01 • 03 • 2021

Activist Spotlight: Tony Dobson with the Charlotte Chapter

By Ty Smith

Why and when did you get involved with Surfrider? 

I originally started to volunteer with Surfrider when I lived in Florida, and then in 2013 I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, and knew right away we needed a chapter here. With three large lakes and the Catawba River, not to mention Mountain Island Lake being the drinking water source for the city, I was convinced that a Surfrider chapter here would fit right in and be able to bring that same mission of protecting what we love around our coasts to our city. So I started the Charlotte chapter, bringing the Surfrider mission to our city.   

What local issue affecting Charlotte are you fighting for?

Plastic pollution is a major issue, you see it everywhere. There has been a common push lately to reduce single-use plastics, and it is something I have been working on in our chapter since day one. I think through awareness and education, we can help make Charlotte a leading city when it comes to recycling, sustainability and other impactful ways to reduce and eliminate single-use plastics. I recently completed a 30-day solo cleanup challenge to highlight the plastic pollution issue and I trained for a half marathon in December to raise money and awareness around plastic pollution and climate change.

What has been the highlight of your Surfrider experience?

It is hard to name one. I have had so many great opportunities with Surfrider, from regional conferences to leading and participating in local cleanups. Every encounter and experience is so unique and rewarding. One highlight that comes to mind is from the summer of 2015 when I was invited to speak at a Surfrider Board of Directors meeting in Wilmington. Our chapter won the International Surfing Day membership drive that summer and it was an honor to highlight our chapter and the efforts we were making in our area.

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

I always tell people that you don’t have to surf, you just have to care. Being far from the coast most people in Charlotte haven’t heard of Surfrider. So it is a challenge to build our brand here. Often people tell me they don’t surf, thinking we are a surfing club. When I start to go into all that we do, and what it is we are fighting for, they immediately get hooked. That’s what I love about us, there is no single persona that fits.

Why are you a Surfrider Coastal Defender?

I love the ocean and the beaches. I love to surf, sail and scuba dive. You name it, if it has to do with the ocean, I love it. I am a coastal defender because I have seen the devastating effects we have had on our ocean. I want my kids, and their kids, and their kids, to still have our amazing beaches and ocean when they are older.