Surf Activists Protect the Environment
Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel
The Power of One. Books and films have long celebrated the power of one person to make a difference – from the lone stranger riding into a lawless frontier town on a horse to the dedicated teacher standing alone in a troubled classroom.
The Surfrider Foundation, with its activist, volunteer network of independent-minded surfers, epitomizes the power that one person – joined by others – can have to make a difference.
Dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans, waves and beaches, the non-profit Surfrider Foundation, started in 1984 with a handful of surfers in Malibu…
is now a worldwide organization that’s over 60,000 strong.
Demonstrating that surfers care about more than catching waves and rays, Surfrider’s members spend countless hours cleaning beaches, monitoring water pollution, and educating the public about conservation and sustainability.
Who are the faces of Surfrider? Why do they volunteer? SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel found that Surfrider’s members are as varied as grains of sand on a dazzling beach.
Surfers, environmentalists, artists, board shapers, entrepreneurs, families, neighbors and friends…anyone who cares about keeping our beaches clean and protecting the ocean wildlife…these are the faces of Surfrider.
If you want to find Surfrider’s Huntington/Seal Beach Chapter Chairperson Tony Soriano, just look where the waves are breaking. Tony has been surfing since he was 16 and loves the challenge and the thrill of it.
Just about the only thing Tony doesn’t like about surfing is the trash he sees in the water and on the beach. “When I first started surfing the water was blue and clear. There used to be mussels we could eat right off the rocks. We used to pull crabs off the rocks and cook clams on the beach. Now the ocean is green and the mussels are gone. I want to get the ocean back to that clean look from when I grew up.”
So, on any given Saturday, Tony is likely to be at the shoreline leading volunteers in a beach cleanup or talking to kids about the environment.
Norma Sellers, Huntington//Seal Beach Butts Out Co-Chairperson (with husband Alex), can be found at beach cleanups, too. She became a Surfrider volunteer because “I love protecting our beaches, especially for sea animals and children and for everyone to enjoy.”
Toward this end, Norma was excited to send 40 lbs. of cigarette butts – collected over two-months this summer – to the recycler.
On cold beach mornings volunteers are always glad to see Gilbert Castillon, another face of Surfrider, setting up his coffee pot at Surfrider’s tent and serving strong cups of Java Jaws Surfers Blend coffee. A surfer and coffee entrepreneur, Gilbert is usually manning the scales and weighing and keeping track of the amount of trash collected.
Don MacLean was used to being right in the middle of SoCal beach cleanups. Then last year he started “livin’ the dream” in Thailand. Now he’s Surfrider’s Man in Phuket, getting the locals on board in cleaning up the beaches there.
Having moved to paradise, Don wants to keep it a paradise. Summing up why he’s a surfrider volunteer, he shared this Dr. Seuss quote with Surfrider Girls: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Craig Cadwallader, Surfrider’s South Bay Chapter Chairperson, is definitely someone who “cares a whole awful lot.” In recognition of his tireless work to protect the marine environment, California’s State Assembly and the City of Manhattan Beach both named him an Environmental Hero.
A familiar face at beach cleanups and chapter meetings up and down the California Coast is Surfrider’s Southern California Regional Manager Nancy Hastings. “Who am I?” she asks. “I’m a surfer, musician, artist, and activist. I am simply nuts about the ocean.”
Nancy can’t remember a time that she wasn’t connected to the coast and ocean in some way and says, “Surfrider members have a fiery and unstoppable passion for protecting their stretch of coastline that never ceases to amaze me.”
Hawaii Coordinator Stuart Coleman, author of Eddie Would Go, the story of Hawaiian big wave surfing pioneer and lifeguard Eddie Aikau, has this same connection to the ocean.
Stuart, who is committed to Surfrider’s mission, says, “I enjoy writing articles about the coastal environment and those eco-activists who are fighting to protect it.”
Kyle Lishok, Surfrider’s Marketing Manager, feels just as strongly about the environment. He spent many of his childhood years camping and says, “Preserving beautiful and meaningful places for people to recreate is something I hold close to my heart.”
So does Laura Lee, a Texas girl who eventually became Surfrider’s Director of Marketing and Communications. “Thanks to my mom’s huge love of our oceans and my dad’s passion for fishing, I grew up with a deep appreciation for our coasts and all bodies of water.”
Surfrider is about more than beach cleanups. It’s about keeping pollutants from reaching our beaches and waterways in the first place – a job that Ocean Friendly Gardens expert Greg Goran takes personally.
Greg, who has overseen garden installations in homes and commercial locations, says,” choosing plants that don’t demand a lot of water and paying attention to drainage, fertilizers and pesticides makes a big difference in protecting the environment.”
In the 30 years since it was started, The Surfrider Foundation has learned an important lesson: Education is the key.
In order to achieve its goals of “Conservation, Activism, Research and Education” (CARE) and promote its environmental programs – Rise Above Plastics, Ocean Friendly Gardens, Butts Out, Know Your H²O, Blue Water Task Force, and more – Surfrider’s volunteers have become educators.
“The way to protect the environment is to educate people about pollution problems and get them involved in fixing them,” says Tony Soriano. “From water run-off to plastics and trash, the public has to be made aware of the impact these have on our oceans and beaches.”
So, Tony organizes beach cleanups and works with the community, reaching out to new Surfrider members. And, at the end of the day, he makes time to catch some waves, fish off the pier with his son Alex…and enjoy the sunset over the water.
The faces of Surfrider are many and varied. And for 30 years the Surfrider Foundation has been protecting the environment so that generations to come can experience the wonders of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches.
If you love the coasts, this is the place for you.
If you love the coasts, do one thing before you do anything else: Join Us.
Jim Moriarty, Surfrider Foundation CEO
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