The great kelp forests off our coast grow up to two feet a day under ideal conditions. At their peak, individual strands can reach over 100 feet in length. Usually, however, they are ripped from their beds by big north swells or die off in response to summer water temperatures before reaching such heights. It’s an endless cycle resulting in massive piles of seaweed stacked up for miles along our shores.
While these golden ropes are often harvested at sea to produce items like ice cream and toothpaste, once dead, humans generally consider them a nuisance. Still, there are those among us who look forward to the annual kelp die off.
They are called “stank bankers” because they can be found sifting through the “stank bank,” an affectionate name for those rotting mounds of ocean algae.
According to one stank banker who asked to remain anonymous, “All year the kelp does its work, picking up everything that floats and is lost at sea. It is a bank, and it stank. We find dollar bills, waterproof cameras, swim fins, dive masks, Frisbees, kids toys and all sorts of other strange items in the stank bank.”
The best time for stank banking is after a big kelp die off, on a dropping tide, when lost items are deposited on the shore like turtle eggs. The best places for stank banking are in highly populated regions.
If you’re trying to be cool as a stank banker, however, forget about it. Stank bankers are even less hip than metal detectors, and the possibility of them catching a disease after encountering a rotting seal carcass can make them and their pastime unappealing to the average sunbather.