Before that Surfrider sticker ever appeared on your back windshield, there were surfers: dodging tin cans and hypodermic needles while tiptoeing across the hot sand, watching all matters of waste float by as they waited in the lineup, getting tummy aches and infections after leaving the beach.
One such person was Ventura history teacher Glenn Hening, who, inspired by the unity of the 1984 Olympics, joined Tom Pratte a year later in forming the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation to merge a passion for riding waves with a passion to keep those waves clean. They first turned to the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association for support, thinking those making money from water sports might be interested in ponying up to protect their interests—but back then, they weren't. Thankfully, Long Beach's Gordon Labedz, a longtime Sierra Club member, wanted his aquatic counterparts to succeed. In 1991, he proposed the idea of Surfrider chapters, which would rely on the local time, talents and willingness to work for free of volunteers (as opposed to the continual begging a centralized organization would require). The chapters flourished—there are now 60 on the U.S. East, West and Gulf coasts; Hawaii; Puerto Rico; as well as chapters or affiliates in Japan, Brazil, Australia, France and Spain.
So many do so much important work to protect shores, beaches and waterways around the globe that there now is a centralized Surfrider operating out of San Clemente to keep track of it all. Hening's no longer in charge, but he can look at all this like a proud papa. He can also swing by the Newport Beach chapter's next monthly meeting to talk about spinning one's personal passion into public activism. With some prodding, you might even get him to open up about the future of surfing and Surfrider.
Surfrider Foundation Newport Beach Chapter Meeting with Glenn Hening at Newport Rib Co., 2196 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 631-2110; www.surfrider.org/newportbeach. Tues., 7 p.m. Free.