Activist Spotlight
November 21 2016

Meet Kevin Smith, coastal defender and founding member of Surfrider’s Chicago Chapter!

Q: Why and when did you and your family get involved with the Surfrider Foundation?

I started to get involved in 2003 while going to school and surfing out in Arcata, California. I grew up on the Connecticut shoreline and have always cared deeply about protecting our beaches and waterways. Surfrider’s mission inspired me from the beginning and volunteering has allowed me to connect and form friendships with like-minded individuals. 

Aside from volunteering for Surfrider in Northern California, my wife and I lived in Westerly, Rhode Island, for about 7 years and volunteered with the local chapter there. In 2009 we moved to Chicago and were among the founding members of the Chicago chapter of Surfrider (Chicago.surfrider.org) where we have continued to serve on the Executive Committee. 

Recently, the Smith family involvement in Surfrider has expanded as my pops, Tom Smith, serves as the Chair for the Treasure Coast Chapter on the east coast of Florida. The Smith family loves Surfrider!  

Q: What are some local issues that are affecting your ocean, waves and beaches?

A significant local issue that could spell disaster for the Great Lakes relates to an oil pipeline called Line 5, which runs 645 miles on the bottom of Lake Michigan, at the Straits of Mackinaw. This pipeline is over 60 years old and ten years past its expected lifespan. If there were a spill at the Straits, there would be severe damage to shorelines and natural habitats, and water supplies would be at risk along with the local tourist economies that are tied to the Great Lakes. The Surfrider Foundation Chicago Chapter is pushing for a complete shut down of Line 5. For more information about this important issue please check out http://www.oilandwaterdontmix.org.

Q: What Surfrider projects have you worked on?

Here in Chicago, I have been part of opening up lake access for surfers (surfing was illegal on all beaches in Chicago prior to local involvement), working with the city to limit plastic bag use in retail settings, and we continue to host ongoing beach cleanups to raise awareness of Surfrider’s mission. 

Q: What has been the highlight of your Surfrider experience (i.e., campaign, program, victory)?

When I first moved to Chicago and heard that surfing was illegal, I really could not believe it. Being part of the change to open up beach access at specific spots in Chicago was super rewarding when it happened and still brings a smile to my face today when I see folks taking advantage of it.  

Q: What is the most important thing you tell others about Surfrider?

I tell people that if they want to make sure that our waterways, waves, and beaches are protected and preserved for generations to come, they should join their local Surfrider Chapter.  To find your local chapter check out www.surfrider.org/chapters.