There’s a scene in Point Break (the original and only version worth bothering with…), where FBI Special Agent Pappas (Gary Busey) has a lightbulb moment. He realises he can catch the bank-robbing-Presidents-mask-wearing surfers by matching the pollutants in their hair to the beach they most regularly surf at.

Cue a funny scene of Pappas clipping hair from some unsuspecting dreadheads, while they’re trying to take bong hit turns under a towel on a beach…

Well, if you’re still with me, now try to picture that scene with Agent Pappas sticking rectal probes up those dude’s bums…Looks a bit different hey!

But that’s what Surfers Against Sewage want to do to surfers this summer to test the pollution and antibiotic levels in their bodies, albeit with their consent and not on a crowded southern Californian beach in the middle of the day.

Beach Bums is a new partnership between Surfers Against Sewage and the University Of Exeter Medical School. In which they’re asking for surfers, who surf at least three times a month, to provide rectal swabs. And even more randomly they want the surfers to also put forward friends who don’t surf for the study.

The hope is that it will “give researchers an insight into the microbes that are colonising the participant’s guts” and that by comparing the samples they’ll get a clearer picture of how “antibiotic resistance in the environment can affect people.”

Anne Leonard, one of the researchers leading the study, said:
“We know that surfers regularly swallow lots more seawater than other beach users – around 170 ml per session, which is more than 10 times that of sea swimmers. We’ve already shown that this water may contain antibiotic resistant bacteria but we have no idea how this might affect the microbes that live in our guts, or how it could impact upon health.”

Credit: Surfers Against Sewage

SAS Campaigns Director Andy Cummins added:
“Whilst water quality has improved dramatically in the last 20 years, coastal waters can still be contaminated by sewage from both animals and humans, introducing billions of potentially harmful bacteria into the ocean environment. We want to build a clearer picture of the risks people face when entering the water, so we can ensure our seas are safe for everyone to enjoy.”

To participate in the study, volunteers should register their details with and must live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland*. They will be provided with a Beach Bums kit to collect their samples and also asked to complete a short questionnaire. All data collected will be treated as strictly confidential. (*There are restrictions in Scotland preventing  sending these types of samples.)
Bottoms up. (Groan… sorry we almost made it through the piece without an obvious joke, but just couldn’t quite resist.)