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How and why I became an activist >>> Stiv Wilson

September 14 2010 | Activism, Jim's Blog,
by Jim

I was an artist.  A writer.  Am still both. In my late twenties, I became disillusioned with art because too much of it was about broadcasting one's own condition.  One's ego upon the world. I started surfing-- which was a long time dream and a natural extension of skateboarding and snowboarding. But unlike those two other sideways activities, surfing takes place on a living organism. I met a Surfrider activist in Portland who convinced me that I had power to affect injustices in this world. I realized I could use all my passion, all my talent and focus it on something that was bigger than me. No more was my ambition simply chest deep, it became ocean sized. I went to a meeting where people stood around, well intentioned and drank beer. But there was no structure.  No real tools developed to engage. But I saw that there could be. And understood that grassroots means putting WE back into WE the people. And eight years later, it's been one of the best investments I've ever made. I gained identity. Power. I looked at what was happening in our ocean. I found a niche to engage. I was afraid that wave energy buoys that give off electromagnetic fields might cause sharks to come around and bite people. I studied them. Ferociously. I informed a state policy with my research. I published on it. I found deep satisfaction in that. I got addicted to that satisfaction. I wanted more. And I liked being part of an organization that has a policy of not lashing peoples tongues, even when maybe, sometimes, it should. I saw plastic on the beach in an uncorrupted wilderness. It pissed me off and made me feel guilty. I met someone from Monterey who floored me in a room as she spoke. I admired her. I still do. I changed my habits. I went to my inland kook chapter and said we need to do something about this. I led the way. And I worked a 50 hour a week job and led the way. Now, I need not lead, because that same ambition that was given to me by mentors, I was able to give back. Now, I sit around a table of badasses at my chapter meetings. I delight in their knowledge, their power, and their character. Their spunk. I delight in the grace by which they affect their environment for the better. I love to see the empowerment of people who give a shit-- who also work 50 hour a week jobs. I love to watch them win. I admire them because they have the courage to fail. But never be beaten. Never ever. I delight in the fact that we don't just show up, we bring it. I delight that career Oregon environmentalists, with considerable accolades, consider Surfrider a powerful force and speak to us with respect (sometimes:) and deference. I delight in the fact that we're a threat. I take it as a compliment when we are threatened. I thank so many of you for giving me considerable props, though I don't take compliments well. I'm thankful to be in this skin, it's as organic as putting my flip flops on in the morning. This is who I have become, am. And I will continue to become. Most of all, I delight in the fact that when I do sit around and drink beer, I'm sitting around with people who may have bullshit jobs, but have found meaning and purpose in this thing we call Surfrider. I am happy to always be around good conversation and passionate people who think about their world. Who care. Who make a difference. Because if we don't do this, who the f--- will? I thank you all, unnamed here-- but you know who you are, for nurturing me. And there are a lot of you who have given to me. I'm thankful that I feel inspired enough to tell you all this. I am honored to fight alongside you. We are noble. We never say die. Stiv Surfrider Foundation Portland Chapter
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