Today, June 19, 2018, is the one year anniversary of starting my dream job with the Surfrider Foundation. In honor of this, join me on a journey starting in 2008 and finishing with highlights of my first year as a Surfrider employee!
First, I’m going to take you back to my Surfrider roots…
You may be surprised to learn that Surfrider had a hand in bringing me to Oregon. Ten years ago, I was serving as an AmeriCorps volunteer with the Port Orford Ocean Resource Team, a position partially funded by Surfrider. The photo below was taken at my first Blue Water Task Force training at our Port Orford lab in October 2008. Charlie Plybon (now our Oregon Policy Manager, then Surfrider’s Oregon Field Manager) trained me and snapped this pic.
Back in my Port Orford days, I remember looking up to the Surfrider crew (Charlie Plybon, Pete Stauffer, and Gus Gates – all of them are still with Surfrider, by the way). I was very green (a recent college grad with little work experience) and they taught me what it meant to be an ocean advocate and how to be an effective one. They also sometimes left me on dry land to have “meetings” on the water. To his credit, Pete did take me out for my second ever surfing experience in waves that — if memory serves — were about 25 feet high (really, I think they were more like 5 feet, but it was only my second time going out!).
Anyway, this is all my longwinded way of saying Surfrider (and it’s awesome staff and volunteers) inspired me to find my passion and launch a career in environmental conservation.
Moving beyond Port Orford…
After leaving Port Orford, I headed to Portland for a job with SOLVE, working with volunteers to address marine debris and conduct cleanups throughout Oregon. I was fortunate enough to maintain a connection with Surfrider by working for a partner organization and with involvement in the Portland Chapter. Even during grad school, I stayed connected to my career (and Surfrider) by taking contracts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to coordinate the West Coast Marine Debris Alliance and the Oregon Marine Debris Action Plan.
We get it…You love Surfrider, but how is it working for them?
The past year has been a whirlwind! I’ve learned so much, experienced success and failure, built a new community, and worked many long hours. Overall, I’m loving my job. Whether I’m leading a beach cleanup, training volunteers, or speaking at an event, I feel lucky to work with such inspiring people who are protecting the world’s oceans, waves, and beaches. I also love my coworkers — we have a strong team at Surfrider Foundation that is supportive, knowledgeable, and fun.
I’ll admit — it’s not all sunshine and roses. While I love my job, there are certainly challenges. I work with a large number of volunteers and partners. The partners (who are working with me as part of their job) usually want to meet during the day. The volunteers (many of whom have jobs, other volunteer gigs, and maybe even school on top of those things) usually want to meet in the evening. That can create a challenging schedule where I sometimes (often) work 10-12 hour days. Luckily, I have the flexibility to take my dog to the beach in the middle of the day which I’ll try to do if I know I’ll be working until 9:00 pm or later.
Today was a pretty typical day. I started working at 8:15 am responding to emails and preparing for the Portland City Council meeting on Wednesday where they are expected to pass a resolution directing the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability to create a single-use, non recyclable plastic reduction strategy. At 9:45 am, I had a call with Charlie for some final prep on that meeting. I took a break at 10:30 to do yoga then it was back to the computer responding to requests for letters of support, helping a volunteer work through a permitting process for the Portland Chapter’s Sellwood Action Day on July 10, and coordinating training dates with some new Beach Ambassadors.
After a quick trip to the Oregon Coast Aquarium to drop off supplies for our Blue Water Task Force lab located there, I went to a coffee shop to meet with Charlie and Nir Barnea, Pacific Northwest Regional Coordinator for NOAA, to discuss marine debris projects. I left that meeting and drove straight to Florence (1 hour and 15 minutes) to meet with their Environmental Management Advisory Committee (EMAC) and City Staff to present about plastic bag ordinances and provide guidance as they begin the process of creating an ordinance for Florence. The meeting went really well and I’m looking forward to working with them through their process!
Five Siuslaw Chapter members attended the meeting (two are actually on EMAC) so we chatted a bit after the meeting. Then, I sat in my car responding to emails and tracking the media stories about tomorrow’s Portland City Council meeting. After an hour drive home (less traffic this time), I arrive around 8:30 pm and join my roommate and dog for a walk to watch the sunset.
This would be a lovely end to my day, but I still have a few emails to send and this blog post to write so I go home, pour a glass of wine, and settle in for a couple hours of computer work before bed. It was a great day and tomorrow will be really exciting! (Update: The next day, the Portland City Council passed a resolution directing city staff to create a single use plastic reduction strategy for the City of Portland!!!)
Highlights from my first year:
By far, the biggest highlight is working with amazing volunteers – In Oregon, Surfrider has two staff members, four Chapters, and seven water quality labs. What does this mean? The bulk of Surfrider’s work in Oregon is carried out by inspiring, hard working volunteers.
Organizing my first rally – Oregonians sent a strong message that we do not support drilling off our coast! Check out the video highlights from the Rally:
Kayaking to Ross Island with the Portland Chapter to conduct a cleanup.
Getting a bird’s eye view of some of the highest tides of the year to highlight the future impacts of Climate Change.
Leading a lot of beach cleanups, sometimes even inspiring future generations!
Meeting Jack Johnson who is a big Surfrider supporter!!!
Traveling back to Port Orford to train a new class on water quality monitoring!
Educating my niece on the impacts of marine debris while tabling at Widmer Brewing during their first month participating in the Ditch the Straw PDX campaign.
Working with volunteers and Oregon State Parks to remove 1,000 pounds of rope from Netarts Spit.
Building relationships with lots of powerful women and lady surfers during the two screenings of It Ain’t Pretty, a documentary about fighting sexism in the surf industry.
Teaching kids how to surf with our Chapter members and our wonderful partner Warm Current.
Surviving being on the planning team for my first Clean Water Classic (save the date: September 22-24, 2018)!
For sticking with me this long, here’s the answer to a common question I am asked. In the past year, I’ve driven 15,696 miles for work. These miles are mainly driven to places where we have chapters or water quality labs. (PSA: CRVs are amazing vehicles!)