SANTA MONICA —This week I spent a lot of time with friends Tanna Frederick and Tobias Mehler. However, all the two could talk about was surfing. That’s when I decided that it was time to get them both on the record discussing their pet project PSOS. Tanna is starring in the Rainbow Theatre Co.’s “45 Minutes From Broadway” with “Sopranos” star David Proval and Tobias is not only a behind the scenes wizard in this production, but the handsome leading man who has starred in “Battlestar Galactica” and dozens of other TV series proves that he’s a lot more than just a gorgeous guy in Hollywood. Like Frederick he proves that he cares about the environment as well. Speaking exclusively with the duo about their charity and the state of California’s surfs, both stars are outspoken about this issue.
Q-How long have you been a surfer?
A-“I have been an avid surfer for four years.”
Q-What made you interested in cleaning up the ocean?
A-“Surfing in it! The water is nasty!!! Especially in my hood. Every surfer knows the Santa Monica Bay is one of the dirtiest surf spots on the California coast. And there are always random pieces of trash floating by every day when we surf. After it rains, we can’t surf for 72 hours because of the sewage run off. And, I’ve seen surfers get sick in packs for days because of some toxin that was in the water. It’s sad, and it feels overwhelming, trying to create change when so much damage has been done to our oceans. But I felt I had to do something, so my friend Alex Winston and I created Project Save Our Surf and held a 24-hour Surf-A-Thon with proceeds going to the non-profit organization Oceana, rallying all the local surfers to raise money to help improve our delicate ecosystem. We’ve raised almost $120,000 for them in the last few years, and had amazing people come on board!”
Q-What is Project Save Our Surf, when was it founded and what are your goals for 2010?
A-“Project Save Our Surf is a non-profit organization I founded two years ago, run for surfers and by surfers with a commitment to clean up our oceans. Co-hosted by Shaun Tomson and P.T. Townsend, this year PSOS is presenting Surf 24: 24 Hours of Surf on June 19th and 20th an International Surfing Day, in which surfers will be in the water around the clock catching waves next to the Pier in Huntington Beach to fulfill their pledges and raise funding and awareness toward the dire need of attention and action our oceans require at this time in the earth’s history. We have some great components this year ”“ a music element and film element ”“ at night we will be screening some great legendary surf films to be followed with a Q & A by the cast and directors. Director Randal Kleiser will be on hand with the cast of ‘North Shore,’ and Shaun and P.T. [Townsend] will of course be talking about ”˜Bustin’ Down the Door’ ”“ my personal favorite surf documentary. Bands will be playing on the beach all day along with speakers from Surfrider, Heal the Bay, and Inside the Outdoors, our three beneficiaries for this year’s monies raised.”
“Last year we had amazing people turn out to help us-Rob Machado, Jeff Garlin, Dennis Hopper, Lt. Gov. Garamendi, Rosanna Arquette, Jon Rose, Judd Nelson, Brandon Boyd, Michelle Rodriguez, just to name a few. My goal this year is to bring more forces together-surfers from Santa Barbara to San Diego- and celebrate and cherish and strengthen our resolve to clean the beautiful ocean and it’s life systems that give us so much. Tobias [Mehler] has been the best co-chair I could ever ask for; I told him what the project was all about and he immediately came on and he hit the ground running with brilliant ideas and endless energy. He even makes me a better person because he forces me to go out into the line up with all the big boys who are killer surfers. It’s terrifying, but Tobias always says, You’re a great surfer ”“ you can do it! And it actually makes me a braver person in life.”
Passing the questions off to Tobias.
Q-How long have you been interested in surfing?
A-“I have always been a surfer – always captivated by the feeling of a balanced stance and riding a line. Growing up in northern Canada, it took me 20 years to make my way to the ocean for the first time, but that didn’t stop me from surfing whenever and whatever I could – toboggans as early as I can remember, then skateboards and the first snowboards. My first proper, ocean-based surf was in 1999 and I haven’t looked back since.”
Q-When did you and Tanna realize you could make a difference in the water quality in southern California?
A-“I think Tanna first realized that she had a unique position as a surfer and successful film actor to bring surfing and Hollywood together to raise funds. I am a member of the Surfrider Foundation and have always supported clean water, but it wasn’t until Tanna founded PSOS that I really started to think about how I could personally step up to the plate above and beyond yearly dues and the occasional credit-card donation. It’s always interesting to notice the timing of things. I actually met Tanna just after recovering from three weeks of illness due to surfing in Venice after a heavy rainfall. During those three weeks in bed I had a lot of time to think about the insanity of getting so sick from a fun surf session on a sunny day at a L.A. public beach. Then meeting Tanna and joining her in organizing the efforts of PSOS came into my life and now I spend a lot of time working on the long term support of clean water.”
Q-What have been some of the most fun projects associated with Project Save Our Surf?
A-“Really it is all about the people that we are getting a chance to meet. It is amazing to me to discover the level of care and concern that so many people put toward ecological issues. I have always kept my finger on the pulse of sustainability and permaculture, but having jumped in wholly now, a whole new world of passionate committed individuals has opened up to me. So meetings, group consensus and surfing with new friends have to be my favorite parts of PSOS so far. Of course, come International Surfing Day 2010, our two day festival and surf-a-thon will be a culmination of all our hard work and plans, so I am sure that will be a favorite experience for some time.”
Q-Have people been open to fund raising requests and getting involved with the organization?
A-“Yes! Of course asking for money is always a tricky practice and the current economic climate presents challenges, but people and organizations have been responsive. Our biggest successes so far involve getting people and businesses involved as participants, but our fund raising is just gearing up and we are working very diligently to provide financial support to the Surfrider Foundation, Heal the Bay and Inside the Outdoors. Hard work, good intentions and positive energy always attract the kind of results that change things for the better!”
For more information on supporting PSOS go to http://projectsaveoursurf.org/.