December 19 2014

2014 in Review: Victories

by Chad Nelsen

As 2014 nears an end, we here at the Surfrider Foundation reflect on our mission, what we’ve accomplished and what lies ahead for our ocean, waves and beaches in 2015.

At any given moment, Surfrider and our chapter activist network are working on dozens of campaigns for the continued protection of our coastal communities. These campaigns range from improving coastal water quality, cleaning our beaches and fighting for plastic-free oceans to advocating for legislation to protect at-risk coastal places and keep beaches accessible.

Since 2006, we have been tracking our victories. In 2014, our members enabled our chapters and activists to win 34 victories for our ocean, waves and beaches, giving us a current victory count of 297.

Our chapters are comprised of everyday people, just like you and me, addressing local issues on local beaches. Take a look how many victories we’ve won in your region:

Every year, the Surfrider Foundation identifies priority campaigns to focus our work and ensure we achieve important on-the-ground protection of our ocean, waves and beaches. While we support our current 91 ongoing campaigns, priority campaigns are where we go the extra mile to achieve meaningful conservation advancements.

Of our priority campaigns in 2014, here are a few victories that we are proud to share with you:

  • Martin’s Beach, San Mateo, California.Surfers Beat Billionaire,” international news headlines put it, after our huge court win in September. The Surfrider Foundation, waged a successful battle against billionaire venture capitalist and co-founder of Sun Microsystems, Vinod Khosla. San Mateo Superior Court issued a landmark decision requiring Khosla to open the gates on his property to Martin’s Beach until he obtains a coastal permit. Even though the gates remain closed and Khosla may choose to fight this issue for several years to come, the Surfrider Foundation has gained yet another important beach access win that is resonating throughout the country. Here's the latest.
  • Coastal and ocean recreation studies advanced around the nation. Coastal recreation is widely practiced throughout the United States, but little data exists on what activities people participate in, where these uses occur, and the related economic benefits. To address this need, the Surfrider Foundation and Point 97, a leader in technology solutions for ocean and coastal management, conducted studies across the United States, including in Oregon, Washington State and the Mid-Atlantic, and recently launched in New England. These studies will help community leaders and policymakers better understand, enhance and protect the coastal recreation activities that are important to coastal residents and business owners. 
  • California plastic bag ban passed the legislature. For Surfrider, our work to ban single-use plastic bags started in 2007 with the San Francisco bag ban ordinance, the very first in the nation. In August (2014), after six years of advocating this issue to reduce plastic pollution, the California Legislature passed a statewide bag ban on thin single-use plastic bags. It included a ten cent fee on single-use paper bags in an effort to incentivize consumers to bring their own reusable shopping bags. With the ink barely dried, the bag industry pledged to drag the law onto the state ballot in 2016. As we know, an activist work is never done and Surfrider quickly became part of the CA vs. Big Plastic coalition to counter this industry effort. At the start of 2014, there were 21 active plastic bag campaigns. Now, New York, Chicago and Rincon, Puerto Rico, are just a few new states that have passed single-use plastic bag bans.

Each victory we win keeps our ocean waters clean, healthy, accessible and plastic-free. Together, we fought for free, uninterrupted access to our beaches and won. Our ocean and coastal victories are a result of you wanting to ensure that the special coastal places you love will be around today, tomorrow and for years to come.

Whether we are working at the local level to stop a dangerous coastal project, working to stop plastic from reaching our oceans through a statewide bag ban in California or fighting for national standards for clean water in the halls of Congress, each and every one of our coastal victories are won by a group of dedicated grassroots activists, members, chapters and staff.

Given the increasing seriousness of global environmental issues such as climate change, sea level rise, pollution and water contamination, we realize that change begins onshore. We will continue to face challenges in advancing our mission to protect our ocean, waves and beaches, but it’s the support from our members and constant pressure by our activists that will help us continue to achieve victories.

That’s what sets us apart from everyone else -- we will not stop until we win.