Defenders of the Coast

On Surfrider Foundation's 20th Anniversary, SurfShot takes a close look at what the San Diego Chapter is all about.

By Patrick Zabrocki

Here is a little reminder of why the Surfrider Foundation was created:

* Fourteen billion pounds of garbage are dumped into the world's oceans every year, most of it in the Northern hemisphere.
* Dumping one quart of motor oil down a storm drain contaminates 250,000 gallons of water.
* Three and a quarter million tons of oil enters the oceans of the world each year.
* Everything that enters a storm drain goes directly to the ocean. That includes litter, used oil, antifreeze, sewage, toxic chemicals, pesticides, etc.

DO YOU CARE? If you surf, spend any time at the beach or eat seafood, you should. If you do, then you NEED to know about the organization that is doing something about threats to our coastlines and oceans: the Surfrider Foundation.

I find it rare to come across a surfer in San Diego who doesn't know what the Surfrider Foundation is. I also find it common that the same surfers don't know what Surfrider does. Even for those who have a clue, "beach clean-ups" and "water testing" are usually the only things they think the Surfrider Foundation does for San Diego. I am going to make it easy for you. This article is what you need to know about what Surfrider San Diego does to protect the coast and ocean that our lifestyle as San Diegans depends on.

Surf rider's chapter in Malibu is considered the roots of the Surfrider Foundation. In 1984, a coalition of surfers were gathered and led by Surfrider Foundation founders Glenn Hening, Lance Carson and Tom Pratte, to fend off environmental mismanagement, and to represent the voice of the surfing community.

Twenty years later the Surfrider Foundation has 60 chapters located along the East, West, Gulf, Puerto Rican, and Hawaiian coasts. Surfrider Foundation now has over 37,000 members in the USA; in addition, international Surfrider Foundation chapters and affiliates have been established in the five foreign countries of Japan, Brazil, Australia, France and Spain.


To understand, at the most simple level, the true meaning of the Surfrider Foundation just read their Mission Statement:

"The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world's oceans, waves and beaches for all people, through Conservation, Activism, Research and Education (C.A.R.E.)." IN SAN DIEGO
The San Diego Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation oversees environmental issues pertaining to the entire San Diego County coastline. From Camp Pendleton to the border, the S.D. Chapter takes on any issue that threatens the mission and principles of the organization. The S.D. Chapter also has more members and, arguably, has accomplished more to protect the health of coastlines than any other chapter in the world. In many respects, the volume of issues and programs undertaken by our local chapter rivals that of the National Office. And, within the organization as a whole, the S.D. Chapter is looked to as a model for all other chapter to follow.

Below are some programs and issues that reveal how the local San Diego chapter is leading the way in protecting the coast.

Conservation of the coast and the ocean can be accomplished through many actions, but it is directly applied through the battles in city council meetings, planning meetings or in the courts. Litigation to achieve conservation of water quality has also proven its worth in San Diego. One example is a lawsuit that the S.D. Chapter filed, in cooperation with other environmental groups, against the City of San Diego for the years of neglect to the deteriorating sewage infrastructure in the City and for the past spillage of millions of gallons of raw sewage into the ocean. As a result of that lawsuit, the City is has been forced to tackle the huge task of replacing the century-old sewage pipes in San Diego to prevent future sewage spills.

In order to achieve conservation you need to have activism, where everyday people get involved in helping to protect the future of the coasts. For example, recent efforts of S.D. Chapter volunteers at Solana Beach City Council meetings have not only brought nationwide attention to the negative effects of seawalls, but has brought the City of Solana Beach to the verge of enacting groundbreaking land use policy, called "Planned Retreat," to create long-term preservation of the area's beaches.

Direct, hands-on activism of the coast and the ocean is a huge part of the S.D. Chapter's environmental work. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Blue Water Task Force (BWTF). The BWTF is San Diego's biggest public water quality monitoring project in San Diego. This program is based mostly in high school clubs but it also includes everyday people. This program consists of volunteers collecting water samples at local beaches and then testing the samples for bacteria. The results of our tests are published on the S.D. Surfrider Web site ( and in different newspapers around the county as a resource for all citizens of San Diego County.

Of course, beach clean-ups are the most obvious and effective practices of activism. Several beach clean-ups a month are held by the S.D. Chapter up and down the entire coast of San Diego County. Chances are that your beach has been cleaned by the dedicated few who put on a glove, grab a bag and hit the sand.

Have you ever heard of a street clean up? The S.D. Chapter initiated the street clean up to get the trash before it gets to the ocean. Since litter typically goes down storm drains and storm drains lead to the ocean, these events are extremely effective and raise awareness about the urban runoff problem at the same time.

Beachscape - Beachscape is the Surfrider Foundation's community-based coastal mapping program that will empower local citizens with information about our coastlines. Beachscape employs volunteers to map our beaches for features such as coastal armoring, storm drain outfalls, beach access ways, erosion hotspots and beach characteristics. The data is published and used to establish an accurate and credible baseline of coastal conditions that is widely available to local citizens, community activists, state and federal agencies to promote sustainable coastal resource management. The effort involved for the S.D. Chapter is immense due to the miles of coastline needed to document but nowhere would be more applicable as more and more seawalls and structures are planned to put on the beach.

Free environmental education presentations are given to schools across San Diego County for all grade levels and to any group or organization that requests one. Volunteers who give the presentation go through training and teach a wide range of topics regarding the coasts and ocean.

Monthly general meetings provide educational experiences when they showcase speakers ranging from scientists to politicians and even business leaders with environmentally-friendly products. Every meeting has a different speaker and is the best way to gain environmental knowledge and become involved in protecting San Diego's coastline.

The S.D. Chapter has created a new educational campaign called "Hold Onto Your Butt" as a response to the #1 piece of litter found in the world: cigarette butts. This new campaign features stickers, t-shirts and brochures to educate smokers about cigarette litter. Not only are butts the most numerous piece of litter, they release harmful chemicals into the environment and DO NOT BIODEGRADE.

One thing people do not associate with environmental organizations is fun. The S.D. Chapter, although seriously determined, has some not-so-serious events. One of those events is the Annual Art Gala. This event gathers beautiful, ocean-themed art, gourmet food and amazing music located on the beach at the Powerhouse in Del Mar in an effort to raise money to fund the programs and activism the chapter tak

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