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Activist Spotlight: Andrika Payne With the Los Angeles Chapter

Q: What is your current role with the Surfrider Foundation?
Surfrider Los Angeles has many programs to participate in. I am currently a Core Volunteer on our Beach Cleanup Team.

Q: Why and when did you get involved with the Surfrider Foundation?
I’ve been involved with Surfrider for a year on July 8! I found Surfrider through a partnership with my work – a Surfrider cleanup with one of BMC Software’s partners, another environmental activism organization. My manager suggested it as a great opportunity to get to know our partners, especially since she knows I have a passion for environmental causes and cleaning up the beach. Working in Corporate Social Responsibility and participating in many cleanup events, it felt very natural to hop right behind the tent and get to work. I deeply enjoyed the company of fellow Surfrider volunteers, was blown away by the work that Surfrider does, and was inspired by the impact that we all can have together. I thought I was just going to help with a singular event – little did I know that stepping into that beach cleanup would not only introduce me to a beautiful community of amazing friends of the ocean, but would also introduce me to a brand new passion for surfing that I NEVER thought I’d have.

Andrika Payne With the Los Angeles Chapter with a group of people who surfed in the Rincon Invitational

Q: What are some environmental issues that are affecting your local community?
One thing that drew our family to the City of Santa Monica is the city’s focus on combating environmental issues. Living in Santa Monica, California, the main issues in my line of sight are trash pollution, plastic reduction, storm water pollution, air quality standards from high levels of ozone pollution, lack of water resources, and smog. Most recently, we've had a warning to be on the lookout for sea lions poisoned by domoic acid. There are many ways to help with these environmental issues through Surfrider LA. Check out our event list here.

Q: What Surfrider projects have you worked on?
Welcoming volunteers and sorting trash at beach cleanups is where I spend most of my time with Surfrider. I have also enjoyed getting my hands dirty at the Ocean Friendly Gardens a few times, helping on collaborations with Friends of the LA River, and I truly love to help with tabling at events, all over Los Angeles, to help spread the good word of the impact of Surfrider. I’m even lucky enough to get to help with social media takeovers from time to time.

Andrika Payne with the Los Angeles Chapter picking up trash at the beach

Q: Are there any specific project(s) that you have worked on which benefited your community? If so, can you tell us about that?
Many of the Surfrider LA cleanups that I work on directly benefit my community because they take place here in my home of Santa Monica or my other hangout spot – nearby Venice Beach – so I can see firsthand the direct impact our cleanups have in the very place that I love to spend my leisure time.

Q: What has been the highlight of your Surfrider experience (i.e., campaign, program, victory)?
There have been so many, from attending the Surfrider California Conference to winning a beautiful Arbor Skateboard. The highlight of my Surfrider experience is one I did not expect to find: saying goodbye to my lifelong fear of the ocean. I know, I know, an ocean lover who is also scared seems like an oxymoron, but I have my reasons. Being born on an island, I grew up splashing in the water and walking on the sand. At 4 years old, I was trapped in a rip current that forever changed the way I view and respect the power of Mother Ocean. Through Surfrider cleanups, I gained a great friend group of passionate, ocean-loving surfers who helped me in overcoming my fears by teaching me how to read the ocean, one session at a time. You might be surprised in what you’ll learn about yourself by volunteering with Surfrider! Find your local chapter here.

Andrika Payne with the Los Angeles Chapter sorting trash at a beach cleanup

Q: Do you have any personal experiences or campaigns/issues that you're passionate about where the social justice and environmental movements have intersected? If so, can you tell us about them?
My passion for cleanups came from the very intersection of social justice and environmental causes: the safety of public parks in low-income areas. At 10 years old, I was playing at a rundown neighborhood park with a small community lake. This park was in my low-income neighborhood in Atlanta, an area that was commonly disregarded, but was the only park in my neighborhood we could reach by foot because my family did not have a car. While I was swimming barefoot in the cordoned off swimming area of the lake, I stepped on a shard of glass or metal that was discarded into the lake and cut the bottom of my left foot from one side to the other. That was the day I became a young activist against trash pollution, and I’ve been doing cleanups ever since.

Q: What can Surfrider do to foster an inclusive and welcoming experience? Do you have any examples from your experience where this is successfully happening?  
As a woman of color, I feel Surfrider is doing wonderful things to foster an inclusive and welcoming experience for those in marginalized communities. Although I may not look like the stereotypical surfer, I have always felt included, encouraged, and welcomed in all Surfrider experiences. Not only did Surfrider give me a wonderful community of diverse friends with backgrounds from around the world, but through the support of those very friends, I am forever changed by surfing.

The best example of Surfrider’s inclusive impact is the One Watershed program, a beach access equity initiative that brings youth from underrepresented communities in LA County to their local beach for surfing lessons from our partners at Aqua Surf School. To maintain support of an inclusive environment, Surfrider should continue similar activities with focus on positively impacting marginalized groups.

Andrika Payne with the Los Angeles Chapter sorting trash at a beach cleanup

Q: What is the most important thing you tell others about Surfrider?
Join a cleanup near you and feel the impact for yourself!

Q: Why is being a part of the Surfrider ocean conservation community important to you?
As a coastal citizen, the ocean has become a very important part of my daily life. 40% of the US population lives in coastal towns, but ocean conservation is important to everyone, not just those of use who live near the ocean. The ocean provides us with many resources, but most importantly, the ocean provides climate regulation and the air we breathe. Protection of our oceans and beaches is for the benefit of everyone. I find happiness learning to surf, skate, and just spending time outside in general. Whether I am stuffing plastic bags into my wetsuit as they float by during a surf session, cleaning up plastic bottles and cans along the bike path so we can skate, or I’m counting plastic cups, straws, and utensils at a cleanup, my daily consumer choices are impacted by my experiences with Surfrider.

Q: Anything else? 
Being part of Surfrider has given me a greater desire for purpose and has challenged me to increase my individual impact. I have even been inspired to maximize the potential of my impact by pursuing a few passion projects inspired by Surfrider: Brown Women Surf and Mermaid Tears Wrack. Brown Women Surf is an Instagram page and personal blog dedicated to my journey of learning to surf. I hope my representation will encourage more people like me, people of color, people of all sizes, people of all ages to get out in the water and conquer our fears. Recently, I have been more and more overcome by the number of glass bottles and broken shards we find at each cleanup, I wanted to find a way to upcycle glass. Having my own childhood experiences from glass in the water I decided to start Mermaid Tears Wrack, handmade jewelry using recycled ocean glass beads I source from a local Santa Monica bead maker, The Bead Chest. The most exciting part of my business plan: for every pair of earrings sold, I will donate $5 to Surfrider Foundation. Follow along on Instagram at @mermaidtearsSantaMonica as this project is currently launching.

Andrika Payne with the Los Angeles chapter walking on the beach holding a skateboard