Activist Spotlight
September 28 2019

Activist Spotlight: Tanner Marvel with the Sonoma Student Club

by Ryan Cruse

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

I grew up surfing along the Orange County coast in Dana Point and Laguna Beach, then moved to San Diego for college and continued my time in the water by way of the La Jolla coast - particularly Scripps and Blacks beaches. I first learned of the Surfrider Foundation in 2015 from a college roommate of mine, Andrew, when living in San Diego. From then on, I actively supported the Surfrider brand mission and stayed familiar with priority campaigns and programs happening in my area via social media and the organization’s website. When I moved to Petaluma, California in 2017, I began cleaning up the beaches of the (mostly overcast and cold) Sonoma Coast as a way of meditation to escape the chaos of a college schedule and full-time work. I later found the Surfrider Foundation Sonoma Coast Chapter and began attending the monthly chapter meetings. Soon after, I decided to get more involved and pursue the chartering process in forming an officially recognized club at Sonoma State University, where I am currently completing my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Marketing. Sonoma State University is a mecca of sustainable activism, with an army of students here in Sonoma County who support environmental conservation and the fight against our planet’s climate crisis. However, our college did not have a club designated to the protection and enjoyment of our local ocean, waves and beaches. In April of 2019, I worked with the Surfrider Foundation and SSU Student Activities office to recognize an official Surfrider Foundation Club at Sonoma State University. Just a few months later, we now have over 275 dedicated students, and we represent one of the fastest growing and most active clubs on campus. I am proud to lead this passionate group of student activists as President of the Surfrider Foundation Sonoma State University Club.

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

As California residents, one of our largest local concerns is the current administration’s proposal to open up our coastline to new offshore oil drilling. As we know, DRILLING IS KILLING! This proposal opens thousands of miles of protected, fragile coastline to a dangerous, destructive practice that harms ecosystems and destroys our ocean environments. We will not stand for this. We are college students and voting citizens who will speak up to our representatives and demand our message be heard: STOP OFFSHORE OIL DRILLING! We attended a Climate Change Town Hall at Sonoma State University, hosted by Congressman Mike Thompson, and asked the question, “How is Sonoma County pushing back on the administration’s proposal to open California’s coastline to new off shore oil drilling?” Their response was, “The possible impact of drilling off of our coast is really devastating. If there is an oil spill on the coast of Northern California, not only will it devastate our local economies and tourism, but our marine businesses as well, and it would just be a disaster.” You heard it from our own local, California representative - we will not allow it.

What Surfrider projects have you worked on?

I founded the Surfrider Foundation Sonoma State University Club with an officially recognized charter date of August 20 2019 (start of Fall 2019 semester). Since then, as a club, we have coordinated beach clean ups at Dillon Beach, Salmon Creek State Beach, Goat Rock State Beach, Stinson Beach and an overnight camping clean up at the Bodega Dunes Campground. Our club participated in the International Climate Strike on Friday, Sept 20 by way of marching with 2,000 other activists in Santa Rosa, California. We represent the Surfrider Foundation mission on campus and hold a responsibility in informing SSU students of our priority campaigns (such as the “Drilling Is Killing” initiative) and local policy efforts supported by our Sonoma County chapter. We network with local organizations and partner with businesses such as Revive Kombucha, Oliver’s Market and Pure Luxury Transportation to further our reach in the local community.

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

The highlight of my Surfrider experience so far has been watching our club network grow from one student’s idea to a dedicated, passionate club organization of 275+ students who support each other and share the Surfrider Foundation mission. One moment in particular that almost brought tears to my eyes (or maybe it did, but that’s my own secret to keep) was walking into the valley meeting room where we hosted our very first Surfrider Foundation Club meeting on campus and finding 35 other students attentively waiting, with smiles and interest in our mission shining bright on their faces. I almost lost it! I could not do any of this without your support and I love y’all dearly, I can’t say that enough. We can only change the world if we all work together.

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

A huge strength in the Surfrider Foundation name is the organization’s powerful activist network. As a student member of the Surfrider Foundation Sonoma SSU Club, we have an awesome opportunity to collaborate with our local Surfrider Sonoma Coast Chapter in defending the local coast through county-level policy efforts. We also have the network of a national nonprofit that is dedicated to defending and protecting our coasts on a federal level. From university student clubs to national policy efforts, we all represent the Surfrider Foundation mission together, and that provides a sense of activism that simply just fires you up!

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

I am a Surfrider coastal defender because I consider myself an activist for our oceans, our environments, our ecosystems and our planet. As a Business Marketing major, and soon to be graduate, I have a unique opportunity to provide a set of strengths and skills to the mix that may not be strongly represented in the conservation sector. You do not have to be an Environmental Science or Sustainability major to make a difference for our planet’s future. Use passion towards execution. If you are skilled at branding and building a business plan, then use those strengths to brand and build sustainable organizations who fight the systems that currently exist. If you are skilled at accounting and finance, then use those strengths to communicate statements on a deeper level than just profit – a level that represents people, planet and profit. I am a Surfrider defender because I enjoy our coast, and I will use my passions to protect and defend what has been gifted to us to enjoy, no matter my skillset.

Anything else? 

Two more things I want to share. 1) I think it’s important to know me as more than just a Surfrider member. I surf, skate, snowboard, climb, hike, backpack – really anything to get me outside and enjoy our environment. I relate to a lot of you, and hope my story as a Sonoma State University Club Pres motivates you to represent this cause in your own local community as well! Please do not hesitate to reach out to others if you have any questions on university club experience, and utilize our Club Network Manager, Ryan. He is totally awesome and is dedicated to our success as local Surfrider leaders. 2) In terms of growing and sustaining a university club, it’s important to lay the groundwork – a foundation of first-year and second-year students who will be on campus to continue the coordinating efforts of the organization for years to come. I am lucky to have 4-5 younger students who share a passion for leading the Surfrider Foundation mission, and I have passed on responsibility to these future leaders to guide this club after I graduate in December. Diversify your leadership! Find a Business major, an Environmental major, and a Comms major. You all share the same passion with different strengths and skills, utilize these complimentary relationships!