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Rockin' for The Sea World: The Mother Hips headline the fourth Ocean Revolution at Moe's Alley on Saturday.

In The Key of Sea

Ocean Revolution IV gathers Santa Cruz surfers, environmentalists and rock bands in support of marine conservation.

By Garrett Wheeler

What's a wave worth? The question might seem arbitrary or callous, but it's an important one to ask for those attempting to protect what many in Santa Cruz would argue is Mother Nature's greatest feat: awesome waves. Take Mavericks. The deadly behemoth of a wave doesn't just supply a gravity-defying adrenaline rush for those brave enough to drop into its depths. It also, as the site of one of the largest surf contests on the West Coast, provides Half Moon Bay with an annual tourism-driven windfall.

As an activist fighting to preserve surf spots and their surrounding ecosystems, Will Henry knows the importance of calculating monetary figures related to surf-tourism. "As far as protecting the coastline goes, the best way to argue for protection is to show what tourism value the area offers," he says.

Henry, who founded the Davenport-based nonprofit Save the Waves Coalition, recently teamed up with Stanford University to find out exactly how much cash the Mavs contest generates. Though the study is still in the early planning stage, the findings will almost certainly deem the wave extremely beneficial to the local economy.

On June 14, Save the Waves joins Ocean Revolution, a youth-focused conservation group, for the fourth annual Ocean Revolution celebration at Moe's Alley. Coming less than a week after World Ocean Day (June 8), the event aims to raise awareness about conservation issues as well as provide concertgoers an opportunity to talk with involved activists.

"Everyone supports what we do, especially here in Santa Cruz," Henry says, "but there's still a lot the public doesn't know. There are so many layers and topics around these issues. Even someone who runs a conservation organization, like myself, is always learning about new threats and new ways to live and help the ocean."

An example?

"I just found out cat poo contains a parasite that is harmful to sea otters," says Henry.

Of course, with any fundraiser there's always the question of incentive: what's in it for the public? For the last three years, San Francisco's the Mother Hips has done the honors. The ocean-loving quartet will provide the night's entertainment in the form of pop-inflected alt-rock that has earned the group a steadily growing fan base. Rumor has it Hips frontman Tim Bluhm is himself a surfer.

"Tim's a dedicated ocean guy--he's really allowed us to do this event successfully," says Henry.

The Mother Hips recently headlined the Life Is a Wave benefit concert in San Francisco, an event that raised more than $25,000 for Save the Waves. Opening for the Mother Hips is Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers, along with genre-bender Matt Butler.

"It's a great opportunity to hear some good music and learn about ways to help the ocean both locally and abroad," Henry says. "We're not really doing this to raise of bunch of money, but more as a way to hold a forum to raise awareness."

OCEAN REVOLUTION IV, a benefit for marine conservation nonprofit Save the Waves Coalition featuring the Mother Hips, Matt Butler and Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers, is Saturday, June 14, at 9:30pm at Moe's Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $15 adv/$20 door. For more info visit

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