In this line of work, it’s sometimes difficult to feel like you’re truly making a difference. Contests won, waves ridden, trips taken, photos captured, video clips banked… all of it matters. But when you weigh the act of surfing against all the other things that make the world go ‘round, you realize that it only matters to a small segment of the population — and in a relatively low-stakes way. Which is why this issue means so much to us. Last October, assignment writer Brandt Hart tackled the science behind sea level rise and what it means for the East Coast in the near future. But what Brandt did this October by digging into the possibility of offshore oil drilling is even more critical. Why? Because there’s actually a five-year plan in place to open up the Atlantic Ocean to exploration. Our elected officials — from both sides of the political aisle, mind you — continue to treat the specter of drilling as a political hot potato. Sometimes they want to grab it with both hands to look bold; sometimes they want to punt it as far down the line as possible.

But in the face of that incessant backpedalling and blatant money grabbing, the subject of offshore drilling actually unites most coastal Americans across party, geography, and socioeconomic lines. And that’s because it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the numbers just don’t add up, especially considering the steadily declining price of oil, the strength of our existing tourism industries, and the potential for cleaner forms of energy. All of this is laid out in compelling and authoritative terms starting on Page 24 in the webazine below. It’s a must-read in the purest sense of the term. And we’ve been producing a lot of those lately: September’s Justin Quintal profile, last month’s web piece on a surf camp for girls with Apert syndrome, this issue’s peek inside the Warrior Surf Foundation…

So just when you think that surfing can’t make much of an impact on the wider world, you remember that story about how the simple act of riding waves has literally saved the lives of veterans suffering from PTSD. Or given disabled teenagers a rare glimpse of unbridled joy. Or allowed a talented guy to extract himself from the pro surfing spin cycle so he can help young waveriders with their burgeoning careers. Bottom line, it’s easy to become cynical about whether surfing actually means anything in the bigger picture of life. But, as Brandt Hart writes in his “50 Miles Out” feature on oil drilling, we can’t let cynicism win. And as ESM approaches its 25th anniversary, we’re still absorbing that lesson — and hopefully reflecting it back to our readers — one story at a time.

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