11 • 15 • 2017

Activist spotlight: Ambika Mathur, president of UC Berkeley Surfrider Club!

Meet Ambika Mathur, president of UC Berkeley Surfrider Club and founder of the Laguna Hills High School Surfrider Club!

When and why did you get involved with the SF?

Growing up in Orange County, CA, the beach was my go-to place for recreation. I have always been very passionate about sustainability, so in my sophomore year of high school I founded a coastal preservation club called “Beach Bums.” After a year, I decided that in order to make a larger impact, we needed a larger network and support base. Accordingly, we founded and transitioned our group to become a Surfrider Foundation youth club.

Since then, I have spent the past three years running the club at UC Berkeley, and am currently the club's president. I hope that through the combined efforts of my peers and me, we will be able to lower the environmental footprint of our society.

What are some of the local issues that are affecting your ocean, waves, and beaches?

Now days, my “local spots” have an 8 hour’s drive range. My heart goes out to the activists working to save all these spots, from the ongoing fight to save Trestles from being destroyed by road development, to the efforts to restore Ocean Beach and Pacifica from the negative effects of accelerated coastal erosion. The issue that I am most passionate about, however, is the issue presented by plastic waste. Plastics have a toxic life cycle from start to finish, and hurt all organisms across our planet, including us. Accordingly, I am working to reduce my community’s consumption of single-use plastics.

What Surfrider Projects have you worked on?

I have focused my efforts on the Clean Beaches and Rise Above Plastics campaigns. In 2015, I lobbied at Ocean Day in Sacramento, CA to push for the Plastic Bag Ban (Proposition 67) and Microbeads Ban (AB 888). In high school, I received a grant to produce and sell BPA-free, renewable water bottles, organized beach cleanups, and gave presentations to local elementary schools, all of which are efforts that have continued to be present in the UC Berkeley chapter’s agenda. At Cal, we have also been working to establish a red solo cup recycling program, are creating a community art piece out of reused plastic, and plan to pursue an Ocean Friendly Restaurants Campaign.

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

The highlight of my Surfrider experience was being a part of the initiative to ban plastic bags through helping lobby at CA’s capitol and sign petitions. While plastic bags are still present in our society, and there is room for much stronger legislative action, Proposition 67 was the first step in an important, and necessary, process. While it is sad that it has taken this long for the ban to finally take place, I am proud that California is one of the first states in the nation to have a statewide plastic bag ban and I hope that other states will follow suit.

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

If you enjoy the ocean, take care of it!

Why are you a Surfrider Coastal defender?

As I am a surfer who uses this planet’s resources, it is my responsibility to ensure that our oceans, and Earth as a whole, is preserved for all generations of all organisms to come. This is the responsibility of every human, and I work to do my part, plus a little extra, to help humanity be more sustainable. 

Find your nearest chapter at or support Surfrider coastal defenders at!