Mike Sturdivant, Emerald Coast Chapter Chair, Florida
Q: When and why did you get involved with the Surfrider Foundation?
I helped to form the Emerald Coast Chapter about ten years ago. Our beaches had seen a high number of tourist drownings and the Walton County commission attempted to solve the problem by enacting an ordinance that effectively banned surfing altogether. Watching our healthy sport being eliminated by the stroke of a pen, several of us insisted that “somebody” needs to do something. Shortly after, we realized that the “somebody” was us. We stood up to the Commission and they rescinded the ordinance before it’s final reading. Our Surfrider chapter evolved from the group initially gathered to protect surfing in Walton County Florida.
Q: What issues are you most passionate about in your community?
I am a therapist and a school teacher. I aspire to help people enjoy their lives more. Surfing has brought me so much joy. I encourage others to consider our beautiful beaches and ocean to promote their physical and emotional health. Preserving our local surfing culture and introducing new people to the benefits of an active coastal lifestyle are my main goals.
Q: What has been the highlight of your Surfrider experience (i.e., campaign, program, victory)?
The Emerald Coast Chapter has experienced extraordinary adversity and we have responded with exceptional resiliency. While our accomplishments during the BP oil disaster have been lauded by many, each related victory still comes with a tinge of pain and remains hard to celebrate.
My proudest Surfrider moments have come from my interactions with children. We have developed several repeat programs including our annual Kid’s Surf Classic and our Coastal Conservation elementary education program. Sharing the joy of surfing and empowering children to protect our beach always brings a smile to my face. I know that I have truly done something meaningful whenever I see a child beaming with confidence, shouting out loud, or asking “what else can I do to help?”
Q: What is the most important thing you tell others about Surfrider?
Your local Surfrider chapter is whatever you decide to make of it. You are the Chapter. Combine your talents and passion with those of others. Never forget that our directive includes the word “Enjoyment”. This is one of the features that sets our organization apart form most others. It is also the feature that can bring you back, invigorate you, sustain you, whenever the going gets rough.
Q: Where is your favorite beach and why?
I have been fortunate enough to surf in many beautiful places. East Coast, West Coast, Caribbean, Costa Rica...I have never met a wave I didn’t like. Being a Gulf Coaster, I know how to make the best of challenging conditions, and I know how to appreciate a wave even if it has a bump on it.
My favorite beach may be whichever one I’m heading to next. I like the anticipation. I enjoy that first glimpse over the dune, scoping out the break, and picking my spot to paddle out. I like striking up a conversation in the lineup and sometimes sharing some pointers with a struggling novice. My favorite beach is whichever one I am fortunate enough to be on.