Skip Snead
(Tuesday) 11.20.12

American Hero and Eco Warrior James Pribram

James Pribram not only rips the shizzle out of any wave he catches, but he also holds the hizzle when it comes to helping the environment and raising awareness where it counts most: Our mother ocean. He recently paddled from Laguna to Mexico to raise such awareness, and now that he’s back and intact, we sat with James Pribram to find out a little more about his Eco Warrior mission, his surfing roots and what it was like growing up in goodl old Laguna Beach back in the day… Ghetto Juice interviews…

Ghetto Juice: You recently paddled all the way to Mexico in the name of the Eco Warrior… tell us how that came about…

James Pribram: The project was dubbed the paddle from Trestles from TJ and hosted by my friends at Below the Surface a non-profit organization that promotes water conservation and improving water quality in rivers and oceans. This particular partnership was part of a clean water initiative to raise awareness of sewage spills, plastic pollution and urban run-off in the watersheds of South Orange County and San Diego County, while also raising money for the development of SickSurf, a new smartphone app and online database that will allow users to report when and where they got sick after being in the water. I started my paddle the day before solo from Laguna because there was no way I was driving to San Clemente with my board and meet up with the others when it officially kicked off Saturday morning.

Ghetto Juice: That’s epic! Your paddle got a ton of press!! And you’re so stoked to have grown up in such a killer little surf town…. Tell us about growing up in Laguna Beach… 

James Pribram: Growing up in Laguna Beach was one of the greatest gifts a young boy could have. Especially being lucky enough to grow up (literally) on the beach was nothing short of an dream. In the summertime when I was six or seven years old. I would be sitting up on my parents deck waiting for the lifeguard to show up so I could go to the beach. In some ways I was raised by committee on that beach. I had an older brother John who I looked up too and then I had all of his friends and other locals who were all like older brothers to me. I grew up surfing, paddling, body surfing, free diving, cliff jumping, boogie surfing during black ball.

Ghetto Juice: That’s rad… tell us what was Laguna like back in the day?

James Pribram: Old Laguna was like a nice rootsy tight nit community that everyone could afford. However the beach I grew up on was pretty localized back then with fights and people being told to get out of the water if they weren’t from there. I remember being taught at a young age that if you started a fight that you better be ready to finish it? Being raised on the beach like I was the older guys always taught me about respecting the beach, ocean and the locals no matter were you where in the world? I think a lot of people today should adhere to that same advice.

Ghetto Juice: Did you ever have pro surfing dreams, i.e. making the world tour? Was Boothy like the only world tour surfer from Laguna?

James Pribram: I was really the first guy from my beach to really go after competitive surfing with aspirations of being a professional surfer. My brother competed a little bit. But I was full on becoming a high school state champion and making the NSSA National show for ESPN called Hot Summer Nights. I suddenly became a free surfer for Gotcha. Traveling and shooting photos with a lot of fun mixed in. Although I still competed that was really the end of my aspirations of making the top 44 and being on the world tour.

Ghetto Juice: And now you’re the Eco Warrior!! Tell us how that all came about?

James Pribram: Becoming the person known as the ‘ECO-Warrior’ would have never happened with the help of Eric Crane, Dick Baker (OP) and Drew Kampion (The Surfers Path). Together they hand picked me to write a new feature for the Surfers Path entitled ‘ECO-Warriors’ about environmental injustices around the world. But once this one particular photograph appeared of me taking part in a protest march in the south Chile for the Rio Itata holding a white cross. It went from ‘ECO-Warriors’ to becoming the ‘ECO-Warrior.’

Ghetto Juice: What’s your dream for this planet?

James Pribram: My dream for this world is to have a safe, healthy and clean world that we can all enjoy.

Ghetto Juice: You still surf a lot…. talk about your last surf session?
James Pribram: I still surf as much as I can and I’ve been surfing with Archy a little bit. Just watching how stoked on surfing he still is reminds me of why I started surfing in the first place because I love just as much today and the day I started. It’s truly been a gift too me.


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  • Hank Stamper

    I would be fascinated to hear of any single event that James has planned and organized himself. I’d also love to see what percentage of donations to his sham charity actually go to supporting a cause, rather than simply supporting Pribram’s lifestyle. There’s no way the guy is an Eco-Warrior. He’s an Eco-follower and even as that, his work has recieved far more press than the actual good it’s done.

    That’s all fine. It was worth reading to hear James call his community “tight nit”— which is far less flattering than he intended but, maybe fitting.

    • lagoona

      I share your skepticism, Hank Stamper. Having observed it for years now, this guy seems to be very good at promoting himself, but I don’t see any real change he has created regarding protecting the ocean. “Awareness” and beach cleanups are a dime a dozen, but he has perfected the art of self-promotion and crediting himself with imaginary achievements – unless you consider getting an orchestrated photo published as you are ‘mobbed by adoring fans’ an accomplishment. Sadly, James Pribram is a poser who measures his effectiveness in how much press he has obtained for himself. People who want to feel good about “protecting the ocean” can find much more reputable nonprofits to donate to. I am amazed that more people don’t see that this guy talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk. I don’t wish him any ill will, I am just amazed at how this phony – who proved through his newspaper column that he can’t write his way out of a paper bag – makes a living off what Hank Stamper rightly calls his ‘sham charity.’ This is just my observation as a local. I have to shake my head as other hard-working organizations do the heavy lifting of ocean protection without nearly this guy’s level of publicity or self-endorsement.

      • Sara Davis-Nies

        You guys are just sour. First, his “charity” isn’t. They don’t have 501c status and don’t get donations and instead get corporate sponsorship. And, what is wrong with press that raises the awareness for the cause? I grew up with James, in the Laguna of better days. He was one of the sweetest, most humble guys I knew. We WERE a tight-knit community of folks who cared about the town, the people who lived there, and the incredible environment surrounding us. Instead of wasting time and energy disparaging a good guy, doing great things, why don’t you do something positive?

  • Howard

    Really interesting piece and comments. Just to see one person making a difference and raising awareness of ocean causes among kids and surfers is noble. As Edmund Burke wrote, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. And perhaps Oscar Wilde can add to this thought… “No good deed goes unpunished.” Activism and perceived ego are interesting subjects. Perhaps, it’s this ego based criticism/envy which prevents so many clean energy, ocean, and human rights activists from making a difference. And why should a David take on a Goliath infrastructure, when he’s getting dagered in the back by his own kind? When activists are fighting activists, it raises a lot of questions regarding the motifs. I’m talking about killing with words. The opposite of mean spirited egotism is humble selfless activism. But where can you find that these days? Certainly not among our politicians, entertainers, or opinion leaders, many of whom are involved in charitable causes, and certainly not among Pribram’s critics. The readers can make their own decisions regarding who’s doing what, but It would seem that for every person willing to sacrifice to do something, anything, there’s always going to be a Cain there sowing the seeds of doubt and killing with words of hatred.

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