From the moment Jacque Rodriguez entered the Lucky Lab Brew Pub for her first Surfrider Foundation Portland Chapter meeting, I knew she’d forever be a character in my life. Generally existing within a plane of energy and stoke that few humans exist, Jacque became a regular fixture at chapter meetings and events in the late 2000s, bringing an immense amount of positive leadership into the room. The Portland Chapter’s executive leadership was quick to recognize that energy and leadership and she was soon identified as a target for chapter’s executive committee. While her term as a Portland Chapter executive leader has come and gone, her leadership to protect our coast remains and continues now 10 years strong through the very volunteer role that brought her onboard Surfrider – captaining the Otter Rock and Devil’s Punchbowl site as part of the SOLVE Statewide Spring and Fall Cleanup events.

Jacque Rodriquez with shows her pride for the SOLVE Statewide Cleanups

While Jacque’s volunteerism with Surfrider’s Portland Chapter has seen some big environmental victories and accomplishments over the years, her work establishing the Otter Rock & Devil’s Punchbowl beach cleanup site for the SOLVE Statewide Beach Cleanups, and the 10 years not missing an event, is what she’s most proud of.  The Saturday morning cleanups, nearly 3 hours from her home in Portland, were a true test of Jacque’s dedication. Oftentimes Jacque, would have a pretty demanding Friday night social event in Portland; and, too afraid she’d oversleep for the next morning’s event, it wasn’t uncommon to find she’d driven through the night. *Note: Surfrider doesn’t encourage volunteers “drive through the night” to their volunteer activities, but, hey, this anecdote sure as heck says something about the selfless dedication of our peeps!

Jacque, far right, at her very first cleanup in 2010 where her pot-bellied pig made a special appearance

We caught up with Jacque to ask her a few questions and reflect a little on her tenure with Surfrider Foundation, how she got involved and what she cares about most. Here’s what she had to say:

Q: Why and when did you get involved with the Surfrider Foundation?
I joined Surfrider Foundation in 2010. I saw all of these tiny plastic fragments of ocean debris on the sand around Devil’s Punchbowl State Park in Oregon. I wanted to help so I got to surfing online and found Surfrider Foundation was helping by doing beach cleanups along with an organization called SOLVE. Surfrider told me that nobody had ever captained that site for the Statewide Beach Cleanup events, but it was an important recreational area and was recently designated as a Marine Reserve – even more reason to establish this special spot as an ongoing cleanup location. They asked if I would like to be a Beach Captain there at the Otter Rock/Devil’s Punchbowl State Park and Marine Reserve and I have been captaining this special beach and surf spot for the Spring and Fall Statewide Beach Cleanup events ever since. This March 2020 would have been our 10-year celebration since we first established the site as an official location in the statewide cleanup events, but we had to postpone obviously due to the COVID-19 concerns and the stay at home order. I’m still so happy to celebrate the 10-year anniversary though, I’ve had nearly 1000 volunteers visit our site at the cleanups contributing to well over 7,000 lbs of trash in that time! Further, outside of the annual statewide events, we’ve inspired hundreds more individual cleanup events to help protect this special beach, resulting in far more removal of plastic pollution and engagement of local volunteers.

Jacque with Surfrider’s Charlie Plybon circa 2010

Q: What are some local issues that are affecting your ocean, waves and beaches?
The biggest issue that is affecting the ocean, waves and beaches that I feel I have some local control over as a consumer and steward is plastic pollution. In Oregon we see a lot of plastic pollution coming down our rivers and storm runoff from urban areas to the ocean. Most commonly we find straws, plastic bottles, bottle caps, cigarette butts, plastic bags, toys, fireworks, plastic silverware, plastic tampon applicators, tires, lighters, and lots of fragments of plastic that are less easy to identify. From climate change impacts from the production of plastic to ingestion or entanglement of these items by wildlife once they enter our ocean environment, plastic pollution is an issue that threatens our oceans and impacts our lives in many ways. As consumers we can make a difference in our purchasing decisions and the policies we demand to reduce plastic pollution. As stewards we can take the time and leadership to clean up our special places, like Otter Rock Marine Reserve, to protect them for future generations.

Q: What Surfrider projects have you worked on?
I have worked on many Surfrider projects. I was the Secretary of the Portland Chapter for many years helping to manage executive communications and supporting the chapter’s leadership. My favorite project I’ve worked on is the Ban the Bag campaign in Portland, Oregon back in 2010-2011. I was part of the original campaign with the Portland Chapter to ban single-use plastic bags, the first city in the State of Oregon and very early in plastic bag ban movement. I went to City Hall as a bag monster, wearing 500 plastic bags to bring awareness to what the average person uses per year. I ended up on the cover of the Oregonian the next day. It’s a fun story and I was so proud of the Portland Chapter. Now, years later seeing how that movement has advanced to other cities across the state and eventually culminated with our statewide ban that went into effect this year, it fills me with pride to be part of this network of leaders making a difference.

Photo of Jacque as bag monster

Jacque, second from right, sits front row as a plastic bag monster at Portland City Hall during a hearing to pass what would become first single-use plastic bag ban in Oregon.

Q: What has been the highlight of your Surfrider experience (i.e., campaign, program, victory)?
While we’ve had some really big victories from plastic pollution to protecting our coast from offshore oil-drilling, the highlight of my Surfrider experience has been starting the Devil’s Punchbowl location for the Spring and Fall Statewide Beach cleanups. Formalizing that special beach as an ongoing cleanup site with Surfrider and SOLVE and continuing that work over the past 10 years has been really been a massive personal victory for me. Over the years, I’ve begun collecting much of the plastic fragments we find on cleanups and have been making art out of it. I like to bring awareness to the issue through art, so I make little mosaic art pieces out of the plastic fragments – it’s kind of ugly and beautiful at the same time.

A couple of Jacque and co-conspirator Kable Roc’s comic-themed plastic debris mosaics made from cleanup debris.

Q: What is the most important thing you tell others about Surfrider?
Surfrider is a network of people all over the world who care about our oceans, waves and beaches that, most importantly, are dedicated to take actions to help. I appreciate this network of people, almost entirely volunteers, more than anything.

Q: Why are you a Surfrider coastal defender (or why is being a Surfrider coastal defender important to you)?
Being a Surfrider coastal defender is important to me because I think it’s critical for us to think globally and act locally. There are lots of people thinking in this world, but not enough acting. Being a Surfrider coastal defender is all about taking action and that’s important to me. I can take action by helping with beach cleanups, city cleanups, art shows, river restorations, ocean friendly gardening or helping to make policy changes that we need to defend our coast and ocean here in Oregon.

Q: Anything else?
I have met so many wonderful volunteers and supporters of Surfrider and they are some of the kindest people to be around. My life has been enhanced just by being in their presence and coming together to help our oceans recover. I highly suggest volunteering with Surfrider Foundation!

Jacque and some of her volunteer beach captain helpers