Activism and action on International Surfing Day

Surf instructor Anthony Corral shares a wave with Natalie Fruit at the International Surf Day event. Photo by Joshua Berman

by Amy Brown

The Surfrider Foundation Ventura County recently hosted a day on the beach at Surfer’s Point for the 15th annual International Surfing Day event. The focus was raising awareness of the importance of clean oceans, and celebrating the love of surfing. This global event was founded by the Surfrider Foundation, and brings communities together to enjoy coastal recreation and raise awareness of urgent threats to the coasts. The Surfrider Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches through a powerful network.

Founded in 1984 by a group of surfers in Malibu, the Surfrider Foundation today has more than a million supporters, activists and members. “We chose this day to celebrate what we protect all year round,” said Laura Oergel, Chapter Chair of the Ventura County Surfrider Foundation. “We’re environmental activists; we work hard to support our community, and this is a day for fun and outreach for our grassroots, volunteer-run national organization.” The Ventura event included yoga on the beach, a paddle out, surfing lessons from Pure Stoke, and a raffle for a free wetsuit donated by Patagonia, with tickets available for anyone bringing in a wetsuit to be recycled by Suga, a company that converts donated wetsuits into yoga mats.

Oergel reported that the local Surfrider chapter has been serving the community since 1991, helping protect the environment in a variety of ongoing ways. Since 2016, the chapter has installed over 100 ashcans with “Hold Onto Your Butts” emblazoned on them, which serve dual purposes—keeping cigarette butts disposed of and then actually recycled, as a company called Terracycle makes things like benches out of them. One such green bench can be seen on the promenade near the Ventura pier playground. The Surfrider members also participate in water quality testing with the Foundation’s Blue Water Task Force, a volunteer-run, water testing, education and advocacy program which measure bacteria levels at both marine and freshwater beaches and compare them to federal water quality standards established by the EPA to protect public health in recreational waters.

This year, the Surfrider Foundation partnered with local non-profit pure Stoke Surf Club to raise awareness of environmental responsibility while enjoying and respecting the ocean. Zora Wolter is the founder of the organization, and she and her team of volunteers were busy during the event, offering tandem surfing lessons for kids. The organization develops free, year-round community surf programs for kids with diverse backgrounds and abilities, including underserved communities. Wolter shared that in the past she had been involved with other surf therapy organizations, and recalled that during one of them, a participant was so jubilant that he told her ‘This is the best day of my year!’ She said “That made me so sad! We should definitely be out here far more often offering this to kids.” So, she launched the pure Stoke club in Ventura in 2018, and since then, they have offered nearly 500 monthly surf lessons to kids at C street, as well as a location in Rosarito, Mexico, all taught by local surfers.

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