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A Day in the Life of Surfrider's Oregon Policy Manager

My job isn’t always straightforward to explain. It generally starts with me explaining to someone who Surfrider Foundation is, what we do, etc. - you can learn about Surfrider here, this blog is about me:) Eventually, after my elevator speech on Surfrider, folks are like, “well that sounds like a cool organization, but what is it you do, what’s your job like?” So, I would begin by saying while I love my job, it’s not surfing, I do that in my time off, for the most part. My name is Charlie Plybon, I’m the Oregon Policy Manager for Surfrider Foundation and this is a day in my life, Tuesday May 8th 2018 to be precise.

Yours truly at Cape Blanco circa 2008 - first year on the job

Work begins today casually at 8am on the garden patio of my home in South Beach with my coffee, computer and my dog Playa. I know it’s going to be a long day, so I soak up a little sun while rifling through emails…I’m delighted to find an email with my latest grant proposal approved. My 9am appointment shows up at 8:30, two grad students from Oregon State University in an applied research course - so much for getting that first casual hour to myself.

My dog Playa enjoys a seat in the garden with me

The enthusiastic grad students are thrilled to be at the coast, and I suggest we stay outside because it’s a warm sunny day and we don’t get a lot of those on the Oregon coast. I spend the next hour and a half being interviewed about Oregon’s Marine Reserves - a major campaign effort of our chapters and a continued interest for our ocean protection initiative. After an hour they are on their way back to Corvallis and I’m back on the computer. Thirty minutes of email maintenance and touching base by phone with a coworker about an event tonight, I’m pushing a deadline to make a meeting in Salem.

When it's one of these days on the Oregon coast, it's really hard to point your car east for meetings, but coastal planning often happens in Salem, funny how that works.

It’s 10:45am and I need to be out the door by 11am to make the 1pm meeting at the Department of Land Conservation and Development office, a few blocks from the Capitol in Salem. I prep a fast lunch for the meeting, so I can show up like a boss with cut up apples, cheese, smoked salmon and avocado - I may get beat by the hustle of the road but I’m winning on the food today. I pat the dog and kiss the lady goodbye, I’ll be gone for the night as I have to continue on to Portland for a meeting.

The two hour drive to Salem is a bit slow and I slip into my meeting a couple minutes late. The room is hot, there are no windows and we will be here for the next 3 hours. It’s a Rocky Shores Territorial Sea Planning meeting, I am the chair of this official working group of the Governor's Ocean Policy Advisory Council and we are about a third of the way through a 2 year process. It’s complex, political but an extremely important planning process for Oregon’s ocean, most notably our nearshore rocky habitats - you can learn more about that here.

Cape Perpetua's rocky shores are some of the most diverse intertidal areas on the planet, one of the reasons they were designated as Marine Gardens and Protected Areas in the state's Territorial Sea Plan

The meeting is over, progress was made and we have direction for our next meeting, so this much is a success. Admittedly the best part was my lunch. I walk and talk on a conference call with another coworker about our Smartfin project and our current ocean acidification work in Oregon. The call continues for another 20 minutes, hands free of course, on my way to Portland where I’m heading for a Surfrider Portland Chapter meeting.

I field two more calls on my way to Portland, a staffer for an unnamed legislator wanted my opinion or ear (I sometimes can’t tell which) and the City of Newport had questions on a collaborative public works project our Newport Chapter is engaged in. Not a minute goes by on my drive to Portland without being relatively locked into to the cause - the day is long and I’m devouring work from the firehose. I arrive downtown Portland, miraculously find a parking space a block from the Patagonia store where our chapter meeting will be held.

It’s 6pm, our Portland chapter volunteers are setting up for the meeting and I try and help a little where I can to set up, but admittedly I’m feeling scattered and a little useless. They are an amazing crew of dedicated volunteers, currently working to Ditch the Straw in Portland among other strategies on the plight to reduce single use plastic consumption and pollution. They almost always make my long days worth it. Tonight they are hosting an artist from Haystack Rock Awareness Program and doing a marine debris art workshop.

Portland Chapter Meeting: Downtown at Patagonia

The meeting was great, it runs till 8:30pm but I pick up 3 new policy volunteers - hooked em’ during my 10 minute policy update and they are excited to do policy work…yes, these policy volunteers exist! Another solid past board member shows up and I get some quality time with him and a staffer from the Portland Mayor’s office about a campaign we’re working on - we speak details on a forthcoming policy announcement in our favor, it’s a great way to end the evening…

But then I text a past co-worker to meet me for a drink…shenanigans and catching up for an hour or two and it’s nearly midnight. My co-worker and I arrive our Air BnB, a sweet craftsman home in Alberta, 5 stars. I look down at my phone, 143 emails since I left home this morning…probably should do some email maintenance before bed. I spend an hour on email and reviewing another grant proposal, I call it quits by 1:30am - it’s been a long day.

This isn’t everyday, but about 50% of them go a lot like this. And while it didn’t feel like I saved the oceans today (will it ever?) we did make measurable political, capacity and programmatic progress. Long days and the constant hustle is the work of the dedicated few that work for Surfrider Foundation, as are the days and dedication of our volunteers. I’ll sleep in tomorrow and have a nice breakfast…dinner evaded me this evening, but it’s easy to forget when you’re saving the world.

You can find me at: | tw. @oregonsurfrider | inst @charlie_surfrider -

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