Going To Extremes For The Ocean

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - August 20, 2008
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Tom Jones
Tom Jones, the Endurance Man, wants to raise awareness about plastic pollution in the sea

There are many ways to make a point, Tom Jones just happens to do things to the extreme. Jones is known as “The Endurance Man,” an extreme athlete and environmental advocate who uses his athletic gifts to spread his message.

“It’s what I do, what I’ve been called to do,” says Jones. “I bring attention and resources to worthwhile causes.”

His latest cause brought him to Hawaii where he hopes to raise money and awareness of plastic pollution in Hawaiian waters. In order to get people’s attention, Jones will paddle 150 miles around Oahu, bike 134 miles and run 134 miles in less than 21 days.

“It’s going awesome so far and, obviously, it’s no easy task,” says Jones after a day of biking from Makapu’u to Barbers Point. “I’m no cyclist, but I’ve been able to shave off a full day on my schedule.”

Jones started his inspirational journey July 30 on a stand up paddle board outside Makapu’u Beach.

“I’d like to say I launched my effort at Makapu’u, but truthfully I got launched out there,” he laughs. “The wind swells were over 10 feet, I was paddling into a head wind and found myself going further and further out. It was terrifying, frankly, especially when the waves bounced off the cliff. It was no cakewalk, I tell you that for sure.”

This isn’t his first extreme endurance event. In 2000, Jones completed 120 marathons in 120 consecutive days to help fight child abuse. Last year, he paddled 1,200 miles along the entire coast of California on a stand up paddle board. His latest challenge in Hawaii puts a spotlight on his continuous fight for a plastic-free ocean.

“It is a significant fight because our generation could be the last one to see a clean ocean,” says the 45-year-old Jones. “It’s even more significant because in between my home in California and your home in Hawaii sit tons of plastic that is drifting and growing.”

Jones is referring to what oceanographers have called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, believed to be twice the size of Texas. This floating mass of garbage is estimated at nearly 6 million tons, 80 percent of it plastic.

“It’s not just the size but the depth,” says Jones. “It’s like a big plastic soup bowl that goes down very, very deep.”

Jones hopes to complete his task by Aug. 23. He says taking on this challenge has already brought national attention to this issue.

“People on the island and on the Mainland are talking about it and more are becoming aware of the amount of plastic in our ocean,” says Jones. “My next goal is to get the attention of the governor and the mayor. I want to motivate, educate and inspire them.”

Every month, more cities and counties across the country are becoming plastic-free. Jones hopes Hawaii can be a leader in this effort and help spread the word.

“Hawaii not only brought surfing to the world but a real appreciation of the ocean,” says Jones. “I want to honor that and change people’s impressions on the way they look at this issue and make them aware of it. I don’t have the resources to make changes, but I can make enough people aware who have the resources. I care so much.”

Saving the world, one extreme event at a time.

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