Beach Access, Coastal Preservation, Ocean Friendly Gardens, Ocean Protection, Plastic Pollution, Surf Protection, Youth
March 30 2015

Surfrider’s Top 10 Environmental Priorities

by Pete Stauffer, Environmental Director

When it comes to the health of our coasts and ocean, surfers are like the canary in the coal mine.  Our unique perspective from the water allows us to see issues that impact our health, the surf and the beach we love.  Ocean pollution from urban run-off, sewage or oil spills make us sick.  Coastal erosion and seawalls destroy our surf breaks. Restrictions to beach access keep us away from what we love most.

As coastal populations grow and new industries loom on the horizon, coastal communities and businesses will have a powerful voice for protecting the places we use and enjoy. So it follows that we – surfers, beach goers and other recreational users – also have a voice to help defend our coasts from an ever-expanding list of threats.

Fortunately there are many ways to protect our coasts for now and the future: volunteer cleanups, grassroots advocacy, policy development, and local stewardship are just some of the tools we have in our quiver. Check out this timeless article, “The New Localism,” by Surfrider’s Outer Banks Chapter Chair, Matt Walker, which ran in the October 2008 issue of Surfing Magazine.

Since our founding 30 years ago, the Surfrider Foundation has not veered from its mission to protect our oceans, waves and beaches so we can enjoy them today, tomorrow and for years to come. We remain steadfast through constant pressure endlessly applied, recognizing that our growing network of 84 chapters and more than 250,000 supporters—members, grassroots activists and volunteers—is invaluable to our success. They are the muscle keeping our organization strong.

So what’s on our agenda for 2015? Here are Surfrider’s top 10 environmental priorities for the coming year:

1) Clean Water - Defend the BEACH Act

Clean water is a matter of public health for millions of beachgoers and surfers in the U.S. Unfortunately, congress may eliminate all funding for water quality testing at recreational beaches. Please ask your member congress to restore funding for the BEACH Act. Take action, here.

2) Stop New Offshore Drilling

Surfrider chapters are opposing plans for new oil drilling off the Mid- and South Atlantic coast. New drilling would harm marine life and water quality and put the Atlantic coast at risk of a catastrophic oil spill. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is soliciting public input through community forums and comment periods. Please tell BOEM that new offshore drilling is not the answer.

3) Marine Protected Areas

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are the wildlife refuges of the ocean. Surfrider chapters are supporting the success (and enjoyment) of MPAs in California, Oregon and other states through local education, monitoring, and stewardship. Surfrider helped establish these MPA networks through community engagement and now we are working to ensure their lasting success for decades to come.

4) Coastal Preservation

Surfrider recognizes that beaches are unique and special resources that should be protected for the future. We are currently waging nearly twenty campaigns at the state and local levels to protect natural shorelines. These efforts are focused on establishing appropriate setbacks for development, opposing seawalls and other shoreline structures, and placing coastal lands in public trust.

5) Protecting Special Coastal Places

Regional ocean planning provides an opportunity to protect special coastal places before they’re threatened. In New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and Washington State, Surfrider is helping to develop ocean plans that will protect the marine ecosystem on behalf of recreational users. Surfrider is also conducting recreational mapping studies in these and other regions to document the economic and social value of coastal recreation. 

6) Beach Access for All

Surfrider Foundation views beach access as a universal right for all people. In Texas, California, Maine and other states, Surfrider is working to protect and improve coastal access policies. Surfrider chapters are also fighting dozens of local access restrictions across the county to ensure the opportunity to use and enjoy these places in the future.

7) Reducing Plastic Pollution

Plastic pollution causes enormous harm to marine wildlife and coastal ecosystems. Across the country, Surfrider chapters are raising awareness about the impacts of plastics in the marine environment and advocating for policies to reduce single-use plastics consumption. Surfrider is also working to pass statewide legislation to address microbeads, which are tiny bits of plastic found in products such as toothpastes and facial scrubs.

8) Volunteer Stewardship

Surfrider chapters are organizing nearly a thousand cleanups and restoration events this year at beaches and parks across the country. These volunteer efforts improve the condition of our coasts and build public awareness of the value of these important resources. Surfrider volunteers are also protecting our waters by monitoring water quality through our Blue Water Task Force program and installing Ocean Friendly Gardens.

9) Climate Change Adaptation

Climate change is the greatest environmental threat that our planet has ever known. Sea level rise, beach erosion, and ocean acidification are already impacting coastal ecosystems. Surfrider’s priorities this year include educating the public about the issue and ways to be part of the solution. Surfrider is also helping advance local planning and adaptation strategies that protect our natural shorelines and communities.

10) Engage the Youth

Surfrider’s youth engagement program is developing the next generation of environmental leaders and activists by providing young people a platform to engage with Surfrider’s mission – protection and enjoyment of oceans, waves and beaches – on their own campuses and communities. To find out how to get involved, please visit our Quad program page.