Share Your Adventure

Chief Executive Officer

Chief Executive Officer

The Board of Directors of the Surfrider Foundation (Foundation), an organization founded for the protection of oceans, waves and beaches through a network of grassroots activism, seeks to recruit a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) capable of inspiration and leadership as the organization increases the scope of its resources, reach and impact. The CEO will be based in San Clemente, California.

The Opportunity

The new CEO inherits an organization that is engaged in activities and campaigns that fall into the categories of clean water, beach access, beach preservation and protecting special places. The new CEO will engage a global grassroots activist organization uniquely positioned to play a critical role in addressing the many challenges facing coastal and ocean environments. The CEO will tackle two crucial challenges simultaneously. The first is to ensure that growth, in terms of revenue and organizational performance, celebrate and honor the chapters for their leadership and vision and ensure an enduring legacy to the Foundation’s core values. The second is to continue to usher activities and campaigns which advance the Foundation’s core values and mission.

The CEO has overall stewardship of a dynamic, grassroots enterprise. Beyond providing internal organizational leadership, the CEO will represent the Foundation externally, expanding the reach and influence of the organization with critical public, private and philanthropic leaders, as well as with the public at large. In this capacity, the CEO will seek ways to incorporate and enhance the Chapters by providing opportunities for them to join in shared outreach activities and leadership moments.  The new CEO will guide an organization that embraces its diverse and dynamic activist culture.

The CEO will possess the skills to continue developing a sustainable path for the organization. The CEO should be skilled in guiding an organization that relies heavily upon its communication strategies and committed activist network to advance the mission and fundraising objectives.  The CEO will be a person who has a keen desire to develop sustainable partnerships with other nonprofits, corporations, foundations, public policy leaders and individual donors. The CEO will have the ability to engage with diverse audiences from local community members to business leaders or from celebrities to members of Congress.  The CEO will bring an ability to create value for multiple stakeholders, reaching beyond ideological or partisan interests to find common ground in the conservation and use of ocean and beaches. 

The CEO will be a forward looking person, seeing opportunities to create new ways to make the organization’s work even more impactful. In addition, the CEO will work to continue to enhance the governance and leadership capabilities of Board and the Chapter network, which are the Foundation’s soul.

As such, the CEO should continue to position the Foundation as a catalyst for ocean and coastal activism and as an organization trusted by multiple sectors and interests.

The broad objectives for the new CEO include:

• Be a role model and provide leadership, inspiration and internal responsiveness for a global grassroots, bottom-up, chapter-based advocacy organization which is dedicated to protecting oceans, waves and beaches for future generations

• Provide leadership in addressing a range of organizational, policy, program and fundraising issues and continue to implement an organizational strategy to support existing chapters and regional capacity and promote sustainable future growth in the US and internationally

• Provide support for a strategic and tactical communications strategy to reach an ever wider audience of prospective members, donors, ocean activists, corporate partners and decision-makers

• Provide direction to expand the financial base of the organization, pursuing philanthropic funding sources, dramatically increased membership, cause marketing and other creative sources of revenue for the organization

• Provide ongoing guidance in developing and implementing innovative and groundbreaking programs, campaigns and initiatives.

Professional Qualifications and Personal Attributes  

The CEO ideally should possess the following professional qualifications and personal attributes:

• Compatibility with and personal commitment to the Foundation’s values, including preservation and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches, for all people, through conservation, activism, research and education.

• A dynamic person, with a demonstrated record of success building for profit and/or nonprofit organizations.

• Experience as an activist and volunteer.

• Sound interpersonal skills and the ability to establish and maintain effective partnerships and relationships with corporate supporters, government leaders and other conservation and youth development organizations, incorporating a multicultural sensitivity and respect for diversity.

• The ability to manage and lead a national and regional staff and engage a dynamic network of national chapters and international affiliates with a management style that is goal oriented, but flexible; that respects the capabilities and independence of staff; is responsive to the differing levels of organizational maturity and capacity among individual chapters; and, that honors the cultural differences of international affiliates but provides opportunities for mentorship and a clear sense of direction.

• Demonstrated experience supporting committed volunteers through growth and change in a manner that empowers them to even greater impact.

• The ability to foster a strong organizational culture, which emphasizes teamwork and collaborative engagement.

• Experience working with a volunteer-led Board of Directors with both policy oversight and fundraising responsibilities.

• Knowledge of ocean and coastal policy issues and opportunities.

• The ability to inspire trust, organize people into a global team and motivate them to work well together while fostering initiative, independence and growth.

• The ability to understand the organization in financial reporting terms and articulate financial realities, goals and agendas to stakeholders.

• A successful track record in fundraising that could be expected to continue with a not-for-profit, membership organization.  The best candidate would have significant experience successfully raising funds from a variety of sources including membership, foundations, major donors, and corporations.

• Proven written and oral communication skills: the ability to convey the messages of an organization with authority and sincerity; experience in dealing with a variety of media outlets; and, ability to provide compelling arguments for conservation, recreation and public access related to the Surfrider mission.

• A strong work ethic and willingness to travel extensively, often for weekend and evening meetings and events.

About the Organization

The Foundation was founded in 1984 when three local surfers had a vision and passion for the protection of the coastal areas they surfed and enjoyed -- the coastal areas were being threatened by development as well as human sewage and industrial contamination.  The idea of direct action and “bearing witness” to environmental degradation and loss of coastal resources is a powerful means of effecting change in the way communities and businesses dispose of their waste, and in the use of law and policy to protect the people from harm and ensure public access to the beach.

In the early years, the Foundation took direct action, through administrative and court cases, to effect public policy and regulatory change in coastal protection.  In 1991, the Foundation won the second largest Clean Water Act suit in United States history against two pulp mills in Humboldt County, California.  Over the years, the Foundation has partnered with many local, regional, national and international environmental organizations to use various state and federal statutes to persuade state and federal governments, through the regulatory process and the courts, to protect vital coastal resources. From 1989, when the first chapter was formed, the Foundation has seen a steady growth in chapters in the United States and abroad. The Foundation’s strength and unique value in the environmental community is the chapter network, with its roots in the surf community and surfing culture.  This community of “ocean warriors” is a hallmark, which is stronger and more empowered today than ever before. 

In the past eight years, the Foundation has made great strides:

• Expanded the network from 62 chapters to 114 chapters and clubs today

• Achieved 250 coastal wins in the past 8 years

• More than doubled staff supporting the mission from 20 to 47 today with tremendous growth of regional staff

• Expanded online engagement to hundreds of thousands of people every month

• Grown the operating budget to $5.8M in 2014

Since its beginning as a group of surfers concerned about water quality and access, the Foundation has grown dramatically in diversity of membership but has clearly remained true to its original mission. The Foundation has become the organization that protects everyone’s ability to sustainably use the coast and ocean.  The “protection and enjoyment" of oceans waves and beaches is a statement representing the core value of the Foundation as users of the coast and ocean.

While the organization began as a group of surfers and still holds true to its roots in the surfing and beach culture, the organization has dramatically expanded the diversity and strength of its membership and now represents thousands of paddlers, sailors, divers, swimmers, beachcombers and coastal enthusiasts alike. The organization represents thousands of coastal users dedicated to the protection of what they love: oceans, waves and beaches.


Compensation for CEO includes a competitive base salary, and an excellent package of health and other employee benefits.

Interested candidates should email a cover letter explaining how your skills and background fit this position and a resume to: Daniel Sherman, President, Explore Company at 

Refer to SF/CEO in the subject line. 

No phone inquiries please.

Surfrider Foundation is an equal opportunity employer. 
All correspondence will remain confidential.