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04 • 30 • 2021

Activist Spotlight: Ryan Yamashita With the Los Angeles Chapter

By Surfrider Foundation

This Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month we are celebrating our activists, friends, colleagues and like-minded organizations from within the Surfrider network. Throughout the month we will recognize those who inspire us and celebrate the achievements they've made to help protect our ocean, waves and beaches, while supporting beach access for all.

Q: What is your current job or role?

Currently, I’m a volunteer with the Los Angeles Chapter, as well as the Staff Advisor for Loyola Marymount University’s (LMU) new Surfrider Foundation Club (@lmusurfrider).

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

I’ve known about the Surfrider Foundation since high school, but never really knew who or what it was. I’d see Surfrider stickers on other people’s cars, and thought that it was some sort of elite surfing network, and that you had to be really good at surfing to be a part of it. Little did I know, it was actually a ragtag group of ocean and beach lovers just like myself!

I finally got involved in June 2019 during World Ocean Day. On that day, my running club at the time, Adidas Runners LA, had partnered up with Surfrider LA for a beach cleanup at Sunset Point in Malibu. After that, I got to do a huge paddle out and beach cleanup out in Venice Beach for International Surfing Day, and (as they say) the rest was history!

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

The list is vast from living in a metropolitan area such as L.A., but a few of my favorites that Surfrider LA is addressing are: raising awareness of our pollution issues through introductory beach cleanups (getting people hooked), finding ways to drive more diversity in the water through beach access program,s like One Watershed, testing water quality (especially after heavy rainfalls), and finding ways to educate our local restaurants through our OFR program.

Q: What Surfrider projects have you worked on?

So far, I’ve been volunteering through our beach cleanup programs, and helping recruit and educate more students/volunteers through LMU’s Surfrider Club.

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

I’d say my biggest highlight so far was having the opportunity to attend both the Surfrider Foundation’s first National Summit down at UCI, AND getting to celebrate Surfrider’s 35th Anniversary with the L.A. Chapter just shortly after (in 2019).

Overall, the summit was truly inspiring - getting to hear Surfrider's CEO, Dr. Chad Nelsen, speak, meeting Shaun Tomson in person and hearing his story of how he helped with kicking off Surfrider, connecting with other like-minded club/ chapter leaders from across the country, and getting to listen to all the other amazing breakout sessions and speakers.

We closed that summer out strong with Surfrider's Founder, Glenn Henning, sharing during the 35th Anniversary how and why he started Surfrider – my favorite quote that night was “Give away a wave every time you don’t have to.”

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

I like to share with others that you don’t have to be a surfer (or even a good one) to love the ocean, want to protect it, and keep enjoying it as a Surfrider volunteer - come join us, all are welcome!

Q: Why are you a Surfrider coastal defender (or why is being a Surfrider coastal defender important to you)? 

I’m very grateful to have had the privilege to grow up close to the beach, learning how to surf at a young age, and being educated early on what sort of issues and challenges our beaches and oceans face.

I’ll still never forget seeing plastic grocery bags floating in the water thinking they were jellyfish, and having a blue balloon get stuck to the side of my hip while surfing (staining both my skin and board shorts). That sort of visual never leaves you…

With the privileges that I’ve had, I like to find organizations that enable me to share my passion for surfing with others by finding ways to make it more inclusive, and helping to educate others on ways that we can work together to continue protecting and enjoying it!

Q: Anything else? 

Feel free to reach out to me if you’d ever like to come out and volunteer/ learn more (know that you’ll have at least one new friend to connect with)! IG - @ry.oceanresinart 😊