When people hear “Northern California,” many picture the skyline of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge and Oregon right next door. Let it be known that there are approximately 400 miles of magnificent coastline and five coastal counties in between. There also just so happens to be a Surfrider Foundation chapter in each of those counties. Despite being located off the beaten path, these hard-working volunteers’ hard work and dedication to our ocean waves and beaches should not go unnoticed.
In celebration of the cold, rural stretch of our state, here are a few highlights from our chapters in Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, Sonoma and Marin Counties.
Promoting Safe Boating Laws
An increase in recreational stunt jet skis at Crescent City’s most popular surf spot, South Beach, created danger in the water and conflict on the sand. This protected beach serves up great longboarding waves and is a longtime family favorite spot. The disregard for law and safety from the jet-skiers prompted the Del Norte Chapter to form a campaign to ensure compliance and enforcement of safe boating state laws. The chapter organized several meetings with key stakeholders, documented observations, brought the matter to law enforcement and decision makers, and ultimately prevailed in returning South Beach to a surf-friendly destination.
Back in 2017, a lack of planning combined with a dire need for dredging in Humboldt Bay erupted into controversy. While everyone agreed the fishing fleet needed channels to be cleared, the proposed dumping of potentially toxic dredge material at a surf break on Samoa Beach unfairly – and unnecessarily – divided the community with fishermen on one side and recreational beach goers on the other. Along with Humboldt Baykeeper, the Humboldt Chapter flagged the proposed plan,brought the concerns of the beach-going community to the attention of the Harbor District and City Council, and engaged permitting agencies into the conversation. Finally, the Environmental Protection Agency rejected the beach dumping plan due to the dredge spoils being classified as “waste.”
From majestic documentaries about the deep sea to rad surf films, Ocean Night has become a popular monthly event for the local community since 2008. Every month the Humboldt Chapter hosts this event at the renovated Arcata Theater Lounge, allowing the public a free night of films, food, friends, and beer!
Kelp Ecosystem and Landscape Partnership Research on Resilience:
For the past year, in response to the kelp crisis on the North Coast, the Mendocino County Chapter has partnered with stakeholders, scientists, and resource managers working on kelp restoration solutions through KELPRR (Kelp Ecosystem and Landscape Partnership for Research on Resilience). The chapter, along with the Noyo Center for Marine Science, Waterman’s Alliance, ReefCheck, CA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, and several other agencies is dedicated to:
- addressing issues related to the ongoing severe loss of bull kelp forests in Northern California and the impact on North Coast ecosystems and fisheries.
- promoting habitat restoration solutions that enhance both ecological and social resilience to climate change impacts.
- encouraging long-term stewardship through community engagement and diverse collaborations.
Noyo Center for Marine Science
The chapter is working on installing an interactive display for the new Noyo Center for Marine Science visitor’s center in downtown Fort Bragg. They hope to incorporate Blue Water Task Force water quality data, and be a place where visitors can contribute information on marine debris, and ocean wildlife sightings. They also sell custom organic cotton produce bags as a fundraiser for the chapter. Get yours here!
High School Blue Water Task Force Program
Sonoma Coast Chapter Vice Chair Sarah Heyne teaches high school science and has inspired a group of students to undertake water testing through the Blue Water Task Force water quality monitoring program (BWTF). They currently pull samples from three creeks near their campus and then conduct testing back at the school lab with a goal of addition ocean water testing in the near future. In addition to BWTF, the chapter supports students’ senior projects throughout Sonoma County with plastic pollution lectures and beach cleanup guidance.
The Sonoma chapter also joined with other local environmental stewardship organizations this past winter fortwo large-scale shoreline cleanups in response to the disastrous flooding along the Russian River caused by winter storms. The chapter plans to host more beach cleanups at North Salmon Creek State Beach on Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day.
Blue Water Paddle Race:
Planning is well underway for the chapter’s annual fundraiser, the Blue Water Paddle Race, held on October 5th at Doran Beach Regional Park. This event has developed a reputation for being extremely fun and promoting an environmental-friendly way of thinking. Event waste reduction is accomplished through using a water bottle refill station and promoting participants to bring reusable food and beverage containers.
Leading the Next Generation:
The students at Redwood High School have formed their own Redwood High Surfrider Club to create a community dedicated to keeping their beaches and oceans healthy and clean. This year, they hosted beach cleanups nearly every other week and used the photos from the cleanups as a way to promote reduction of plastic use and recycling. They have also encouraged local restaurants to become ocean-friendly, and aim to incorporate into their future efforts testing local bodies of water as part of the Blue Water Task Force.
Thanks to these chapters, California’s northern half remains an incredible place to surf, hike and explore. So the next time you adventure north of the Golden Gate Bridge, take a moment to enjoy the rural, pristine coastline and thank the people that work hard to keep it that way.