Normally I treat environmental organizations with some distance, and find their agendas to be highly suspect.
However on a recent surf journey into the labyrinth known as the Southern Oregon that view was dissuaded.
My first introduction to Surfrider was a chance meeting of Marcus Mead in the parking lot in Port Orford. Shortly after that we met a fellow named Pete, whom I would later find out was Pete Stauffer.
Marcus and i had a lengthy conversation about Surfrider and my interests in the viability of northwest fisheries. I found him to be a wonderful fellow and a very positive human being. We spoke about Surfriders involvement in the local community in Port Orford and he informed me about the water quality testing going on there. He informed me of what the local fishing community was wanting to do to increase the value of the catch locally and touched on what information they were wanting to use.
A couple days later we ran into Pete again in the same lot and he and I struck up a conversation. As friendly and warm as Marcus was, Pete seemed to have even more stoke on what he was doing and life in general. A natural warm smile emanated from him and it became contagious.
He and I spoke about Surfrider for a bit and he invited my travel partner and I to a reception in the local community center a couple days later.
We ran into him once again with a couple other fellows including Fred the ex-owner of Oregon Surf Shop at a wonderful break a bit farther south.
That smile of his was identifiable as he and the others approached the lot after a cold morning go out in some head high peelers.
We talked surfing and had a few laughs.
I was starting to understand that Surfrider was a bit different than other “environmental” groups I have experienced.
On that Monday night my travel partner and I attended the reception at the community center. It was the start of the OPAC conference and was well attended.
The moderator of the evening was a local woman heavily involved in the local fishing industry and she identified Surfriders support in holding the event, as well as stating it would be easy to see who the surfrider guys were as they were the ones wearing sandals.
A good calling card if you ask me.
There were presentations by the local high school about local water quality testing. surfrider had set up the school with the needed testing programs, protocols, and equipment for testing water quality and the teacher and students were very involved and excited about what they were monitoring.
There were presentations from local fisheries representatives, Ecotrust, and others.
I found it interesting that Surfrider did not speak but was just present.
It occurred to me that their role seemed to be one of support instead of direction in the local issues and interests that were discussed.
I thought this was a great approach and it was obvious the support and assistance in bring this community together was greatly appreciated by many.
My travel partner whispered that he suddenly felt like a heel for letting his membership lapse, adn I commented that I too felt ashamed of not ever having joined.
I will be correcting the error of my ways quickly here and look forward to attending some meetings in my local area to see what is going on, and how I might be able to help my community and favorite surf destinations.