April 10 2015

Volunteers for Our Ocean

by Ed Mazzarella, Director of Chapters

Surfrider Foundation Santa Cruz Chapter beach clean up Moran Lake Beach, 2014

Whether it's cleaning up a beach, testing water or speaking at a city council meeting Surfrider Foundation volunteers represent the true meaning of “National Volunteer Week.”  For more than 30 years, they have been working to protect our oceans, waves and beaches so we can enjoy them today, tomorrow and in the future. Without them, our beaches would be a lot more littered with trash, there would be a lot more plastic floating in our ocean, and many of the special coastal places we all love and enjoy may not be accessible due to irresponsible coastal development. 

National Volunteer Week, April 12-18, is about these volunteers -- the people and communities -- who are taking action. They are taking the center stage of social change by demonstrating how their collective power can make a difference. And, Surfrider Foundation would like to recognize and thank them for their work. Because, without them, Surfrider simply would not exist.

Our network of 84 chapters, including 30 high school and college clubs, consists of more than 250,000 supporters and volunteers who work tirelessly to protect and preserve our coasts. They not only mobilize the public on issues that affect their communities, they don’t stop until there are results and concrete improvements in our coastal environments. Take Jocelyn Gary with our Portland chapter or Bill Stuempfig with our South Jersey chapter, they have become a voice for our oceans and leaders in their communities. Read more stories about our awesome volunteers in our Coastal Blog, in particular the Activist Spotlight section.

Every year our chapter network conducts about 1,000 beach clean ups along the West, East, Gulf, Hawaiian and Puerto Rican Coasts.  Guided entirely by volunteers, clean ups include weighing, cataloging and recycling materials collected.  Participants range from all ages and consist of community members, tourists and youth organizations, school clubs, company employees and local elected officials. Check out the following stats, showing just how powerful the collective actions of our volunteers are in providing a positive impact beyond one community.

  • 25,000 people participate in Surfrider chapter hosted beach clean ups annually.
  • Time is money, and our volunteers contribute more than $1 million dollars of their time to keep our beaches clean every year.
  • More than 100,000 pounds of trash and recycled materials are collected annually by Surfrider chapters.

While the Surfrider Foundation provides several programs to engage volunteers, our organization’s Youth Service Program provides high school and college students who want to be involved with us the tools and resources to become a voice for our ocean, waves and beaches, while growing their leadership skills. They do this by participating in community youth service projects, starting a Surfrider club or getting involved in a civic engagement.

Ambika, a Surfrider volunteer in Orange County, Calif., recently joined Surfrider staff and  activists in the states capitol of Sacramento for Ocean Day, to meet with California State legislators to discuss issues affecting their communities and  California. She is a great example of the importance of involving students.

It was a really great experience. I originally thought I would just give a couple speeches and mostly observe advocates, so I  was happy and surprised to find  out that I was given equal respect and opportunity to participate as the adults in my group. I didn't realize how much I had learned from my participation with  the Rise Above Plastic campaign in Surfrider. I've never been so immersed before in the public sector, so it was a truly memorable and educational experience  for me.It was an experience that most people, especially of my age, don't get.

 -- Ambika, March 2015 (below, on the right holding the banner)


By simply picking up trash the next time your at the beach or park, or taking it a step further to attend a beach clean up or even becoming a leader for your local  Surfrider chapter, we provide many opportunities for you to make a difference to improve our coastline. So, whether you’re a first time volunteer or an old pro Surfrider Foundation needs you!

 There are always little, but important things that come up when you’re involved with Surfrider.  Chapter campaigns and projects, big or small, involve many  different levels of volunteerism. Writing an article for the newsletter or website, tabling at local events distributing information, securing a meeting venue or picking up items for a fundraiser all assist with achieving coastal conservation victories.

If you’re not near a chapter, you can become the newest Surfrider member to support our nationwide network of activists fighting to protect our ocean, waves and beaches.

The Surfrider Foundation's greatest strength is our grassroots focus and our ability to act as local activists for the protection of the coast.  In combination with being supported through a national structure this makes Surfrider an extremely credible force achieving over 300 coastal victories (since 2006) and mobilizing thousands of volunteers.  If you’re interested in becoming involved please visit our website www.surfrider.org.  And, for our volunteers, we encourage them to share with us their stories via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Ed Mazzarella is the Director of Chapters for the Surfrider Foundation. With over 20 years of experience in volunteer strategy and engagement he is a leading expert in his field.