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Activist Spotlight: Melanie Napholz with the San Francisco Chapter

Q: Why and when did you get involved with the Surfrider Foundation?

I’ve been an active Surfrider member for over three years. I joined because I started noticing the amount of trash left behind on our beaches during my walks with my dog at Ocean Beach and it really bothered me. I started picking up the trash on my walks and that evolved into volunteering with Surfrider, attending chapter meetings, and eventually helping lead the beach cleanups.

Q: What are some local issues that are affecting your ocean, waves and beaches?

The pandemic has really set back a lot of our efforts on tackling the reduction of single-use plastics here in San Francisco. Not only are we now seeing improperly discarded masks, but also plastic bags (which had been previously banned in the city), takeout containers and reusable coffee cups. The proposed Plastic Pollution Prevention Act—a bill that would work on eliminating non-reusable, non-recyclable, and non-compostable products and packaging— will help tackle some of the trash we are seeing left behind on our beaches. ­

Q: What Surfrider projects have you worked on?

I run our beach cleanup program here in SF. We hold three cleanups a month, two at Ocean Beach and one at Baker Beach. There has been a huge upswing in interest with the cleanups, the largest turnout we’ve seen was over 300 people. We get a lot of students and families with young kids, it’s super refreshing to see a new generation of activists!

Q: What has been the highlight of your Surfrider experience (i.e., campaign, program, victory)?

Last year I was awarded ‘Activist of The Year’ by my fellow program leads and that was really cool. It felt amazing being recognized for all the time and work I put into our beach cleanups. Everyone in our chapter is so committed, so receiving it was such an honor.

Q: What is the most important thing you tell others about Surfrider?

I like to remind people that there is no wrong way to be an activist. I hope that by sharing my experiences with Surfrider, I can set a good example for my friends and family. It makes me so happy every time someone reaches out saying they have stopped using straws, swapped a product for a plastic-free alternative, or packed out their trash from the beach because of me. That, to me, feels like a victory.

Q: Why are you a Surfrider coastal defender (or why is being a Surfrider coastal defender important to you)? 

As a scuba diver, I’ve had the opportunity to explore our oceans from a new perspective. I’ve seen the effects of plastic pollution and climate change below the surface and feel the urge to make change and do better. The ocean brings so much joy to so many people, we need to protect it.