06 • 17 • 2021

Activist Spotlight: Izzy Bacallao with the Los Angeles South Bay Chapter

By Surfrider Foundation

Q: Please give us a brief introduction about yourself.

Hi! I’m Izzy Bacallao. I was born and raised in the South Bay for all 18 years of my life. With my dad being a Marine Biologist and living so close to the beach, I have always had an outlet to explore the ocean and its marine life. I often spent my days as a young child exploring tide pools and discovering life on sandy shores. As I got older, I became scuba certified and participated in Junior Lifeguards during the summer. Nowadays, I enjoy leisurely going to the beach and learning more about its inhabitants, whether in school or via volunteering with aquariums. While I love all marine life, if I had to pick a favorite, it would either be a leopard shark for its adorable, puppy-like characteristics, or a spanish shawl nudibranch for its vibrant colors and very entertaining swim routine.

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

I have been involved with Surfrider ever since a very young age, helping with local beach cleanups and advocating for environmental protection and rehabilitation. As I got older, I volunteered to help man information tents and educated people on the importance of marine conservation. I have always been passionate about the ocean, so much so that from 3 to 10 years old, I was certain I would become a marine biologist. I felt that Surfrider provided endless opportunities for me to not only engage with the ocean, but to also engage and teach others. I enjoyed and appreciated its community engagement approach and it was exciting to be around so many other people who also shared my passion for the ocean. My favorite part of volunteering with Surfrider has been educating people about our ocean and seeing people become excited about protecting our local ecosystems.

Q: How are you currently contributing towards your community?

As of right now, I am a part of the newly formed Hermosa Beach Pride group. I am currently working on painting our 13th street lifeguard tower rainbow for pride month. The idea for the project evolved after a pride tower in Long Beach was burned down in March. The basis of the project has been to stand in solidarity with the events that happened in March as well as the Queer community in general. However, we want the tower itself to represent self compassion and love towards any identities and we want the painting of the tower to be a celebration of individuality and uniqueness.

Q: Do you have any experiences where the LGBTQ+ and environmental movements have intersected? If so, can you tell us about them?

I find that there are many people within the Queer community that also have passions for marine and environmental advocacy. However, it can be difficult to engage with the environmental community if it isn’t a safe place for them. While I have never personally experienced this, I do personally know others who have been affected. It’s really upsetting because I know how much the ocean and environment could benefit from them if they were given the opportunity. That being said, it is amazing to see how many queer environmental advocates do exist. I think it is especially impactful for queer youth that want to start a path in protecting the environment.

Q: Has there been any other environmental protection/advocacy you have worked on within your community?

I have always been environmentally active within my community. When I was in Elementary and Middle School, I fought against E&B oil drilling in Hermosa Beach. I frequently talked at City Council meetings and I went to multiple rallies. I have also done work within marine protected areas and did a project working to protect the native Snowy Plover. I also spent time volunteering at both the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium and The Sea Lab in Redondo Beach, educating the public and expressing the importance of marine wildlife and habitats. I have been to many protests advocating for environmental protection, global warming, and marine awareness. While it was difficult to find as many opportunities throughout the pandemic, I educated myself by taking Marine Biology And Conservation classes at my school. As things open back up, I hope to volunteer more to help educate the public on marine activism.

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

As of right now, I am greatly concerned about the amount of pollution that has followed from the pandemic. I constantly see disposable masks and single-use food containers from takeout littering the streets. When I go to the beach, sometimes I even see them washed up on shore. While I understand their necessity, it makes me really upset to see them disposed of improperly. While I try to do my part by using reusable masks and cooking for myself at home, I am also trying to remind others to do so as well. This past year, my mom and I sold and donated reusable masks in hopes that people could stay safe and be encouraged to wear reusable masks rather than the disposable ones. While I have been trying to do my part in cleaning up what I do see in the ground and at the beach, I am very excited for when my friends and I can participate in large beach cleanups within our community. I really want to encourage people to help clean up what’s been left behind from lockdown once everything opens up again.

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

A highlight of mine has been the tremendous amount of information that I learned from Surfrider. I feel that Surfrider has greatly impacted me and has guided me to become the environmental activist that I am today. They have not only taught, but have also shown me the importance of keeping our ocean and beaches clean and safe, both for us people, but for those who inhabit it. I look forward to continuing to volunteer with Surfrider and giving others the same education that they gave me.