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Thursday, August 9, 2012
Updated: August 14, 7:45 PM ET
A paddle with a mission

By Keith Hamm
ESPN.com

Pro surfer Chadd Konig loads gear onto his paddle board during his 250-mile trek to raise awareness about hydraulic fracturing.

A pro surfer from Santa Barbara, Calif., is adding another long-distance ocean voyage to his growing resume of environmental activism by paddling 250 miles through cold, sharky waters between Santa Cruz and Point Conception.

Aiming to throw a spotlight on an oil-drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," Chadd Konig shoved off on August 1 from Santa Cruz Harbor through the dense fog across Monterey Bay. Since then, the weather has been favorable.

"Today was so magical," Konig, 24, told ESPN.com on the afternoon of Aug. 7, just after hauling out north of Kirk Creek, in Big Sur. "This has been the best journey of my life."

"My main intention is to educate people," he added. "Most people ... have no idea what fracking is."

Fracking involves the high-pressure injection of sand, water, and chemicals to stimulate the flow of oil and natural gas during oil drilling. Konig said he's concerned with fracking along the Golden State's oil-producing Monterey Formation, which has massive outcroppings along the California Coastal Ranges.

He's also concerned with his own safety during his three-week paddling journey, during which he'll overnight camp on remote beaches and feed himself from provision-stocked dry bags that he carries with him along the way. He's also equipped with a handheld GPS and a two-way radio to maintain contact with photographer Branden Aroyan, who's running support along Highway 1.

Konig has been honing the logistics of such trips for a few years now. In 2009, Konig and friend Nole Cossart paddled roughly 300 miles from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border to raise awareness about coastal development in Southern California. And last year, Konig joined Billabong pro Dave Rastovich's educational flotilla -- again from Santa Barbara to Mexico -- as it shed light on the issue of whales being struck and killed by container ships.

Navigating the Southern California Bight, though, is a different story than paddling the rugged and less-populated coast between Santa Cruz and Point Conception.

"This one's crazy," Cossart said. "Going through Big Sur and Cambria, he's definitely on his own out there. But he put in a lot of time training for this. Swimming a lot, doing lots of yoga, and going on paddles in the afternoon. He was super focused on getting ready."

Konig is planning to end his journey around Aug. 21 at Jalama Beach, near Point Conception in northern Santa Barbara County. On Aug. 24, he leaves on a surf trip to El Salvador.