Skip to content (press enter)


Activist Spotlight: Val Flors With the Northern Ohio Chapter

Q: What is your current role with the Surfrider Foundation?
I'm the Chair of the Northern Ohio Chapter. 

Q: Why and when did you get involved with the Surfrider Foundation?
I learned about Surfrider when I lived on the East Coast, but I was far from the ocean and so I never really got involved. When I moved back to Ohio a couple years ago, I had some friends involved with and recruiting for Surfrider. After COVID, like so many of us, I was looking for more meaning and a way to build connections. I am passionate about sustainability, recycling, composting, and respecting nature so Surfrider seemed like a great fit for my values. This is my first year and I'm honored to be here.


Q: What are some environmental issues that are affecting your local community?
I would say Lake Erie's biggest issues are algal blooms caused by runoff pollution. There's a lot of farming in this area, and t
his type of pollution occurs when rainfall washes fertilizer and manure spread on large farm fields into streams that flow into Lake Erie. It's also impacted by sewage from water treatment plants when we get a lot of rainfall. This fuels a bumper crop of algae each year that can make water toxic to fish, wildlife, and people.

I think everyone is facing issues with plastic right now, i'm learning it's even in our beer. But unlike some other other coastal areas plastics are not banned here.  Well, plastic bags are banned but the policies are not enforced.  

Q: What Surfrider projects have you worked on?
We've done a lot of beach cleanups! We helped Old Woman's Creek, an estuary in Northern Ohio, remove the invasive European frogbit from their estuary. Frogbit is common at landscaping supply stores and is used in backyard ponds.  But it's dangerous to natural waterways because it forms dense mats on the surface and can choke out native plants and impact other natural habitat.  

We're also doing some social events to raise more awareness in Northern Ohio. We had booths at two paddle-boarding races this summer to create interest and engagement with the community. We've done a couple educational events, including a water safety training and education about plastic pollution. We're trying to create more awareness in this region about what Surfrider is and how to get involved.


Q: Are there any specific projects that you have worked on which benefited your community?
Surfrider participated in a huge cleanup with some other organizations along the Cuyahoga River that runs through Cleveland. Canalway Partners organized an event cleaning up all of the garbage along the banks of the river. There were over 1,000 volunteers cleaning up the river for fifteen miles down the river.

There was a ton of garbage floating in the river, too, from all the restaurants on the borders of the river, or the boaters that just tossed their stuff overboard. Surfrider had more than 70 volunteers paddle-boarding or kayaking in the river to pick up the garbage, which was a great turnout. We pulled over 400 pounds of trash out of the river. It felt like a great accomplishment to be involved in such a large and well-coordinated effort where I could visually see the difference all through the community.


Q: What has been the highlight of your Surfrider experience?
We're seven months into the year and we’ve already picked up over 1,000 pounds of trash— but the highlight has been the members, the people who come out and help us, the people who want to partner with us and provide education, and the people who want to come listen and participate.  We have an awesome leadership team and an amazing water-loving community here and I’m so happy to be a part of it. I like getting to know people in the community that have passion for the same things that we're interested in. We're still growing, and I feel like we have a really long way to go. But I think that we're getting there slowly, and it's great to see people come back to the events.


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?
Surfrider has provided an abundance of education and training to help me understand  how a an activist non-profit organization works.

Ultimately, Surfrider is here to help is protect our coastlines for everyone to enjoy. We also try to host events across northern Ohio to extend our reach and be more accessible for people who live across the state.


Q: What is the most important thing you tell others about Surfrider?
I tell them we're a volunteer lead organization that is here to protect the our great lakes and coastline. We don't all surf but we all love the water. And then I invite them to the next beach cleanup or event.

Q: Why is being a part of the Surfrider ocean conservation community important to you?
Here in Northern Ohio we have the honor of living on the Great Lakes, which is the largest body of freshwater in the world. It is providing water to millions of people in the area, and we need to protect it and preserve it for future generations.

Q: Anything else?
I'd like to thank all of the volunteers across the country who are helping to make this world a better place. Together we can go farther and i'm honored to be in this with all of you.