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Published on October 20th, 2011 | by Staff 12-13


From viral photograph to national television: Kay is featured on NBC

NETWORK: Kay appeared on NBC for a five-minute segment after a photo of himself went viral on the internet. (

Lillian Kalish
Staff Writer

Marine biology teacher and Team Marine adviser Benjamin Kay was recently featured on a five minute segment on NBC. Earlier in the week, Kay had posted a picture of himself on the Internet that went viral within two days. The image shows Kay lying down in a full wetsuit next to his surf board. On his board, the word “help” is spelled out in garbage.

“A thousand [people], maybe more saw this photo,” Kay said referring to his photo’s popularity. “It elicited a crazy response from the public that surfers were actually swimming in this garbage.”

During one of his weekly surfing trips, Kay noticed an accumulation of trash in the ocean and decided to collect it to make this image. According to Kay, the creation of the image was purely on a whim with hopes of spreading the word about the deteriorating conditions of Santa Monica beaches and oceans.

That day, in addition to collecting the trash to spell out “help,” Kay gathered other debris that was floating in the water and disrupting his weekly surf. Kay stuffed the trash in his wetsuit so he could dispose of it properly afterwards.

“[The trash] looked like a big giant cancer to the other surfers,” Kay said.

Originally Kay posted this picture on Facebook without realizing the gravity of the events that would follow. According to Kay, he was urged by friends to post the picture on the Team Marine blog and email it to others as part of a press release. Within a few days the photo had been re-blogged on the Internet, appearing on Foam Magazine and, both environmentally conscious websites. Kay even emailed it to someone from CBS, who forwarded the photo to NBC, leading to Kay’s television appearance.

“Instead of just posting a picture of the garbage, Mr. Kay showed an actual message which helped to signify that the environment needs our help,” Team Marine member and senior, Jesse Robertson said. “The trash is disgusting and I think this publicity really helped to get Team Marine’s goal out.”

In his segment on NBC, Kay discussed the importance of creating feasible solutions to environmental problems. With him, Kay brought along his band of reusable accessories, including a set of bamboo utensils, glassware containers, reusable cloth napkin, lunch pail, metal water canteen, and a reusable grocery bag. While Kay spoke, a slideshow of photos passed across the screen featuring the copious amount of garbage that has washed up on Santa Monica beaches.

“We shouldn’t be adopting a disposable culture,” Kay said regarding the current generation’s reaction to environmental problems.

During his NBC appearance, Kay talked about the importance of reusing items, and  about how plastic is not a necessity in our society even though we have become dependent on it.

“Only in hospitals maybe,” Kay said, “are plastics essential but otherwise, we can find other resources to use.”

Kay regrets not fully celebrating his students’ accomplishements during the segment.

“I didn’t have a lot of time to talk about Team Marine,” Kay said. “The important thing was to get people to rethink the way they treat the environment.”

As a result of his television appearance, Kay hopes to have sent a message about the state of our environment, urging people to switch to reusable products to save the planet.

“We need to get people to rethink the way they use plastics,” Kay said. “We have to try and reduce our carbon footprint.”

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