November 30 2015

Helping the rugged Olympic Peninsula

by Nancy Eiring

The connectedness and depth of the Surfrider network was recently on display in Bellingham, Washington. While attending a marine resources conference, Northwest Straits (NWS) Chapter Chair Eleanor Hines and Washington State Senator and Surfrider board member Kevin Ranker were able to connect, sharing a brief conversation. These two stars of the Surfrider world had the opportunity to not just say hello and have a quick chat, but were also fortunate to meet up-and-coming McKenna Thompson from the Olympic Peninsula Chapter (OPC) based out of Port Angeles, WA. McKenna, passing through town on a trip, was e-introduced to Eleanor so the two could meet as McKenna plans to attend Western Washington University next year and get involved with the Surfrider chapter in Bellingham.

The introduction between these two dedicated activists circled around the NWS chapter’s highly regarded Blue Water Task Force program (BWTF). In a large part, due to the foundation of the BWTF program established by Eleanor and the NWS Chapter, a framework was in place for the Olympic Peninsula Chapter and McKenna to emulate, which they successfully have. Working on water quality testing and associated issues at popular beaches with the county has helped grow the Olympic Peninsula Chapter’s recognition and partnerships in the community.

As in this case, the Surfrider network provides a platform for individuals of all ages, backgrounds, and experiences to make connections that protect our oceans, waves and beaches. Here is McKenna’s story and why she dedicates her time to helping her chapter on the rugged Olympic Peninsula in Washington.

Q: When and why did you get involved with the Surfrider Foundation?

A: I joined Surfrider in 2013. I had started surfing the previous year and was eager to get to know other surfers on the Olympic Peninsula. As I made connections   I became aware of the Surfrider Foundation's influence in my community and wanted to be a part of a positive force.

Q: What issues are you most passionate about in your community?

A: In my community I am passionate about keeping our beaches and water clean. Through Surfrider I have been a volunteer for the Blue Water Task Force, which has given me an interest in water quality and water conservation.

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

A: Beach cleanups are my favorite part of Surfrider. You truly feel how much our chapter members care about the ocean when we all trek along the beach in the pouring rain, wearing ponchos, and picking up kelp covered underwear. 

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

Our ocean is so incredibly valuable, we can't afford to poison it. Surfrider gives hope to the future of our oceans. Instilling a drive to conserve and protect our oceans and beaches is what we all should strive for. When I tell people about Surfrider I encourage them to take action on a local scale so the effects can be seen globally. 

Q: Where is your favorite beach and why?

A: I was a child raised on the edge of the ocean. I grew up beach combing and tide pooling. My favorite beach has always been Ruby beach. It's wild and uninhabited looking, littered with jagged sea stacks and lined with weathered trees. Growing up with pristine beaches makes me want to preserve what wilderness we have left, and let others feel the joy of clean coastlines.

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