12 • 19 • 2016

2016 Year in Review: What a Year!

By Pete Stauffer

2016 was a banner year for the Surfrider Foundation. We not only broke our record of 43 campaign victories in a single year, we shattered it by racking up 61 campaign wins over the past twelve months! These government decisions to protect our ocean, waves, and beaches are a testament to the passion and effectiveness of Surfrider’s volunteers and staff.

But these coastal victories tell only part of the story. Surfrider’s grassroots network of 80 chapters and 60 youth clubs continued to find new ways to advance coastal and ocean stewardship. From water quality testing to community partnerships to cleanups and restoration events, Surfrider continued to push the boundaries of what a grassroots coastal conservation group can achieve.

Below is summary of some our achievements across each of our focus areas. We extend a heartfelt thank you to all of our chapters, volunteers, supporters, and partners who contributed to this success!


Surfrider secured 12 victories to protect water quality at the local, state, and federal levels. Notable wins included defeating the Cherry Point coal export terminal in Washington, passing a voter initiative for a $300 million cleanup plan for Indian River Lagoon in Florida, and ensuring Hawaii public health by requiring the state to post water quality advisories. These advocacy efforts were complemented by Surfrider’s volunteer monitoring of hundreds of beaches, installation of Ocean Friendly Gardens, and numerous community partnerships to solve local pollution problems.

Clean Water Outcomes

  • Over 3,500 U.S. beaches monitored for water quality thanks to successful Surfrider advocacy in support of the federal BEACH Act.
  • Over 300 beach and stream sites monitored by Surfrider volunteers through our 32 chapter-run Blue Water Task Force labs.
  • 15 million gallons of polluted runoff prevented through the installation of Ocean Friendly Gardens.
  • Over 300 million gallons of wastwater per day eliminated due to Surfrider's cumulative advocacy efforts.


Surfrider secured 22 victories to reduce and prevent the harms of plastic pollution on our coastal environment. Notable wins included passing the New York City plastic bag ban and defending California’s statewide plastic bag policy through our Yes on 67 campaign. Surfrider’s network also tackled plastic pollution through community outreach, organizing local cleanups, and successful launch of our Ocean Friendly Restaurants program.

Plastic Pollution Outcomes

  • 15 Billion plastic shopping bags will be kept out of landfills, watersheds, and ocean annually through our successful passage and defense of bag legislation.
  • An estimated 100,000 pounds of plastic and other trash removed from beaches and parks through nearly 1,000 cleanup events.
  • Over 100 restaurants committed to serving plastics free meals through joining the Ocean Friendly Restaurant program.
  • Over 1 million educated about the impacts of plastic pollution on the ocean environment through our Rise Above Plastics program


Surfrider secured 7 victories to protect and restore ocean ecosystems in U.S. waters. Notable wins included our victory to Protect the Atlantic from new offshore oil drilling and federal approval of Regional Ocean Plans in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast that will protect the marine ecosystem and coastal recreation for decades to come. Surfrider also played an integral role in supporting the success of marine protected areas (MPAs) through education, advocacy, and stewardship.

Ocean Protection Outcomes

  • The Atlantic, Pacific, Eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic are protected from new oil drilling and seismic blasting.
  • Over 50 nearshore MPAs in California and Oregon successfully implemented through public support and engagement.
  • Ocean Monuments are created off Hawaii and New England permanently protecting over 585,000 square miles of ocean.
  • National Marine Sanctuaries in California, Washington State, Texas, Florida, and the Great Lakes are supported through Surfrider stewardship and collaboration.
  • 3.8 million acres off the Atlantic coast and 115 million acres in the U.S. Arctic Ocean permanently protected from future offshore drilling by the Obama Administration. 


Surfrider secured 8 Victories to protect and improve coastal access in Florida, Texas, California, North Carolina, and Puerto Rico. Notable wins included our Strands Beach Access victory in Dana Point, CA after six years of litigation and our successful defense of beach access in North Carolina through a state Supreme Court ruling. In addition, Surfrider partnered with dozens of local partners across the U.S. to help bring underserved youth to the coast.

Beach Access Outcomes

  • Surfrider’s Youth Leadership program brought 1,500 youth to the beach to enjoy the outdoors and learn about ocean conservation.
  • In Florida, Surfrider helped pass and defend laws to ensure the public’s right to use dry sand beaches for recreation in Walton County.
  • Surfrider’s Strands Beach Access victory in Orange County, California, ensures that tens of thousands of people can easily access this beach.
  • By securing a historic fine of $4.1 million of a Malibu property owner, Surfrider helped establish a powerful precedent for punishing those who impede the public’s right to access California’s 840 miles of coastline.


Surfrider secured 12 victories to protect shorelines in Rhode Island, California, Oregon, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico from coastal development and climate change. Notable wins included our victory to save Trestles through a settlement agreement that will permantly protect this world class surfing break, San Onofre State Park, and adjacent open space. In addition, Surfrider’s Maui Chapter joined the Protect Pe'ahi Coalition to preserve 267 acres along Hamakua Coast on North Maui. Finally, Surfrider helped advance coastal adaptation to sea level rise through participation in local and regional planning efforts across the U.S.

Coastal Preservation Outcomes

  • Protection of world class surfing breaks in California (Trestles) and Hawaii (Pe’ahi).
  • Launch of the Smartfin program to engage surfers in citizen science efforts to monitor the effects of climate change on the ocean.
  • Demonstration of successful “managed retreat” approaches in Oregon and California to illustrate sea level rise adaptation.
  • Protection of Olowalu in West Maui by helping stop the state’s plans to place boulders along the shoreline to protect the highway.