Surfrider Foundation's California team is thrilled to welcome Delia Bense-Kang as our Northern California Campaign Coordinator! Delia's position focuses on stopping new offshore drilling and supporting our chapters in the region from San Luis Obispo to the Oregon border.
Delia has volunteered with Surfrider for many years, served as the MPA Outreach Coordinator for the Northcoast Environmental Center is a passionate surfer and former instructor at Surf With Amigas in Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
Q: Tell us about your background. How did you end up working for Surfrider?
Born and raised a Northern California surfer, there’s no place in the world I value more than my home stretch of coast where the redwoods meet the sea. Despite the relatively cold conditions, I grew up a complete beach bum, spending entire days in a wetsuit, and exploring empty coastlines with my family and friends. Growing up surrounded by natural beauty and addicted to surfing inspired me to create a life centered around protecting the oceans and coasts.
I have been involved with the Surfrider Foundation for as long as I can remember. The water at favorite home break, where I rode my first waves, is clean and safe due to Surfrider’s lawsuit against the Samoa peninsula pulp mills. The lawsuit stopped the mills from discharging toxic wastewater offshore which was polluting the water and making people sick. Although the case happened before my time, its legacy inspired me to become a coastal steward and volunteer with Surfrider at a young age.
Recently, I took on a larger role and served as Chair of the Humboldt Chapter for over two years. I thoroughly enjoyed my time as chair, during which I built meaningful relationships with Surfrider staff and volunteers, and became familiar with the innerworkings of the organization. I simultaneously served as the Marine Protected Area outreach coordinator for the Northcoast Environmental Center and co-chair of the Humboldt MPA Collaborative.
Craving new adventures and warm water, I spent this last year traveling in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Indonesia. I worked as a surf instructor for an all-women’s surf retreat, and ventured out on my own to push my surfing abilities. If there’s one take-home message I have from my travels, it’s the amazing ability of the ocean to bring people pure joy and dissolve all societal differences.
As much as I enjoy experiencing new places, I always return with a newfound appreciation for home. I feel refreshed, and full of motivation to be taking on the new position of Northern California Campaign Coordinator.
What are you most looking forward to in your new role?
I am looking forward to traveling the Central and Northern California coast, learning about each unique area, and building valuable relationships with chapters and local people. There are so many of us ocean stewards across the coast, I hope to create connectedness so we can further our efforts!
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing North and Central California?
One challenge facing North and Central California is that California’s marine sanctuaries are in jeopardy as the Trump administration wants to undo existing protections in order to open up offshore waters to new oil drilling. Challenges also include sea level rise, coastal development, warmer ocean temperatures and water quality. In Northern and Central California specifically, access is also a challenge, as large sections of the coastline are rural and hard to reach. While this often means beautiful natural areas, it also can be more difficult to engage people to care about protecting a place they can’t physically visit or see.
What can the average California resident do to fight new offshore oil drilling in federal waters?
There are many easy ways to fight new offshore oil drilling right now! One is to simply become informed about the threat and spread awareness among others. You can take action by signing and sharing the action alert on offshore drilling and seismic blasting. If you’re feeling extra motivated you can call or write your federal representatives to ask them to oppose new offshore drilling and seismic exploration. If you haven’t already, getting involved with your local Surfrider Chapter is always a great first step!
How can chapter members find out more?
The Surfrider “Stop New Offshore Drilling” Campaign Page is a great place to start. Here you can find background information on the issue and ways to take action and stay informed.
As a 20-something environmental leader, how do you encourage your peers to get involved? Are you optimistic about the future?
I like to tell my peers getting involved is more fun and less time consuming that you might think! No matter how big or small of a contribution, it feels good to work towards making a difference for something you are passionate about. Whether it’s creating a social media graphic for a campaign, attending a public rally, or simply showing up to a meeting, there are always opportunities to help out.
I am optimistic about the future, as I see the next generation already stepping up to the plate. I recently attended our Surfrider Arcata High School Chapter meeting where over 15 students sacrificed their lunchtime to attend the meeting. The club is currently running an Ocean Friendly Gardens program, beach cleanups, and working on removing single use plastics from campus. It was inspiring to see so many young people already taking initiative, and I’m excited to see what they will accomplish in the future.