McIntosh and Healy start grinning. "Savage pro-hos," Healy says. "They grope you and offer you sexual favors in porta-potties." McIntosh hasn't heard of the porta-potty thing before, but he affirms the groping.
The male version of a pro-ho wants to hang out with them. "We call those bro-hos," he explains, and then imitates one: "Remember me!? I was surfing Pipeline with you! I hooted for you!"
Healy gets into it. "Remember me!? I hooted when you surfed that tube!"
Foster, who doesn't seem particularly interested in savage pro-hos, talks about the ecological disaster swelling toward the California coast these past 25 years. The loss of the sea otters left the urchin population unchecked, thereby depleting kelp beds—the habitat of many fish in our waters.
As the boat heads north this month, the Reef Check will teach locals to protect the environment by monitoring kelp beds and looking at fish diversity. Volunteers will enter their findings in a database posted online so everyone can follow the state of the sea. Apparently, this method of conservation is unusual, because developed countries usually approach environmental problems with federal regulation. But Foster swears that when the locals enter the game, the environment has the best chance for success.
"A couple of times in Panama we rocked up to a couple of beaches where they'd never seen surfing before," Foster says. "They'd actually cheer as you rode the wave into the beach, the whole village. It's a warm reception: they're happy to see you and pretty curious about how you are. At the same time, western man has gone into Latin America and screwed them pretty hard for the last 500 years, so they're pretty leery. That isn't a reflection on Quiksilver, but you would be, too."
The marketing tactics—the surfers, the waves, the adventure—may drive traffic to the ship's website (thecrossing.quiksilver.com). But once the surfers arrive, they may stay for the environmental lesson. The surfers admit they've caught Foster's enthusiasm for science. Not always by choice: "Oh, he'll corner you," Healy says. "You can quote me on that."