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Activist Spotlight: Chris Borgatti With The Massachusetts Chapter

Q: What is your current role with the Surfrider Foundation?
I am the Massachusetts Chapter Chair. 
Q: Why and when did you get involved with the Surfrider Foundation?
I first got involved with the Surfrider Foundation pretty casually back in the late 90’s. My first real engagement on a campaign issue was in 2000 when I was working as an intern for another organization that was partnering with Surfrider. We were working to support a bill that called for mandatory beach water quality monitoring and reporting, and it was through that effort that I first recognized the power of grassroots activism. 
Q: What are some environmental issues that are affecting your local community?
Where do I begin? I live on a huge coastal salt marsh system that’s called the Great Marsh. Marsh systems like this are critical to coastal resiliency, but with a changing climate, sea level rise, and invasive species, this ecosystem and others like it are being compromised. We depend on them to filter water, buffer our coastal community from storms, for recreation and food, and much more. 

Chris Borgatti With The Massachusetts Chapter at a Surfrider event with his sons
Q: What Surfrider projects have you worked on?
Thanks to an incredible executive team, chapter leads, and some key volunteers, I get to dabble in a little bit of everything. One week, I might be hosting a corporate cleanup, and the next, doing policy work or visiting with a school group looking to learn more about the ocean. 

Q: Are there any specific projects that you have worked on that benefited your community? 
I’m really proud of the chapter’s work over the years, but two things come to mind. Our work on single use plastics, specifically plastic bag bans, has helped to elevate this issue throughout the state. Our environmental campaign team has been a consistent, sensible, and authentic voice for years. As a result, when we engage with lawmakers and community leaders, they really listen.  

Second, our Ocean Friendly Restaurant Program. It didn’t take long for me to realize how much of an impact the program makes. First (and I heard this just the other day from a new OFR partner), the program gives business owners a nudge to think about how they do things and consider what they can do better. Second, it raises consumer awareness related to how our everyday activities impact the ocean. Under the leadership of Caitlin Ivester, our OFR lead, we create change, highlight our mission, and build community – all at the same time. That’s pretty awesome!

Chris Borgatti With The Massachusetts Chapter walking out to go surfing holding his surfboard under his arm
Q: What has been the highlight of your Surfrider experience?
Far and away, the highlight of my Surfrider experience is the people I get to meet and work with. Besides being regularly inspired and learning from my Surfrider peeps, I have made some great friends. I love bumping into people in the lineup, parking lots, or wherever we cross paths. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the Surfrider staff. I work for a grassroots-based nonprofit, so I understand the dedication, professionalism, and passion required to make it in this type of space. The HQ staff are some of the best in biz. 

Q: Do you have any personal experiences or campaigns/issues you're passionate about where the social justice and environmental movements intersect?
I am passionate about making sure all people have access to the ocean, and hopefully, through that, they will develop a sense of shared ownership of the shoreline and the ocean rather than it being seen as something that is exclusive and privately controlled. We have a long way to go, but I see positive signs of change. I just want to do my part in helping more people connect with the ocean.

Chris-Borgatti-4Chris Borgatti With The Massachusetts Chapter driving a boat to a beach cleanup.

Q: What can Surfrider do to foster an inclusive and welcoming experience? 
I’m happy that organizations like Surfrider have come to learn that it takes more than just good intentions to create a welcoming experience. There are so many elements required, and all of them take time to develop, and even then, sometimes those efforts fall short of the desired outcome. It’s tough work for sure and especially challenging for a grassroots organization, where chapter leaders are always coming in and out. Surfrider has done a great job of making sure this is a priority year after year. 

It’s hard to believe that our STOKEE (Surfing To Offer Kids Environmental Education) program is approaching 25 years. Even though we know we have a recipe for success, we also realize we can do better. Our group is looking to add new elements to the program that we hope will create more meaningful connections. 

Q: What is the most important thing you tell others about Surfrider?
The ocean needs more friends! 

Chris Borgatti With The Massachusetts Surfrider Chapter driving a boat