When Colorado Ocean Coalition (COCO) founder Vicki Nichols Goldstein came up with the idea for Making WAVES in Colorado – an ocean lovers’ conference held annually in landlocked Boulder, CO – she never dreamt that waves would literally come crashing on her doorstep. But as nearly Biblical flooding ravaged Boulder County just days before last weekend’s conference and destroyed countless properties including her own carpeted basement, the irony of the disaster became all too apparent. “I love Making WAVES in Colorado, but this is a bit much!” Goldstein posted on Facebook in the midst of FEMA visits and last-minute preparations for the conference, which went on as scheduled.
Despite news of the disaster, ocean leaders and enthusiasts from across the country and abroad gathered at the University of Colorado campus for a weekend full of delightful and informative talks, activities, social events and films. Goldstein and Ali Miller of the Colorado Scuba Retailer’s Association (which co-hosted the event) welcomed guests on Saturday morning, and keynote speaker and ocean hero Fabien Cousteau took the stage with an inspiring account of efforts to protect our planet’s immense and endangered marine habitats. Assembly Member Mark Stone concluded the morning session by presenting COCO and Boulder City Council member Macon Cowles with an official certificate to make Boulder, CO an honorary coastal community.
Youth activities and prize drawings punctuated the rest of Saturday’s agenda, which included panels on ecotourism and adventure travel; aquaculture, sustainable seafood and sharks; offshore oil drilling, fracking and plastics; and next steps for the Inland Ocean Movement. This daylong symposium was free and open to the public, allowing interested members of the local community to learn about threats to the ocean, how we are all connected to it and ways we can help protect and restore it even from a mile above sea level. The mood then shifted from pragmatic to posh as attendees donned flamboyant costumes for the Mermaid Masquerade Ball at the historic Hotel Boulderado. Proceeds from the party benefited river restoration efforts, water quality monitoring and watershed health following the floods.
Sunday’s program featured a selection of over a dozen ocean- and watershed-related independent films in partnership with the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival, as well as presentations from film producers and more youth activities. In all, despite the flooding, the weekend seems to have gone off without a hitch. I can’t wait for the 4th annual Making WAVES in Colorado, although I likely speak for everyone in hoping that next year the waves stay in the ocean!
Featured image (top): Vicki Nichols Goldstein, Fabien Cousteau, Gretchen Heieck & Jennifer Palmer at Friday’s Blue Drinks – Photo © Jeffrey Dubinsky