Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel
The phrase on everyone’s lips at the Surfrider Foundation’s California & Hawaii Chapter Conference in Ventura, CA, this past weekend was “I will.”
Pulling in to the Crowne Plaza
in cars loaded with surfboards, wetsuits, and beach gear, Surfrider members were ready to catch some waves at Surfer’s Point…
share the stoke in meetings and workshops…
and listen to keynote speaker Shaun Tomson.
Champion surfer and environmentalist Tomson, who wrote the book, The Surfer’s Code – 12 Simple Lessons for Riding through Life*, was eager to share the life lessons he’s learned from surfing.
Underlying each lesson is the importance of commitment – saying “I will” when it comes to accomplishing a goal or overcoming a challenge.
Tomson, who has ridden some of the world’s biggest waves, told a story about surfing on Mauritius, an island off the coast of South Africa, early one morning with one of his “mates.” They were “riding in the tube when the sun was red and the water looked like it was boiling.”
It was one of those epic surfing days of pure joy with the two of them “exchanging wave after wave…and there was absolute silence inside the tube.”
Sharing the stoke, Tomson asked, “What is this place?” “It’s One Eye Wave Break,” his friend replied. “That’s because it looks like a human eye.”
Later, walking up the beach, a fisherman stopped Tomson and said, with alarm, “You weren’t surfing that, were you? Do you know what it’s called?” Then the fisherman told his version of how One Eye Wave Break got its name: “There’s a Zambesi shark out there. And, when he’s ready to strike, you only see one eye.”
The life lesson here, said Tomson, is: Everything is a matter of perspective. How we see things makes a difference in the commitments we make. Are we guided by joy or fear? Do we say “I will” or I won’t?”
SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel could feel the energy in the hotel’s Top of the Harbor room as everyone talked about making an even stronger commitment to achieving the Surfrider Foundation’s mission of protecting the world’s oceans, waves, and beaches.
Started 30 years ago with just a handful of surfers in Malibu, the Surfrider Foundation is now a worldwide organization with over 250,000 supporters, volunteers, and activists.
Glenn Hening, one of Surfrider’s three founders, was on hand to share stories about the early days and how they made a commitment to save the beach. Little did anyone know the impact that commitment would have in the years to come.
To mark the occasion, Aipa Surf created a custom “30-year anniversary” surfboard that was presented at the conference.
The focus of the California/Hawaii Conference was on ways to build membership and strengthen advocacy programs.
Pete Stauffer, Ocean Program Manager, emphasized the need to “protect special places” from offshore drilling and other threats. “What’s your special place?” he asked, sharing his own – a secluded beach in Oregon.
Kawela Bay, on Oahu’s North Shore, is a special place that was saved, said Surfrider’s Hawaii Regional Manager and conference co-coordinator Stuart Coleman.
With the bay threatened by local development, Surfrider “worked on both political and economic fronts” to ensure that land was set aside and could never be developed.
To achieve Surfrider’s goals, Stephanie Sekich, California Policy Manager, said “long-term planning is the key,” noting that Surfer’s Point, just outside the conference hotel, is an example of how you can preserve and protect a coastline.
Lauren Campbell, Ximena Waissbluth, and Tony Soriano told everyone that the recently-formed Chapter Advisory Council will help to further strengthen Surfrider’s organization. Creating a vital link between chapter activists and management, it facilitates interaction and feedback.
Ed Mazzarella, Director of Chapters, agreed that it’s necessary to all work together – “activists, staff and board – to have a shared clarity and vision.”
New Members Director Nancy Eiring said new database technology will enable the organization to better “retain new members and keep them involved.” Having supporters who are passionate about the environment is critical.
Chad Nelsen, Environmental Manager, advised, “We need to be both reactive and proactive.” This includes everything from doing beach cleanups to educating the public and lobbying for state and federal legislation.
People need to know that 80% of California’s coastline is eroding. Since 1901 there’s been a 7-inch increase in the sea level.
During lunch and the afternoon breakout sessions everyone was discussing strategy.
Angela Howe, Legal Director, summarized the legislative accomplishments that have been made, including efforts to ban polystyrene and Manhattan Beach’s Smoke Free in Public Places law.
Paul Herzog, Ocean Friendly Gardens Director, reminded everyone that “urban runoff is the number one source of ocean pollution.”
Related to this, Senior Staff Scientist Rick Wilson described what Surfrider’s Blue Water Task Force is doing to monitor water quality and keep the public informed about pollution issues.
Throughout the conference, co-coordinators Stuart Coleman, Nancy Hastings and Sarah Damron kept the proceedings going and everyone on track.
And Shaun Tomson had one more story and life lesson to share…about his personal special place near Santa Barbara – Hammonds Reef – located near the mythical Rainbow Bridge of Chumash Indian lore.
Said to have been created 13,000 years ago by the Earth Mother Hutash, the bridge was made from a rainbow to enable the people on the islands to move to the mainland. But, some of the people looked down when they were crossing it and fell into the sea. To keep them from drowning, Hutash turned them into dolphins.
One day Tomson took his nine-year-old son Matthew to the reef to feel the sacredness of the spot. They ended up talking all afternoon. Matthew drew a circle in the sand to mark the sacred spot and they passed a stick back and forth as they each told stories.
They left the stick planted in the sand, but Matthew took a stone with him that he said contained the spirits of all who had been there and the stories. Now that stone is in the front entry of Tomson’s home.
The life lesson here is: The importance of connectedness. We all need to connect – with each other, the earth and the past – and share the stories that define us and embody what we hope to achieve.
This is something that Surfrider Foundation supporters do, working together to shape its environmental message and communicate it to others. In essence, sharing stories.
SurfWriter Girls Sunny and Patti agreed that Ventura, which means “good fortune,” was the perfect spot for the 2014 conference.
With its beautiful beaches and friendly people, it was a special place for everyone to connect and recommit ourselves to Surfrider’s mission, saying, “I will.”
*Shaun Tomson’s Surfer’s Code
– I will never turn back on the ocean
– I will always paddle back out
– I will take the drop with commitment
– I will know that there will always be another wave
– I will realize that all surfers are joined by one ocean
– I will paddle around the impact zone
– I will never fight a rip tide
– I will watch out for other surfers after a big set
– I will pass on my stoke to a non-surfer
– I will ride, and not paddle in to shore
– I will catch a wave every day, even in my mind
– I will honor the sport of kings
Thanks to Gina Maslach, Norma and Alex Sellers, and Tony and Alex Soriano for their photo contributions.
Look for a future SurfWriter Girls story about Ventura and the fun things you can do on a day-trip or weekend getaway.
Surf’n Beach Scene Magazine
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