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10 • 22 • 2020

Activist Spotlight: Anupa Asokan, Surfrider Board Member

By Ty Smith

Q: What is your current job or role with the Surfrider Foundation? 

I serve on the National Board of Directors and volunteer with the Los Angeles Chapter. For my day job, I’ve worked in marine science and policy for over 10 years, both in non-profits and with the federal government.

Q: Why and when did you get involved with Surfrider?

I became actively involved with Surfrider when I first moved to Washington, DC in 2013. That was the farthest I’ve ever lived from the ocean and Surfrider seemed like a great way to meet other ocean lovers and contribute to a cause I believe in. I served as chapter chair during my time there, and when I moved back to LA, I stayed engaged and jumped into volunteering with a new chapter.

Q: What are some local issues that are affecting your ocean, waves and beaches?

The main issues are not unique to my local beach, and those are climate change and plastic pollution. Fundamentally, the biggest threats to our ocean can be addressed by dealing with the causes of climate change. It’s up to us to help mitigate the damage in the meantime and help arm our policymakers with the information they need to make lasting change. For example, a local beach cleanup might not get all the plastic out of the ocean, but the data we gather helps make a compelling case for policies to stop the flow of plastic from upstream. 

Using your voice is also an important way to effect policy. It’s been so discouraging to watch California’s kelp forests disappear over the last decade, and with it some of the marine life that rely on this essential habitat. But there has been a growing grassroots movement to conserve nature, which Surfrider has supported, and the state recently committed to protecting 30 percent of its land and waters. This policy is not only proof that grassroots efforts are effective, but it will ultimately protect special places and boost nature’s resilience while we do the work to reduce our impact on the planet.

Q: What Surfrider projects or committees do you work on?

Making space for everyone in ocean conservation and recreation is very important to me. At the national level, I’m grateful to contribute to the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion committee. With the LA Chapter, I’m hoping to help expand the One Watershed program. I feel so fortunate to have been able to experience the ocean my entire life. Creating opportunities for youth to have fun and positive experiences in the ocean is something I’m passionate about. I also think it’s critical for future stewardship and conservation of our planet for as many people as possible to be exposed to what the ocean offers us. Programs like One Watershed create those experiences for kids who wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

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

I’m still riding the high from the personal challenge I set for myself and accomplished this year. I decided to stand-up paddle across Santa Monica Bay as a fundraiser for Surfrider. One of my favorite things about paddling is the chance to encounter ocean life, so I also tried to use the fundraising effort as an opportunity to educate my followers about local marine life and issues they face in Southern California. On October 3rd, I completed the 27 mile trek, raised over $10,000 for Surfrider (so far 😉 ) and saw a small pod of fin whales along the way! I’ve contributed to several campaign efforts over the years from stopping offshore drilling in the Atlantic to styrofoam bans in and around DC. Every single victory, even my paddle across the bay, was only possible because of the volunteers, staff and supportive community Surfrider is able to help bring together for the ocean—so, thank you!

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

I’m not that great of a surfer, but that didn’t stop me from joining! If you want to make a difference for the ocean, Surfrider is a great way to get involved and meet some amazing people along the way.

Q: Why is it important to you to sit on the Board of Directors for Surfrider? 

I’ve been active in two different chapters that are on opposite sides of the country, and one was upstream, while the other is a more traditional coastal chapter. This allows me to bring a unique perspective and voice from the chapter network to the Board. I’m also proud to serve on a board that reflects the diversity of people the organization represents, as well as bringing together a wide variety of expertise and skill sets—I’m excited for the opportunity to learn from this amazing team during my term.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?

VOTE! and wear sunscreen. 

Click here to donate to Anupa's stand-up paddle across Santa Monica Bay to help raise funds for Surfrider!