Editor’s Note: Meet the “Quackers,” three young surf ducks, born and raised in the canals of Venice. Their passion in life: surfing and saving the earth. Their mission: To spread the word about sustainability, cleaning up pollution and stopping global warming.

We do other things beside surf, really. I assure you we are not one dimensional ducks. I think, in fact, we are quite well rounded. Just last week, for example, we all participated in the “Beach Clean Up Day,” sponsored by Heal the Bay and picked up hundreds of pounds of debris.

Also, my brother Richard is most generous with his time and talents, helping others with gardening and composting issues. I recently finished tutoring with the summer reading program at the Ocean Park Library and my other brother, Rusty, devotes a few hours a month teaching a self defense class to seniors, at Clover Park.

It just so happens that the most interesting and unusual events seem to take place while we are surfing.

Last Saturday we set out for a fund day at the beach. It was hot and humid, one of those days that pulls all the “starch” out of you and leaves you feeling like wiggly spaghetti. We walked to the park before Rusty’s self-defense class, our surf boards in tow.

Richard settled under a tree with his headphones and CD player. Eyes closed and a far-away look on his face led me to believe he was listening to Pavarotti, singing one of his favorites, “O Soave Fanciulla,” from “La Boheme.” I looked for a comfy spot to put my feet up and read for a while. Not even the occasional “hee-yah!” from the class could disturb us in our peaceful setting. After the last student thanked Sensei Rusty, we headed out for the beach.

It felt so good to be on the water. We surfed for hours. As the day came to an end, Rusty managed to catch the biggest and best wave of the day. It was huge. He rode it forever, but at the end took a terrible spill. The white water grabbed him and sucked him down. We saw him tumbling upside down and then he could not stop going around and around. We were really getting scared. When he finally popped to the surface, a plastic bag was stuck on his head, covering his eyes so he couldn’t see.

Extremely disoriented, he began swimming down instead of up, and out instead of in. No matter how hard he struggled and thrashed about it was impossible for him to pull the bag off with his wings. He couldn’t breathe. Richard and I raced to him. Luckily we were able to reach him in time. We tried to calm him as we pulled the bag from his head with our bills. It took both of us to free him. His chest heaved as he gulped air. He was shaking and traumatized.

“I couldn’t breathe! I was suffocating,” he said, still breathless.

We both placed a wing on his board to guide him to shore. Still shaken but trying to be brave, he said, “As much as I love to fly, this is one day I would have traded my wings for a pair of hands.”

After all that work we did at the coastal clean up, there was still trash in the surf. We walked home in silence, saddened by the day’s events, but still determined to keep our beaches clean. There’s so much work to be done.

Help the Quackers and other marine life, including your own, by going to www.healthebay.org to learn more about what you can do to keep trash out of the ocean.

Phyllis and the Quackers can be reached at phyllis@phyllischavez.com

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