. As I was walking toward the water to paddle out, saw Christopher Meloni running in the hard sand. Threw down my board and gave chase (for about 10 seconds). Oooo la f*#ing la! That man is a hottie!

But I digress. Home break was decent. Shared a peak with a few friends. I think I only went right once. I'm tired of going right. When I can go left, I go left. Period. Even if that means allowing the rights to go by unridden.

Enjoyed myself. Saw my crew. Shot the shit. Went home and played mom for the rest of the day. The end.

19 August 2006

That Was a Close One

You know, I can't complain too much about the flatness out there. Such conditions allow me to stay relatively local and surf beach breaks (with ample parking and a playground for the little one). My home break, unfortunately, is now a zoo. I'm not sure what lead to this transformation. The fact that some triathlete group has designated it as their training ground doesn't help. Now I'm surfing a few towers north of my home. It's not so crowded down there. When I looked south at the home break, it looked packed. I don't find that enjoyable, even when surfing with people I love. Anonymous was right when he or she told me to disregard the impression the surf reports were giving about completely flat conditions. There was a little something out there today and it was worth paddling out for. I even managed a couple of long rides going frontside. I'm going to assume my peripheral vision is good. While going (slowly) down the line, I saw something coming toward my head. I managed to duck and turn at the same time. Let's just say a person whose initials shall remain nameless managed to launch her board at me. Granted, she didn't know I was there, but it still goes to show you how many people are guilty of doing it. When we both started paddling for the wave, I asked which was she was going. She said left and assumed I'd go right. Wrong. I'd planned on going left too. I just wanted to make sure she wasn't going right. Anyway, we took the wave together. She was at the top of it and I caught a section at the bottom. As I sped by, her ride came to an end and all I saw was that big board coming toward my head. Can you imagine sending one of your friends to the hospital because you beaned her with your board? I suppose such things happen.

Let me say something in praise of the old guys. They rock!!! These old guys, the ones who've been surfing for decades, are so stylish. They may have grey hair—or no hair, for that matter—but they know what to do on a surfboard. There was a guy out there today who paddled out a little after we got there. He kept telling his friend he needed to just get that first wave under his belt. Finally a wave came to him and he rode it. No big deal. Well, in retrospect, I realize that was his way of getting warmed up. When the next wave came, he cross-stepped straight to the nose and walked back. It's not that he did it. It's how he looked when he did it. The only people who surf like that are the old guys. His style was reminiscent of that of the surfers in the Sixties. I love seeing the older guys and women surf. They make it look so effortless. No one can duplicate that style, not even someone as perfect as Joel Tudor. Theirs is a style that comes from having surfed back in the day. Younger surfers can't replicate it; we don't know surfing pre-shortboards and tri-fins. These folks do. Next time you're in the water, pay attention when someone with grey hair paddles by. He or she might teach you a lesson . . . if you just shut up and watch.

18 August 2006

How Flat Was It?

I'm not sure what to make of this recent flatness. I mean, how flat is "flat"? Will I be wasting my time driving all the way to the beach only to find . . . nothing? I think I'll throw my skates in the car just in case.

17 August 2006

Are You Gonna Update This Blog or What?

That's what Clayfin just asked in his comment to my last post. My answer: Why? I tend to blog when I surf. I only get to surf on the weekends now so I don't have much to say. Let's see, what can I talk about? Well, I'm giving thought to selling the Tyler. I love the board, but it weighs a f*#king ton. I'm worried that as I get older I won't be able to carry that thing around. I have a hard enough time with it now. What else? Well, as one who's always looking for a way to make the work day a little more tolerable, I decided I needed something to love and care for in my workspace. So, I'm raising a small aquarium of sea monkeys. One of the other guys in my department is just as weird as I am and now he's got sea monkeys at his desk too. We (as in some of the people in my department) play bocce ball every Wednesday on our lunch break. Apparently, we don't play by the rules. We don't care. Our way is much more enjoyable than the formal game. Oh! One of the buyers hooked me up with some fins and a body board (after hooking me up last week with a wetsuit for Soul Brother #1 and a rashguard). I'll be giving body boarding a try once the waves get bigger. That's about it. Like you, Clayfin, the spouse, kid, and job require all of my attention, but surfing is always on my mind. Seriously, I am giving thought to ways I can make money without being locked down in a cubicle in some office. I can handle it for now. I don't want to do it for decades. You can eventually fall back on shaping surfboards. I don't have such skills. So I need to think long and hard on this before I make any moves away from my current employer.

14 August 2006

Your Daily Donkey

I feel like I've won the lottery!! I sent a picture/link to Your Daily Donkey and it was featured today. I love that site!

Sunday Surf

So, I met up with CYT yesterday for a session in mediocre conditions. There's nothing much to say about it. I was on the funboard. I rode that board because it's a tri-fin, something I don't usually surf. And If I'm going to work my way down to my new board, I need to stop riding the boards with which I'm comfortable. What was notable about the session was that I decided to offer some advice to the woman I talked about in the previous entry. She was out again yesterday and this time I struck up a conversation with her. Instead of assuming she was a beginner and telling her how to surf, I engaged her in conversation and then asked if I could give her some advice. Why did I do that? Well, I for one am tired of people assuming (for whatever reason but I think it's a combination of my race and my gender) that I'm a beginner. I'm tired of people telling me how to surf without waiting to see what I can do on a surfboard. Frankly, you just don't know what a person's story is. Some people may look like beginners and may actually be experienced surfers who are coming back from injuries which prevent them from moving swiftly or gracefully. Who knows? But at least wait and see before you run off at the mouth telling someone how to surf. Anyway, I treat people the way I want to be treated. I greeted her, asked if I'd seen her the day before, asked how long she'd been surfing (her answer was "five weeks"), and then asked if I could give her some tips. My main advice for her was to sit further outside. Here she was on the 9'4" log, lining up with the shortboarders. I told her that on a board her size, she can catch waves early. I explained that she didn't need to only go for the larger waves (which she could not handle at all). I explained that even the smaller waves were fair game on her board. Then I told her that when she's out surfing to always look at the lineup and see where the other longboards are lined up, telling her she should try to line up with them. With that, I left her alone. After watching her paddle for a few waves, I couldn't help but ask if I could give her one more tip. It was about her paddling. I may even have said, "Girl, you've got to paddle harder than that." I just let her know that she wasn't even close to paddling hard enough. Then, I saw a little wave coming, told her to turn around, and yelled at her to paddle hard and keep paddling. Guess what? She caught that wave. She popped up and fell right off, but she still got it. Again, I'm putting my money where my mouth is. I'm not going to criticize the beginning surfers and then not offer my help when it's wanted.

12 August 2006

Alone Again, Naturally

Does anyone remember that song? It was one of those songs from the 70's that got on my damn nerves. In fact, I'd forgotten that song until I was trying to come up with a title for this post. Somehow, I managed to get a session to myself for a change. I wasn't the only person in the water. It was the first time in months that I surfed around people I didn't know. I loved it. It's not that I don't love or appreciate my friends. It's just that there are times when I don't want to talk. That's another thing I miss as a result of having a full-time job. I used to have time to be quiet. Now, I'm at a job where I'm constantly talking. Even when I try to sit and read during the down time (and there isn't much of that at my job), my friend in the next cubicle will call over the wall to see if I'm still there . . . because I'm being so quiet. I value quiet time and now I get very little of it. Today's session was great for one reason: I didn't speak to anyone for about an hour. I also got some waves. They weren't good waves. But I got more waves than everyone else around me. The three other people on longboards were beginners and the fast beach break where we were surfing was giving them a fit. There were a couple of other guys on shortboards. The waves weren't good enough for them to do much. That meant I could go for it. In the hour that I was in the water, I got my fill. The rides were short. That was fine. I wanted to make sure I got a good workout, so I went for more waves than I normally would. I got most of them. I wanted to stay in longer, but the wind picked up and the waves died down. That was my cue to get out. Once I got out, I found my men and the talking commenced. I'm thankful for that hour of peace. All I had to do was paddle out and surf. Nothing else was required of me. One person whom I did not recognize waved at me when I first paddled out and asked where the brown board was. I replied that I don't surf it (i.e., the Tyler) at beach breaks much. That was it. The only other communication I had with people for the subsequent hour was in the form of smiles. There was a woman out there who I thought was a little too far inside. I almost told her to paddle further out, but then I wasn't sure if she'd appreciate the advice and, to be truthful, I didn't feel like talking. Had she been taking a beating, I would have given her some advice. But since the waves were tame, I left her alone. I'm now looking forward to the fall and winter. I'm anxious to get on that new board. (Yeah, the one I bought months ago, the one that's still sitting, unsurfed, in the garage.) I feel the need to try something new.

09 August 2006

Could This Be the Start of Something Big?

Soul Brother #2 marched out of his bedroom yesterday with his helmet on. What the . . . ? Then he said he was ready to go "skateboarding". That was all well and good except that little man doesn't know how to ride a skateboard. But he's got to start somewhere, right?

Notice he's regular stance in one picture and goofy in the other. I'd love to say he was doing fakies up and down the block, but I'd be lying if I did.

07 August 2006

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out

05 August 2006

Know the Rules

I'm stealing these from Surfline. This is the the "Bill of Rights and Lefts". Click on the link to read more. Instead of spending all of my posts bitching about beginning surfers, I'll post something to help them learn. I read this list often when I was a beginning surfer. I still read it on occasion. Here's the list:

1. Pick the right spots for your ability and attitude.
2. Don't drop in or snake your fellow surfer.
3. When paddling out, stay out of the way of riders on waves.
4. Learn to take turns.
5. Respect the vibe in the line-up.
6. Always aid another surfer in trouble.
7. When travelling, respect the local surfers.
8. Don't use your surfing advantages to abuse your fellow surfers.
9. Be responsible for your equipment and respectful of others.
10. Relax, have fun, and enjoy your surfing and that of your fellow surfer.

The Horror, The Horror

Part of me wants this post to be a tirade full of cursing and threats. Yes, I remember what it was like to be a beginning surfer. No, I'm not ready to compete in the Longboard World Championship. In terms of my ability on a surfboard, I am somewhere in between the two extremes. I like to think of myself as a level-headed, sympathetic surfer who is sensitive to the trials and tribulations faced by those who are learning how to surf. However, today was not a day when I was thinking good thoughts about the beginners. For the second time in three days, CYT paddled back out to the lineup and told me she was hurt. When she turned around for me to see if I saw a lump on her head, I told her I saw both blood and a pretty bad looking gash. What happened this time? Once again, a guy let his board fly. CYT ducked, but the board still clocked her square on the head once she came back up. (Luckily, she hadn't broken a bone in her hand when she got hit by the board on Thursday.) She kept telling me she was sure it was nothing. Since I was the one who was looking at it, I told her it wasn't nothing and that it looked like it needed stitches. (No, I'm not a doctor; I know what I'm looking at when I see a cut that's wide open.) She called me later to say the gash required a liquid bandage to close it up and, as she'd feared, part of her head had to be shaved. Of course, once she got hit (again!), I was too through. I'd had just about enough of this bullshit. I was doubly irritated since the waves were still shapely. Here a shoulder, there a shoulder, everywhere a shoulder . . . when the waves actually rolled through. But all of this damn mayhem was bummin' my trip, man. CYT remarked on Thursday that she, in essence, throws caution to the wind when she surfs. She said she's not careful like I am. I didn't used to be careful. I'd bomb down hills at 50 MPH on my bike. I'd ride in rush hour traffic, flipping off bad drivers, banging on cars that came too close to me, and basically not giving a f@!k about my safety. Then I became a mother. That changed everything. It's one of the reasons why I'm not a hard charger in the water. I watch everything. I assess risk. I've always said I'm safer in the water than I am on a bike. Now I'm not so sure about that. I won't stop surfing and as I improve I tend to charge a little harder. But on days like today, when the waves are relatively tame, I'm almost afraid to go out. The good breaks are all packed. The bad breaks are dangerous (since they can't handle the angle of the swell). That doesn't leave a person with many options. I guess I'm basically saying the aloha spirit is about to be forgotten in an effort to stay safe. What other options does one have?

03 August 2006

The K-Word

You know, I've said in the past that I do my best to refrain from using that four-letter word. I still won't use it, but today's events pushed me to the point of wanting to use it with impunity. It's days like today that make one completely understand why locals often take it upon themselves to police the lineups at their breaks. Since I was at RPB, there were no locals to do the policing. And that leaves you with one thing: carnage. Too many people. Too many boards. Too much anarchy. The session began with me talking to a guy from my home break. He was on his way to the hospital. There was a nice-sized gash over his eye. What happened? Remember what happened to my Tyler last week? That's what happened to his face this week. Some guy let his board go flying without caring where it ended up. It ended up hitting my friend above his eye, leaving a gash that was certainly going to need stitches. Okay, that was bad enough. My session subsequently ended with CYT being pulled/pushed back to shore by another surfer after some guy let his board fly. This asshole's board smashed into her hand while she was holding her board. She swears she's fine. I say she broke something. What pisses me off about both situations is that the guilty parties either didn't know or didn't care that they'd injured a surfer near them. WTF? Now look, we all know that you can't hang onto your board 100% of the time. You do get pitched off by the wave or slip of because your wax job is slick or whatever. It happens, right? What shouldn't happen is that people jump off their boards with this "I don't give a f#*k! I'm surfing, man!!!" attitude. You think it only happens here? Wrong. It happens all the time. It even happens to the best surfers in the world. Tamayo Perry got his skull cracked open by an idiot who was only thinking of himself:

Everybody had their froth on and it was one of the most crowded days I’ve ever seen Pipe. The circus is definitely in town but I was in a good rhythm, you know, playing it safe. I’d gone in and was on the beach when I saw Braden (Dias) get a sick one so I decided to go back out. I should have called it a day, but I was all gung-ho after I saw Braden’s wave.

Within five minutes of paddling back out, a twelve-foot beast pretty much cleaned everyone up. There was one guy in front of me, another guy behind me, and we were all scratching for the shoulder.
The guy in front of me was a younger kid, one of the little team kids, and I could tell he wasn’t paying attention. He was just worrying about himself. So I had to think about the guy behind me--and the jackass in front of me.

The guy in front just abandoned ship right in front of me as I tried to dip under this twelve-footer. His board got caught up by the wave and gathered speed until it hit me in the head. His rail cracked me super hard on the cranium and opened up a thirty-centimeter gash. I stuck my finger in my head and it went in like half an inch.

I want to emphasize that people are pretty careless out there right now. People are being sent here (Hawaii) without any kind of etiquette. There were so many guys out there without any clue or consideration for anyone else out there. They’re not learning the ropes the right way, which is sitting in the channel and observing.

Yeah, just let people know they gotta learn the rules before they just go jump into the frying pan. They risk their own life--and, more importantly, somebody else’s. Right now, there’s some kid with a giant hole in his board with my hair sticking out of it.

Dammit, people, pay attention. If you've got to ditch your board (or if you know your board is going to ditch you), do your best to either stay with it or keep it from injuring everyone else out there. If that means you take a pounding, then take it. In cycling, if you're the first person in a paceline (which is a line of riders who ride one behind another in order to save energy and be sheltered from the wind), you can't swerve out of the way of a hole and then let everyone behind you hit it and possibly crash. If worse comes to worse and you can't point it out quickly for the benefit of those behind you, then you yell to them where it is and you hit it (or hop the bike over it). As the first person in the paceline, you have the best chance of avoiding the obstacle and you're also the person who is best able to protect the other riders. In my mind, this also works in surfing. When I surf the Tyler, I'm very careful about the waves I take, especially when it's crowded. I know that if that thing gets away from me, it's going to do some damage to someone else. That's also the reason why I'm hesitant to surf without a leash. I don't mind swimming after my board. I do mind hurting someone with my board.

Once again, I've said little about the session. In terms of the waves, it was fine. The swell wasn't as powerful as I envisioned. However, there were shoulders everywhere. When the set waves rolled through, they were sights to behold. I got many chances to carve up and down the faces of these waves. The wave of the day for me was one I rode with CYT and a guy we met out there. The three of us got on that wave and seemed to be in perfect harmony. Everything clicked. The three of us were in different spots when the wave rolled through. He and CYT were a little north of me. When I looked north as I was paddling, I didn't see anyone going for the wave. But when I popped up, those two were right there. I'm not sure where they came from. The guy ended up sandwiched between the two of us. I was in the front. And we just rode it together, talking to one another as we went down the line. I pulled off when it looked like the shoulder was disappearing. CYT told me later that my timing was perfect as the wave did shut down and closeout. My pulling out when I did gave them time and room to end their rides easily. When we paddled back out, all three of us were chattering like happy little kids. I think I appreciate shared waves because they show me how far I've progressed since I started four years ago. I can control my board; I can surf with someone only inches from me and then end the ride without making the people next to me topple over like dominoes. I had to work at it though. I took baby steps, allowing my skills to improve before I actually started surfing, really surfing, at crowded breaks. I don't know what to think about RPB right now. People keep calling it a K-word spot. After what I saw today, I think those people might be right.

02 August 2006

This is Heartbreaking

From the Los Angeles Times

Plague of Plastic Chokes the Seas
On Midway Atoll, 40% of albatross chicks die, their bellies full of trash. Swirling masses of drifting debris pollute remote beaches and snare wildlife.
By Kenneth R. Weiss
Times Staff Writer

August 2, 2006

MIDWAY ATOLL — The albatross chick jumped to its feet, eyes alert and focused. At 5 months, it stood 18 inches tall and was fully feathered except for the fuzz that fringed its head.

All attitude, the chick straightened up and clacked its beak at a visitor, then rocked back and dangled webbed feet in the air to cool them in the afternoon breeze.

The next afternoon, the chick ignored passersby. The bird was flopped on its belly, its legs splayed awkwardly. Its wings drooped in the hot sun. A few hours later, the chick was dead.

John Klavitter, a wildlife biologist, turned the bird over and cut it open with a knife. Probing its innards with a gloved hand, he pulled out a yellowish sac — its stomach.

Out tumbled a collection of red, blue and orange bottle caps, a black spray nozzle, part of a green comb, a white golf tee and a clump of tiny dark squid beaks ensnared in a tangle of fishing line.

"This is pretty typical," said Klavitter, who is stationed at the atoll for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "We often find cigarette lighters, bucket handles, toothbrushes, syringes, toy soldiers — anything made out of plastic."

It's all part of a tide of plastic debris that has spread throughout the world's oceans, posing a lethal hazard to wildlife, even here, more than 1,000 miles from the nearest city.

Midway, an atoll halfway between North America and Japan, has no industrial centers, no fast-food joints with overflowing trash cans, and only a few dozen people.

Its isolation would seem to make it an ideal rookery for seabirds, especially Laysan albatross, which lay their eggs and hatch their young here each winter. For their first six months of life, the chicks depend entirely on their parents for nourishment. The adults forage at sea and bring back high-calorie takeout: a slurry of partly digested squid and flying-fish eggs.

As they scour the ocean surface for this sustenance, albatross encounter vast expanses of floating junk. They pick up all manner of plastic debris, mistaking it for food.

As a result, the regurgitated payload flowing down their chicks' gullets now includes Lego blocks, clothespins, fishing lures and other pieces of plastic that can perforate the stomach or block the gizzard or esophagus. The sheer volume of plastic inside a chick can leave little room for food and liquid.

Of the 500,000 albatross chicks born here each year, about 200,000 die, mostly from dehydration or starvation. A two-year study funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency showed that chicks that died from those causes had twice as much plastic in their stomachs as those that died for other reasons.

The atoll is littered with decomposing remains, grisly wreaths of feathers and bone surrounding colorful piles of bottle caps, plastic dinosaurs, checkers, highlighter pens, perfume bottles, fishing line and small Styrofoam balls. Klavitter has calculated that albatross feed their chicks about 5 tons of plastic a year at Midway.

Albatross fly hundreds of miles in their search for food for their young. Their flight paths from Midway often take them over what is perhaps the world's largest dump: a slowly rotating mass of trash-laden water about twice the size of Texas.

This is known as the Eastern Garbage Patch, part of a system of currents called the North Pacific subtropical gyre. Located halfway between San Francisco and Hawaii, the garbage patch is an area of slack winds and sluggish currents where flotsam collects from around the Pacific, much like foam piling up in the calm center of a hot tub.

Curtis Ebbesmeyer has been studying the clockwise swirl of plastic debris so long, he talks about it as if he were tracking a beast.

"It moves around like a big animal without a leash," said Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer in Seattle and leading expert on currents and marine debris. "When it gets close to an island, the garbage patch barfs, and you get a beach covered with this confetti of plastic."

Some oceanic trash washes ashore at Midway — laundry baskets, television tubes, beach sandals, soccer balls and other discards.

Nearly 90% of floating marine litter is plastic — supple, durable materials such as polyethylene and polypropylene, Styrofoam, nylon and saran.

About four-fifths of marine trash comes from land, swept by wind or washed by rain off highways and city streets, down streams and rivers, and out to sea.

The rest comes from ships. Much of it consists of synthetic floats and other gear that is jettisoned illegally to avoid the cost of proper disposal in port.

In addition, thousands of cargo containers fall overboard in stormy seas each year, spilling their contents. One ship heading from Los Angeles to Tacoma, Wash., disgorged 33,000 blue-and-white Nike basketball shoes in 2002. Other loads lost at sea include 34,000 hockey gloves and 29,000 yellow rubber ducks and other bathtub toys.

The debris can spin for decades in one of a dozen or more gigantic gyres around the globe, only to be spat out and carried by currents to distant lands. The U.N. Environment Program estimates that 46,000 pieces of plastic litter are floating on every square mile of the oceans. About 70% will eventually sink.

Albatross are by no means the only victims. An estimated 1 million seabirds choke or get tangled in plastic nets or other debris every year. About 100,000 seals, sea lions, whales, dolphins, other marine mammals and sea turtles suffer the same fate.

The amount of plastic in the oceans has risen sharply since the 1950s. Studies show a tenfold increase every decade in some places. Scientists expect the trend to continue, given the popularity of disposable plastic containers. The average American used 223 pounds of plastic in 2001. The plastics industry expects per-capita usage to increase to 326 pounds by the end of the decade.

The qualities that make plastics so useful are precisely what cause them to persist as trash.

Derived from petroleum, plastics eventually break down into carbon dioxide and water from exposure to heat and the sun's ultraviolet rays.

On land, the process can take decades, even centuries. At sea, it takes even longer, said Anthony L. Andrady, a polymer chemist at the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina who studies marine debris. Seawater keeps plastics cool while algae, barnacles and other marine growth block ultraviolet rays.

"Every little piece of plastic manufactured in the past 50 years that made it into the ocean is still out there somewhere," Andrady said, "because there is no effective mechanism to break it down."

Oceanographers have counted on beachcombers around the world to help them plot the course of plastic flotsam as it circumnavigates the globe. Ebbesmeyer has found that some debris gets hung up for decades in gyres before being spun out into different currents, flung ashore or picked up by animals.

A piece of plastic found in an albatross stomach last year bore a serial number that was traced to a World War II seaplane shot down in 1944. Computer models re-creating the object's odyssey showed it spent a decade in a gyre known as the Western Garbage Patch, just south of Japan, and then drifted 6,000 miles to the Eastern Garbage Patch off the West Coast of the U.S., where it spun in circles for the next 50 years.

The Hawaiian archipelago, which stretches from the Big Island of Hawaii westward for 1,500 miles to Kure Atoll, acts like 19 unevenly spaced teeth of a giant comb, snagging debris drifting around the Pacific. Most of the archipelago's atolls are awash in plastic junk, as are some beaches on the main islands.

Native Hawaiians, seeking wood for dugout canoes, used to go to Kamilo Beach at the southernmost tip of the Big Island to collect enormous logs that had drifted from the Pacific Northwest. Now, locals like Noni Sanford pick through the debris for novelties to enter in a trash-art show in Hilo every fall.

Sanford, 58, a free-spirited great-grandmother with long gray hair pulled back in a ponytail, once won second place for a mobile fashioned out of fishing line, floats and a colorful palette of plastic toothbrushes.

As a lifelong beachcomber, she is fascinated and horrified by the transformation of Kamilo Beach since she first set foot there in 1959. She was searching for driftwood with her father, a sculptor.

She remembers seeing a few tires back then. Now, plastic debris litters the crescent-shaped beach for more than a mile.

"This is nothing," Sanford said, stepping over a pile of twisted lines and nets. "This used to be 8 and 10 feet high. Of course, that was three or four cleanups ago."

Sanford and her husband, Ron, have joined in regular cleanup efforts, organized most recently by Bill Gilmartin, a retired wildlife biologist who studied monk seals.

"The rule is, don't pick up anything smaller than your fist," Gilmartin told a team of volunteers. "Otherwise, it'll take forever. We'll never be done."

Noni Sanford reached down, scooped up a handful of beach sand and let it trickle through her fingers. Most of the grainy mix was bits and pieces of plastic. The beach itself, it seemed, was turning into plastic.

Cleanup efforts in Hawaii and elsewhere have focused on "ghost nets," tangles of abandoned fishing lines, nets and traps that snare and kill marine life.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration dispatches scuba divers every year to cut tons of these deathtraps off Hawaiian coral reefs. It's dangerous and costly work. In July 2005, a 145-foot charter vessel brought in to haul away nets ran aground on the reef at Pearl and Hermes Atoll, about 100 miles from Midway. The ship was lost. The Coast Guard flew the 23 divers and crew 1,200 miles back to Honolulu.

If it were easier to find them, it would make sense to round up the medusas of nets and synthetic lines at sea before they snagged on coral reefs and endangered monk seals and other coastal wildlife.

But the Pacific spans millions of square miles, and even the debris circulating in the Eastern and Western garbage patches is often diffuse and hard to see, bobbing just below the surface.

Connecting the two patches is a ribbon of oceanic highway that stretches 6,000 miles, an extension of Japan's Kuroshio Current heading east. Oceanographers call this the Subtropical Convergence Zone, where the cold, green, heavier waters from the north slide under the warm, blue waters of the south.

A team of scientists working on NOAA's GhostNet Detection Project suspected that flotsam collected along this line, making it an ideal place to concentrate cleanups. Yet they couldn't be sure. They needed to see it.

The team got its chance last year, after persuading NOAA to lend them an instrument-packed, four-engine reconnaissance plane often deployed to study hurricanes. Wearing life jackets while flying 1,000 feet above the ocean's surface, observers were positioned at windows to spot nets and floats. They were to call out each sighting over the plane's intercom. Others were poised to jot down the location of each sighting.

"When we got into it, we couldn't write fast enough," said Tim Veenstra, an Alaskan pilot and private researcher working with government scientists. The meandering line of buoys, nets, life rings, buckets and other castoffs stretched for hundreds and hundreds of miles — until the airplane had to turn back.

"It was sort of a bittersweet feeling," Veenstra said. "Sweet in the fact that what we had postulated was proven true. Bitter in the fact that there was actually that much debris floating around."

Tuna fishermen have long known about the convergence zone and the debris. They know that fish like to congregate beneath anything that floats.

Off the southern tip of the Big Island of Hawaii, recreational fishermen like Guy Enriques will race miles offshore to fish beneath the flotsam.

It's important to get close to the trash, but not too close, Enriques explained, or the nets and lines will wrap around a boat's propeller.

He said the best fishing was around what looked like an enormous metal garage door floating just below the water's surface. Even some charter boat skippers learned of that one, Enriques recalled, and took fishermen there day after day, until it vanished.

But it wasn't a garage door. He and other fishermen were looking at the top of an 8-by-40-foot cargo container that fell off a ship. Such containers can float for as long as nine months. Until they sink, they are the bane of sailors in fiberglass boats who watch for them like icebergs on the high seas.

Charles Moore, a member of the Hancock Oil family, was on his way home from the Los Angeles-to-Hawaii Transpacific Yacht Race in 1997 when he took a shortcut through the Eastern Garbage Patch. It's a place that sailors usually avoid because it lacks wind.

As he motored through on his 50-foot catamaran, Moore was startled by what he saw thousands of miles from land. "Every time I came on deck, there was trash floating by," he said. "How could we have fouled such a huge area? How could this go on for a week?"

The experience changed Moore's life, turning him from an adventurer into a self-taught scientist and environmental activist.

Two years later, he returned to the garbage patch with a volunteer crew to survey its contents. He knew he would collect plenty of plastic bags, bottle caps, nets and floats.

He didn't expect what turned up in a special net, one with a tight mesh for collecting plankton, the bottom link in the oceanic food chain. Instead of plankton, it was choked with a colorful array of tiny plastic fragments.

"It blew my mind," Moore said. "We are filling up the oceans with this confetti stuff, and nobody cares."

Over the last decade, Moore, 59, who lives in a waterfront home in Long Beach, has spent his own money and some from a family foundation on a quest to track the plume of plastic so he can figure out how to stop it.

On a cloudless spring day, Moore waded up to his knees into the Los Angeles River in Long Beach wearing shorts, sandals and a white hard hat. He was tethered to a volunteer standing on the dry riverbank, in case he slipped on the slick concrete channel.

The Los Angeles River carries enough trash each year to fill the Rose Bowl two stories high, and despite efforts to corral some of it near the river mouth, most slips through to the ocean.

Moore adjusted a trawlnet to collect trash flowing downriver. At Moore's signal, a crane operator lifted the net out of the water. Volunteers swarmed around the trawlnet, extracted the contents and loaded them into more than a dozen jars.

The jars were filled with plastic pellets the size and shape of pills. They come in all colors and are the raw material for a vast array of plastic products, from trash bags to medical devices.

About 100 billion pounds of pellets are produced every year and shipped to Los Angeles and other manufacturing centers. Huge numbers are spilled on the ground and swept by rainfall into gutters; down storm drains, creeks and rivers; and into the ocean.

From his river sampling, Moore estimated that 236 million pellets washed down the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers in three days' time. Also known as "nurdles" or mermaid tears, they are the most widely seen plastic debris around the world. They have washed ashore as far away as Antarctica.

The pellets, like most types of plastic, are sponges for oily toxic chemicals that don't readily dissolve in water, such as the pesticide DDT and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. Some pellets have been found to contain concentrations of these pollutants 1 million times greater than the levels found in surrounding water.

As they absorb toxic chemicals, they become poison pills. Wildlife researchers have found the pellets, which resemble fish eggs, in the bellies of fish, sea turtles, seabirds and marine mammals.

Over time, plastic can break down into smaller and smaller pieces, eventually turning to powder and entering the ocean in microscopic fragments. Some plastic starts out as tiny particles, such as the abrasives in cleaning products that are washed down the sink, through sewage systems and out to sea.

The chemical components of plastics and common additives can harm animals and humans. Studies have linked the hormone-mimicking phthalates, used to soften plastic, to reduced testosterone and fertility in laboratory animals, and to subtle changes in the genitals of baby boys. Another additive, bisphenol A, used to make lightweight, heat-resistant baby bottles and microwave cookware, has been linked to prostate cancer.

Moore has tried, without success, to get manufacturers to improve their efforts to clean up spills of pellets that wash off lots and into storm drains. He considers beach cleanups a waste of time, except to raise public awareness of the problem. In his view, the cleanup has to start at the source — many miles inland.

To make that point, Moore tromped through rail yards in Vernon and La Mirada. On the side of a rail car a faded decal read "Operation Clean Sweep." It had three check boxes:

"Keep Plastics Off Ground.

"Close and Lock Caps When Outlets Not in Use.

"Pick Up All Spills."

Beneath the sign was a cone-shaped pile of pellets, as white as freshly fallen snow. Moore shuffled his sandaled feet through another drift nearby.

"This is a plastic sand dune," he said. "It's very slippery, very roly-poly. What makes them so good for the factory makes them good for getting into the ocean."