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2021 Year in Review: Surfrider Wins 83 Victories to Protect Our Coasts

The Surfrider Foundation achieved one of our most impactful years ever as our network returned to in-person activities

As a grassroots organization, Surfrider’s strength is derived from our community organizing and advocacy. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the shift to a virtual world has both spurred innovation within our network and also limited opportunities for in-person engagement. For these reasons, the re-opening of Surfrider’s activities injected new energy and growth across the entire organization.

2021 also brought a welcome shift in federal leadership on coastal and ocean issues. After four years of fighting harmful policies, including environmental rollbacks and damaging proposals such as new offshore drilling, the policies of a new administration and Congress provided a much-needed respite. While significant challenges remain, the transition in federal leadership created new opportunities for coastal conservation, which Surfrider has capitalized on.

Surfrider’s network won an impressive 83 coastal victories in 2021 to protect our ocean, waves and beaches for all people. Our accomplishments included the passage of federal legislation to stop sewage pollution, the successful defense of U.S. coasts from offshore oil drilling and our largest ever Coastal Recreation Hill Day. Surfrider also won an impressive 41 victories to address the plastic pollution crisis that is suffocating marine life and invading every part of the ocean.

Surfrider invested in leadership development by conducting 15 National Chapter and Club Training Conferences through both virtual and in-person events. This encompassed a series of trainings on Plastic Pollution, Climate Change, Civic Engagement and Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. More than 450 chapter and club leaders participated in these sessions, which supported a total of 182,000 volunteer hours contributing to Surfrider’s mission in 2021.

Below is a summary of our 2021 achievements across our environmental focus areas. Thank you to all of our chapters, volunteers, supporters and partners who contributed to this success!


Surfrider secured 41 victories to reduce the impacts of plastic pollution on our coastal environment. These included major statewide wins in Maine and Washington to pass comprehensive plastic reduction policies. In California, Surfrider passed a whopping four separate state bills to tackle plastic pollution. At the federal level, we worked to build support for the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act, a bill that Surfrider helped to author and which represents the first comprehensive approach to address the plastic pollution crisis in the U.S. We also were thrilled to return to hosting group cleanup events and Surfrider’s network removed more than 107,699 pounds of trash through the Better Beach Alliance. Meanwhile, Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Restaurants program continued to forge a new paradigm for sustainability by serving plastic-free meals. 

Plastic Pollution Outcomes 

  • 8 billion single-use plastic items were kept out of circulation from 38 plastic reduction laws passed this year
  • 107,699 pounds of trash were removed from the coastline by more than 10,900 volunteers through our beach cleanup program. 
  • 750 Ocean Friendly Restaurants across the U.S. continue to serve tens of thousands of plastic-free meals every day 
  • Over 3 million people were educated and activated about plastic pollution and how to be part of the solution.


Surfrider won 11 victories to protect water quality for beachgoers across the U.S. This included securing a massive federal investment of $27.35 billion over the next five years to upgrade our nation’s failing sewage infrastructure. Surfrider’s advocacy also helped to achieve the first increase in federal funding in over a decade for the BEACH Act Grants program, which supports beach water testing across the U.S. At the regional level, Surfrider’s network won important victories in Florida, Hawaii and elsewhere to protect clean water. We also affirmed our U.S. Supreme Court Clean Water Act victory on the Lahaina Injection Well case with Maui County’s acceptance of the federal District court’s ruling on remand. Finally, Surfrider’s network monitored hundreds of beaches through our Blue Water Task Force while installing Ocean Friendly Gardens and forging community partnerships to solve local pollution problems. 

Clean Water Outcomes

  • Over 3,500 U.S. beaches are monitored for water quality, thanks to successful Surfrider advocacy in support of the federal BEACH Act.
  • 450+ beaches and recreational sampling sites were monitored by Surfrider volunteers through our 44 chapter-run Blue Water Task Force labs.
  • 3 new fertilizer ordinances passed in Florida after a massive fish kill occurred in Biscayne Bay.
  • EPA selected the most comprehensive project ever to combat sewage issues at the U.S. / Mexico border.


Surfrider secured 15 victories to protect U.S. shorelines from coastal development and climate change in 2021. This included the passage of an Oregon ocean climate bill and a Hawaii real estate disclosure law, both of which provide models for the rest of the U.S. Surfrider also helped to implement sea level rise policy in Florida and defeated harmful coastal development legislation in Texas. At the federal level, Surfrider organized Coastal Recreation Hill Day, the largest ever delegation of Surfrider members and recreation industry leaders, that met with Congress and the Biden administration to urge strong action to address the climate crisis. Finally, Surfrider released the State of the Beach Report in November, generating national media coverage and compelling states to improve their coastal preservation policies.

Coastal Preservation Outcomes

  • Protected 1,100 miles of California coastline through ongoing advocacy at the California Coastal Commission
  • Participated in more than 20 local and state processes to plan for sea level rise and coastal erosion
  • The State of the Beach Report influenced coastal states to improve coastal management and planning for sea level rise


Surfrider secured 8 victories to protect ocean ecosystems in 2021. Our major wins included restoring protections for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument, banning seabed mining in Washington state, and passing a state law to protect Oregon’s seafloor. Surfrider also stopped a federal plan to expand offshore oil drilling in the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico and Arctic oceans. Our successful multi-year campaign included educating millions of people about the threat, organizing thousands of businesses and passing hundreds of community resolutions. Surfrider also defeated a harmful Jordan Cove LNG project as part of a coalition effort. Finally, Surfrider supported the success of marine protected areas (MPAs) in Oregon, California, Florida, Puerto Rico, Massachusetts, Washington and Hawaii through outreach, advocacy and stewardship.

Ocean Protection Outcomes

  • Stopped proposed offshore drilling in the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico and Arctic
  • 50+ marine protected areas were successfully implemented with Surfrider support
  • 4 state laws and policies were passed to protect ocean resources
  • Increased federal funding for NOAA ocean and coastal management programs 


Surfrider won 9 victories to protect coastal and ocean access for all people. Our beach access efforts included policy and legal advocacy to keep our coasts open, as well as outreach, partnerships and programs to expand opportunities for underserved communities. Our campaign efforts resulted in public access victories in Hawaii, Florida, Texas, Michigan and California, as we continue to wage 18 other beach access campaigns across the U.S. Surfrider also reaffirmed our commitment to beach access for all people, especially for communities of color who have historically been denied access to the coast, through efforts to enhance coastal access opportunities for inland and low-income communities. This included supporting passage of legislation in California to return Bruce’s Beach to the Bruce family decades after the state seized through racist policies.  

Beach Access Outcomes

  • Continued to support the safe reopening of beaches across the U.S. through science and policy leadership and community outreach
  • Restored surf access in Michigan following a restrictive order by the state Department Department of Natural Resources
  • Secured court ruling to protect beach access and uphold property owner fine in Malibu, CA in partnership with environmental justice group Azul 
  • Restored public parking and beach access at Ko’olina Lagoons on Oahu, Hawaii 

Want to get involved? Find your nearest Surfrider chapter or support Surfrider coastal defenders!