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Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Editor and Publisher

Stewards of sustainability

posted: 7/17/2014
NEWPORT BEACH – For the past two years, Orange County sailors Tanner Nazum and Christopher Hardwick have carried out their mission to bring sustainable systems to communities in order to help restore the balance between nature and humans.

Unfortunately that work came to an abrupt end in late June when the organization’s vessel, a 26-foot Ranger, went up in flames.

“It was devastating,” said Nuzum, co-founder of the Newport-based Aloha Kai Research Foundation. 

Aloha Kai burned tied to a mooring in Newport Beach. Nuzum and Hardwick, who had been living on the boat the past two years, lost the foundation’s flagship and their housing in a matter of minutes. The boat’s stern was completely destroyed in the fire that is believed to be due to a faulty sparkplug, according to Nuzum.

Before the fire

The pair became lifelong friends in high school when they discovered their love of sailing and the ocean. From there sprouted a dream to sail the world and help others do their part in helping to better serve the environment. 

They launched the foundation once Hardwick graduated from Cal State Channel Islands with a Bachelor’s in Science and Resource Management. Nazum was working as an EMT at the time and spent much time on the water, gaining more knowledge about boat operations. 

“We’ve been planning this for a long time,” Nuzum said. “We wanted to travel the world and surf and thought how to do that in the most sustainable way while giving back at the same time.”

They purchased the Ranger for $1,500 off a seller on Craigslist and sailed the boat from Marina del Rey to Newport.

“That was my second time sailing,” Hardwick said. “Tanner showed me the ropes and together we figured it out and fell in love with the boat.”

Aloha Kai Research Foundation’s work has included a 580 mile 30 day trip from the Port of Los Angles to Ensenada conducting water quality analysis. They plan to conduct another trip in February 2015 to compare the results. 

The foundation’s vessel was equipped with SCUBA equipment, monitoring quaipment for underwater research, a 180 watt solar panel and one deep cycle battery to power all lights, cell phone and computers. An iPhone navionics app was used for GPS and navigation. 

Spreading their knowledge 

Before the loss of their boat, the team was working on sustainable gardening projects on Catalina Island where Nuzum and Hardwick were working with residents to install sustainable aqauponic gardens to utilize space and help the island save water. The idea came to the surfers after being told that it was difficult to receive fresh and organic fruit and vegetables during harsh weather conditions since food is often shipped to the island. 

“Catalina has always held a special place in my heart,” Nuzum explained. “We saw the problem that they only have two Vons and organic food is nonexistent.”

They initially went to the island in October 2013 with a plan to ask residents to sign a petition to be taken to the City Council who would then vote either for or against allowing the men to implement the gardens on Avalon. Instead, several residents asked them to start work on their property. They taught people how the process worked and explained the method would save precious water. The island is currently in a Stage 2 drought.

On the island, Tanner and Nuzum partnered with Straight Up Builders to create an aquaponic system on top of a shipping container. The two beds were tied into a 950 gallon fish pond, complete with a water resistant floor and grow beds. Two Solar panels were added to power both water pump, and 200 Tilapia were collected and added to the system along with plants. An overhead structure was constructed to keep the fish and plants from evaporation and pests. In six months time, tomatoes, lettuce squash and other organic produce began to flourish.

Aquaponics is a food production system that partners aquaculture, such as fish in a coy pond, with cultivating plants in water, also known as hydroponics. 

Another notable project was Aloha Kai’s ability to transform a salvage yard into an edible garden on George Morris’ land. 

“It was so nice and generous of them to spend so much time and energy [on the projects] and not ask for anything in return,” said Dwayne Morris, who helped the team to build a green house on his father’s land in Avalon.

Together, they built a greenhouse using items in the salvage yard. The project included the removal of old chicken coops, construction of the greenhouse using all recycled materials, including recycled pvc for plumbing and tubs for the grow beds. A solar panel, deep cycle battery and bilge pump is needed for completion of the project.

"They are just so giving in that they pour their sweat and energy into these aquaponic systems,” said Morris, who is known as the Avalon Handyman.

They also worked on the school’s garden.

Once a boat is secured, the team plans to finish projects on Catalina and sail to Hawaii where they plan to partner with a shipping container company to create gardens with recycled material. The containers will be shipped to disaster areas. 

Until then, the co-founders intend to leave their mark on Newport Beach by getting more involved in their local harbors and surrounding areas to further their mission and work toward their goals, Hardwick explained.

“We plan to continue our dreams of adventure while back to the environment and making it better,” Hardwick said. “We want to make people more aware of their activities and how it affects the ocean.”

For more information about Aloha Kai Research Foundation, visit alohakairesearch.org. To offer support, email alohakairesearch@gmail.com.

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