Activist Spotlight
November 02 2015

Someone had to do something

by Kyle Lishok

Meet Susan Forsyth from our Emerald Coast Chapter, Florida

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

In the summer of 2010, my beach in Florida was impacted by the BP Gulf disaster. It was to the tipping point where "someone had to do something." I had signed up to volunteer with several organizations but was impressed by the quick action that the Emerald Coast Chapter had taken to monitor beach and water conditions in the Florida panhandle. When an odd white froth began washing ashore in August 2010, I called the Chairman, Mike Sturdivant, and he immediately sent out a board member (Jack Slattery) who brought testing equipment and went out into the Gulf to grab some samples to send off for chemical analysis. It was impressive and encouraging to see a non-profit so engaged in helping the community when asked for help. I began volunteering with Surfrider shortly after.

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

I keep referring to the 2010 disaster, because it was life changing in so many ways. If anyone would have told me I'd be out in contrary weather conditions for 5 years, monitoring and documenting our beaches post BP disaster, I honestly would have shook my head in disbelief. But I've continued to keep watch over our Florida panhandle beaches and share findings with local, state and federal agencies.

Having spent over 4,000 volunteer hours on our shoreline these past years, I am also concerned about the amount of pollution present on our beaches, and the impacts documented by agencies about plastic pollution too. Although a "plastiholic" I  try to reduce use when I can and actually did an experiment in July and used only reuseable bags the whole month. I estimated that I saved about 90 plastic bags from certain death!! OK, all joking aside, I was surprised by how many trips to the grocery, and other stores added up in bags. That was a huge lesson and great reminder for me to remember those recycle bags when heading out the door. 

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

Learning complicated chemistry, and scientific jargon was the most surprising! Being involved in monitoring our beaches afforded me the privilege of working with not just surfers but chemists, physicists, marine biologists, coastal geologists, oceanographers, forensic scientists, biologists, and others. I've had the honor to work with officials from the Coast Guard and other federal agencies, which helped me understand the need for us to change oil spill response legislation and request a Gulf Regional Citizens Advisory Council like Prince William Sound RCAC in Alaska. As energy interests expand, it's important that citizen stakeholders be part of the process to keep their communities and environment safer.

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

They really care about their communities and keeping the awe and splendor of our waterways available for future generations.

Q: Where is your favorite beach and why?

We built on the Emerald Coast of Florida due to the breathtaking Emerald and aqua hues highlighted by our stunning white silky quartz sand. When personally seeing the oil spill hit our beaches 200 miles from the disaster site, that was a huge wake up call to the reality of the dangers in energy extraction in the Gulf of Mexico. And why it's important to continue monitoring these stunning beaches.