We all love a good party. What a lot of us enjoy even more though, is waking up the day after a good party — hopefully not too hungover — to perfect, peeling, clean waves at our favorite spot. When I say clean, I do mean glassy, but more importantly I mean actually clean — like when Mom tells you to tidy up your room, or your boss tell you to bleach the bathroom at work.
You ever have a good surf after a big storm and feel a little under the weather the next day? Did you know that samples from Montauk’s own waters are coming back positive for traces of enterococcus, a dangerous water-born bacteria that is harmful to our well-being, and may very well be the cause of your little surf bug? Scary stuff, but what do we do about it?
Don’t fret. Since 1984, the Surfrider Foundation has taken the initiative to keep our oceans and coastlines clean and protected. Although water quality and cleanliness is a huge part of their job, it doesn’t just end there for Surfrider. For many years, they have helped keep the East End, one of their biggest chapters, surf friendly by heading projects such as erosion prevention, protecting our rights to surf North Bar at the point and on a regular basis head down to the beaches to clean up the trash that is left behind contaminating our oceans.
This weekend, on Saturday August 8, we celebrated their efforts of the past and more importantly the future, in epic fashion when the Surfrider Foundation held their Two Coasts: One Ocean event.
Two Coasts: One Ocean was held at the private Star Top home on East Lake Dr. with what some argue is the best view and sunset in town, and was co-hosted by some of the biggest names on the East End including; actress Caroline Murphy, photographer Bruce Weber, creative director Mikey DeTemple, fashion consultants Julie Gilhart and Valerie Boster, New York hotelier Sean MacPherson, pro surfers Quincy Davis and Pat Schmidt, and authors Julia Chaplin and Susan Casey.
At the event, clearly in good company, guests experienced a night to remember with a soundtrack fittingly provided by DJ KK, formally known as big wave surfer Keala Kennelly (just click here if you aren’t familiar). To go along with the tunes both silent and live auctions were held in which awesome items and experiences were bid on and sold. The party itself was a success and raised a bunch of money for the Surfrider cause, in what rumors are saying was an amount upwards of $100,000. And don’t even get us started on the food … delish.
Why have the event in Montauk though? “Montauk is a beachfront town located on the easternmost tip of Long Island, where both social and commercial life revolve around the ocean, making clean water and beaches essential to the community’s livelihood,” Surfrider said.
It’s pretty cool to have been chosen as the one city on the East Coast for the event, and at the end of the night it was a great party and big turnout for Surfrider that our East End community was involved in. The sister event making up the ‘Two Coasts‘ part of the name will happen in the iconic city of Malibu, where Surfrider was founded 31 years ago.
Due to our experience — learning about the environmental problems we face out here on the East End, and hearing about the efforts and love that Surfrider puts back into our oceans and coastlines — we wanted to dig a little deeper. How you ask? Well, we stole the CEO of the Surfrider Foundation, Dr. Chad Nelsen, for a couple minutes and got him to tell us a little bit more about what it takes to run an organization like Surfrider. We also got to take a look into what makes Chad tick and how at the end of the day, all Surfrider efforts aside, he is just a man in love with the ocean and riding waves like the rest of us. Here’s what Chad had for us.
When did you first get involved with Surfrider?
1995 as a summer intern when I was in grad school, and then I was hired at Surfrider in 1998.
What made you become a part of Surfrider, was there a certain ah ha moment?
Watching Southern California get over developed and seeing the impact on water quality. Also learning that the reefs in my home town of Laguna Beach were pretty fished out in the 1980s.
How did that lead you to where you are today as CEO?
I knew that I wanted to get involved in protecting the environment, but it wasn’t until I considered grad school at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, and saw their Coastal Environmental Management program, that I realized I could combine my passion for the coast with my interest in protecting the environment. That lead to NOAA fellowship in Oregon for a couple of years before I landed my job at Surfrider. I have been working at Surfrider for the last 17 years, and ran the Environmental Department, which provides science and policy support to our chapter network, until I was hired as the CEO last fall.
The East End has sort of become the epicenter for East Coast environmental surf efforts, especially with Surfrider, why Montauk and the surrounding area?
The issues in Montauk are a case study on issues faced in coastal communities around the US – Montauk is challenged by beach and surfing access issues, water pollution, coastal development and erosion issues. Our chapter activists in the Eastern Long Island chapter have been working on these issues for well over a decade and there are still plenty of challenges ahead. Plus, the boom in surfing and Montauk’s new found popularity has resulted in rapid growth and increased tourism that is challenging the town’s infrastructure.
Tell us a little bit about Two Coasts: One Ocean from your personal perspective on the project.
When I took over at Surfrider in the fall, we quickly developed a 5 year growth strategy designed to provide complete support to our national chapter network. Our vision is to protect 100% of the coasts through a fully supported and robust chapter network. To achieve that aggressive goal we must attract new supporters, find ways to connect with a large audience and raise additional funds. Two Coasts: One Ocean is designed to help with all of that.
If there was one main goal for the event in your eyes, what would you hope to achieve?
To raise funds and awareness to support of Clean Water Initiative, which support 30 volunteer water quality programs, 22 active clean water campaigns, including efforts to ensure that funding for the Beach Act, a national water quality monitoring program, is not cut.
Can you fill us in a little bit about surfonomics and what that means to Surfrider?
Surfonomics is the use of natural resource economics to better understand the values and spending associated with surfing. Surfing is typically free, but still has tremendous value to surfers and we can measure that using economics methods. Surfers also spend money when they visit surf spots and are an important, but typically under valued, part of coastal tourism. At Surfrider, we can use that information to help justify coastal protection. If we keep our ocean, waves and beaches healthy, then surf tourism will continue to support the coastal economy.
How does that apply to the Northeast or better yet, the East End?
Surfonomics applies to any coastal community that attracts surfers.
What are the biggest coastal issues we face here on Eastern Long Island? (water quality, beach quality, erosion, etc?)
Water quality is currently a big issue on Eastern Long Island and our ELI chapter has been doing a great job of monitoring water quality to identify water pollution hot spots. The next step is to start addressing the sources, which in many cases is insufficient infrastructure, like septic and cess pools that are built to handle their current capacity. The good news is that this issue is readily solvable.
Sea level rise, coastal erosion and storm damage (ala Sandy) is also a huge issue, and presents two major challenges regarding our present and future development of the coast. We need to start planning for future sea level rise because beach nourishment and sea walls are not a long term solution.
What about on a national or even worldwide level?
I think the impact associated with climate change are the biggest issue – warming oceans, sea level rise and ocean acidification are threats around the globe and issues that are gong to affect all of us at the local level and at our favorite surf spots around the globe. We not only need to start reducing emissions, but also plan to adapt to the changes that are already underway.
How can/should we as a surf community address these issues and what do we need to know to do so?
It is as simple as getting involved. Whether it’s Surfrider or another coastal environmental group, if you dive into an issue and get involved, you will quickly realize how much power you have to make a difference. Surfrider is designed to help you figure out what you need to know. So give us what you’ve got – become a member, attend a chapter event, raise your hand and start making a difference.
So let’s be frank here, Surfrider has had it’s day without a doubt, but it seems as though the organization has been somewhat dormant over the last few years. I’m hearing a lot about the “new” Surfrider. What can we expect with this new facelift?
That’s not the first time I have heard that, Surfrider has been dormant – on the contrary we have been racking up some of our most significant victories over the last few years, but haven’t been effectively sharing that story and those successes. We have over 300 coastal victories since 2006 and they are all listed on our website (surfrider.org). We need to do a better job of communicating the amazing work that our chapter network is achieving and encourage more people to get involved. If there were more engaged people, there isn’t anything we cannot accomplish.
In your mind, what wave in the US needs the most love, attention and protection right now?
You can’t pick one – every wave is someone’s favorite. And its protection is ultimately up to the local community.
Rapid Round to have a little fun and to get to know you. Ready, GO!
Short or Long? Yes.
Beach Break or Point? Point Break.
Warm or Wetsuit? Warm.
With Friends or Alone? Friends
Malibu or Montauk? Either.
Left or Right? Right.
Favorite board ever? New S-Double Laguna Twin shaped by Shawn Stussy
Favorite wave on the planet? Somewhere in Mexico.
Favorite pre-surf snack? Clif Bar
Favorite post-surf beer? Pacifico with lime and salt.
Fondest grom surf memory? First wave on a Doyle (soft top) at Sano circa 1979.
Dawn Patrol or Evening Sesh? Dawn patrol
Gnarliest surf story? Friends leg sliced to the bone in deep Baja and a 16 hour drive back to a US emergency room.
Before paddling out I always stop to remember how lucky I am to be surfing.
When the wave breaks here don’t be stuck at work.
Best surf flick of all time is Big Wednesday.
I surf because I love being in the ocean.
There you have it folks. Show your oceans and coasts some love, and don’t be afraid to get involved. Every little bit counts. For more information on how to get involved head of to surfrider.org and be sure to check out your local chapter’s next meeting.
Local NY Chapters:
Photos provided by Left Left Right consulting and Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for The Surfrider Foundation