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Gus Gates

Washington Policy Manager

My love for water began at an early age with the abundant rivers, lakes, and vast Pacific Ocean around my parents’ home near Florence, Oregon. Fishing, swimming, boating, and paddling on my dad’s old surfboards was how I spent many a summer day with my dad and brothers.


With the Florence area’s vast and seemingly endless sandy beaches, many visitors and locals often take the free and open access for granted. I first learned of the Surfrider Foundation during my senior year of high school, when they supported a surfer who had been fined for not paying the user fee charged by the US Forest Service to access the Army Corp of Engineers owned Jetty. The case was ultimately dismissed, and the user fee was ruled an illegal toll fee in what was probably the biggest victory for Surfrider in the State of Oregon at the time.


Fast-forward 10 years to 2007 when the Oregon Coast and the community of Florence were facing a gold rush by the emerging wave energy industry to install a nascent technology into Oregon’s near-shore waters. A few of us got together over cold beers on a warm summer evening on my back porch, and discussed the concerns about potential impacts to ecosystem health and an important recreation area. It was then that we decided to plant a seed forming the Siuslaw Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation


Simultaneously, with the help of some great activists & staff in Oregon we developed a policy statement on Alternative Energy in the Ocean, helping us chart our course on this new issue. Since that time, we engaged on a number of proposed wave energy projects, secured a seat at the table representing recreational ocean users through Oregon’s Territorial Sea Planning process, and established meaningful protections to help ensure continued recreational enjoyment of Oregon's special places.


Serving as the Oregon Policy Manager for nearly 6 years was a dream come true for me. With the active engagement of the Oregon Chapters, we were able to make some significant accomplishments on various campaigns that have helped to strengthen a lasting stewardship legacy on the Oregon Coast. Recently, I was offered the opportunity to change roles with Surfrider and become the Washington Policy Manager. This is a really exciting time to be joining the existing great Washington staff and chapters, and to help lead our efforts to represent coastal and ocean recreation thru the state's Marine Spatial Planning process and protect special places along the Washington Coast. I'm constantly in awe of the beauty of Washington State, and the passion for coastal activism from our members!


As a fisherman, surfer, kayaker and diver – who catches and consumes the bounty that we are blessed with here in the Pacific Northwest – I am a firm believer that it is our responsibility to be good stewards of these precious natural resources to ensure that future generations can partake in the same or even enhanced opportunities, and continue to enjoy this great quality of life. 


Coastline issues are complex, but there is strength in numbers, join Surfrider and help resolve big issues together!