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Activist Spotlight: Lily Carbullido With the Isla Vista Student Club

Q: What is your current role with the Surfrider Foundation?
I am currently the co-president of the Surfrider Foundation Isla Vista Club, located at UC Santa Barbara. We have over 80 core members who meet weekly, and an additional 130 community members.

Q: Why and when did you get involved with the Surfrider Foundation?
I joined a Surfrider club in 2016 as a freshman in high school because I wanted to be a part of a larger community that cared about the same thing I did: loving and protecting our ocean and environment. This organization has been a huge part of my personal and professional development throughout my high school and college years, and I hold it close to my heart. I joined the Surfrider Foundation because my happiest moments have been spent in nature, and I have always felt called to protect our Earth. I saw Surfrider as a way to make my small efforts contribute to a larger whole and connect with others who want do the same.


Q: What are some environmental issues that are affecting your local community?
I live in Isla Vista, a beautiful little beach town that, unfortunately, does not have the infrastructure or management it deserves. We are a student population who deeply values our local environment, as it is one of the birthplaces of environmental studies, but the issues impacting our community are increasingly more difficult to combat. Plastic pollution from our streets flows into the ocean, our water is contaminated from poor management, and coastal erosion from sea-level rise that threatens our coastal community are some of our biggest challenges. Our club aims to improve and help our community adapt to these major issues.

Q: What Surfrider projects have you worked on?
I began my work with Surfrider in high school, hosting beach cleanups, letter-writing campaigns to protest offshore oil drilling, and certifying local restaurants as Ocean Friendly. At UCSB, I’ve made it my mission to expand our club to a much larger group of people and make a visible, lasting impact on our community. Since environmentalism and ocean recreation tend to be white-dominated spaces, a lot of my work has been aiming to expand our reach to more diverse communities through various initiatives.

We’ve expanded our BWTF program to test 6 sites weekly, are enrolling more Ocean Friendly Restaurants, holding street and beach cleanups bi-monthly, and our Rise Above Plastics Committee has carried out numerous initiatives working to reduce single-use plastics and plastic pollution in Isla Vista. Some of our members have been working with Surfrider Santa Barbara and other local non-profits on policy for coastal protection. We also held the 24th annual “Concert for the Coast'' last year to fundraise for the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to permanently protecting the rural character, environmental integrity, and public access of our local coastline.

Photo of 24th annual “Concert for the Coast'' last year to fundraise for the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to permanently protecting the rural character, environmental integrity, and public access of our local coastline.

Q: What has been the highlight of your Surfrider experience?
I am honored to have been a part of so many amazing projects in my 8 years with Surfrider and have had the opportunity to witness my club at UCSB flourish. One of my favorite parts of my role has been seeing so many young people become inspired to take care of the ocean in their own unique way, whether it is utilizing their background in marine science to test for Blue Water Task Force or combining their passion for music and the ocean to hold the Concert for the Coast.

My most memorable experience with Surfrider was participating in the 2023 Surfrider Coastal Recreation Hill Day, where leaders and activists from all over the country came together to meet with government officials in D.C. We met with our district’s representatives to advance policies for clean water, healthy beaches, and coastal resiliency. I felt so rewarded and inspired to see how all the small feats scale up to a much greater whole that has a huge impact: each pound reported from our cleanups, each BWTF report submitted, and each OFR certified is contributing to a movement much greater than us.

Hill Day was a reminder that every effort you make matters and that unifying with others who care about the same issues is the most effective way to make your contributions count. Hill Day was not only inspiring in those ways but also because it connected me with so many incredible activists from different walks of life. I got to know so many leaders who excel in their spheres of influence and who inspired me to keep making a change in a way that is authentic to myself. I got to know some of the team from Puerto Rico, and I hope to collaborate with them in the next couple of years.

Lily Carbullido With the Isla Vista Student Club in Washington DC for Surfrider's Coastal Recreation Hill Day

Q: Do you have any personal experiences or campaigns/issues you're passionate about where the social justice and environmental movements intersect?
Growing up in a majority-white community with a Pacific Islander dad and a white mom who both love the ocean in their own way, I have internalized two different perspectives on how people relate to the ocean and our natural environment. I noticed growing up that outdoor recreation and conservation tend to be white-dominated spaces, and working with Surfrider has taught me a lot about why that is problematic and how we can work to change that. I’ve aimed to expand our reach to more diverse communities at UCSB.

I created a Director of JEDI role to serve on our Executive Committee and collaborate with more diverse on-campus organizations, and implemented a “community member” branch of our club to encourage more students to be included in Surfrider’s work, especially those who may not be able to volunteer their time weekly. We also created an Education Committee that gives lessons to children from marginalized communities on ocean science and conservation in collaboration with the Sea League, a local organization that aims to bring diversity to the water and make ocean sports more equitable and accessible. Before I leave UCSB, I would love to hold an event with a Pacific Islander group on campus centered around connecting to our roots through the ocean.

Q: What is the most important thing you tell others about Surfrider?
Surfrider makes such a big impact because there is strength in numbers! Every little effort you make with Surfrider contributes to a larger whole, allowing small and large-scale changes to be made.

And… you don’t have to be a surfer to be in Surfrider! Just as the ocean is for everyone, Surfrider is for everyone.


Q: Why is being a part of the Surfrider ocean conservation community important to you?
This community allows me to connect with like-minded people, be inspired by other activists, and stay motivated to be a lifelong protector of the ocean. At times it has not been easy to prioritize volunteer work with Surfrider, but it’s that much more motivating when my work is collaborating with inspiring friends and mentors I’ve met through my Surfrider network.

Q: Anything else?
I am so grateful for everyone who has helped me along this journey; I thank my mentors Ryan Cruse, Carolyn Curtain, Daniela Schwartz, and leaders in this organization who have inspired me. Biggest thanks to my co-president and best friend Lauren French, whom I have been working with for 8 years, and to my incredible Executive committee, chairs, and every volunteer who has made all of our impact possible.

Lilly-5Lily Carbullido With the Isla Vista Student Club standing on the beach with her family.