Serge Dedina


12 Surfers You Should Know
By Chris Tran

Serge Dedina Ph.D. – Executive Director of WiLDCOAST International Conservation Team

“Compare it to surfing huge waves,” explained Serge Dedina, Executive Director of WiLDCOAST and Imperial Beach native. “You’ll never learn how to conquer it without paddling in, wiping out, and trying again.” But his big wave analogy is a little different than what you think.

Serge was raised in the waters of Imperial Beach. Raised in the waters of IB?! To people who know San Diego surf, that sounds more dangerous than a drunk walk home through TJ. The pollution instigated Serge on a life-long mission of protecting his beaches while battling the giants of big politics and enormous energy companies.

When it rains in IB, everyone knows that a huge toilet has just been flushed and all pipes lead straight into the ocean. It’s like Tijuana and San Diego collectively dump their waste down a drain and hope it just disappears. It doesn’t. Serge knew this, and he used his experience with the pollution to fuel his ambition when creating WiLDCOAST, an international conservation team.

While hundreds of millions of dollars were being wasted on a virtually useless sewage treatment plant, Serge took a grassroots approach to coastal conservation and preservation. He was swimming ears-deep in his community and its sewage while the people with the power to change were obliviously floating above, readily looking away to avoid the situation. There was a desperate need for a connection between those in power and the people with the problem, and Serge and WiLDCOAST were it. Serge talked to the people, his people, learned their problems and armed himself with the media in one hand and his increasing influence in the other to make sure the suffering voice of IB was heard.

It was a guerilla war from the beginning, but environmentally focused. Starting in 1980, Serge found himself in a face-off with the mayor of IB when he and a hardcore group of local surfers staged a sit-in to protest the building of a marina that would have destroyed the Boca Rio beach break, Tijuana Sloughs, as well as the Tijuana Estuary. The mayor tried thug, strong-arm coercion while dumping rocks on them with a bulldozer. But their perseverance prevailed, the marina was never built, and the victory was noted as one the first successes of a fledgling, little organization called the Surfrider Foundation.

In the water, Serge is a peaceful and welcoming surfer. Put him on land and ask him to fight for his ocean, and he’s got more aggression than the busiest day at Swami’s; and rightfully so.
“They’re classic groms,” Serge says of his two boys Israel and Daniel. “We surf before school, after school, and when there’s no school. But when the water starts to turn brown and has a stink you can smell from miles inland, our whole life is severely affected.”

He sees his fight as a fight for not only his home, and not just for the ocean, but most importantly for his children. And with this passion, Serge, along with the staff of WiLDCOAST, has made monumental changes for San Diego and Baja California. WiLDCOAST has saved six point breaks in Baja, created the largest private-sector coastal reserve in Mexico (120,000 acres) and Serge was the 2003 recipient for the Environmentalist of the Year from the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA).

The biggest problem, “People are used to it. People are used to hearing that IB’s beaches are polluted. People are used to seeing the beaches closed. And so people go elsewhere.”
It seems as if people are also used to seeing these problems swept underneath the rug. Not for Serge. And certainly not for WiLDCOAST. Don’t let the wool get pulled over your eyes and go to or call (619) 423-8665 to find out how you can help. Serge Dedina will be there to welcome you as he does in on the ocean, that is, if it hasn’t been closed.

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