Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Homegrown Activism, Surfer Style

College students rarely agree as to what constitutes a good time, but for most in South Florida going to the beach is a popular option. Some may enjoy the ocean’s more demanding offerings such as surfing or diving, while others may opt to just lounge and bask in the sun’s rays. But, according to the Surfrider Foundation, these activities may be in jeopardy. Surfrider’s sixth annual “Paddle Out For Clean Water,” held Saturday, Sept. 9, was one of many local events designed to raise public awareness concerning our changing coastal environment.

Dozens of surfers and concerned citizens gathered south of the Lake Worth pier to show support for the Surfrider mission. After a brief discussion by Surfrider’s Palm Beach Chairman Tom Warnke, the group paddled out to form a circle near the end of the pier. The spectacle culminated in the wave less ocean with dozens of surfers paddling out in unison. Lake Worth Mayor Marc Drautz, who paddled out alongside the group, joined the local mediaand curious beach-goers in attendance.

The attention is a big plus for the foundation, but what the Surfriders are really about is action. Citizens are encouraged to become an active part of the process by attending meetings, writing letters, signing petitions and voicing their opinions.

In the past, issues such as those raised by the Surfriders have been dismissed as liberal propaganda. But, as Warnke points out, these problems concern more than a few “burnt out” surfers seeking to protect a long, peeling left. According to Warnke, damage to our waters and coastline will also have a direct impact on the state’s economy.

The ocean brings in tremendous revenue and is arguably South Florida’s main draw for tourism. The Surfriders believe that problems such as sewage outfall and dredge/fill projects may lead to the destruction of the native habitat.

One of the problems the foundation called to attention is the issue of dredging sand and rock in Palm Beach, a move the county claims will help to increase boater safety. But Hal Walness, chairman of the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Miami, analyzed Palm Beach County’s dredged material last March and found other issues. “This material has nothing to do with beach sand, and will not survive there,” said Walness. “It will move quickly off the beach and is an economic waste.”

The Surfriders also take issue with a sewage outfall in Delray Beach they say is responsible for 30 million gallons of waste per day being dumped into the Atlantic. Attendees and FAU students, Ben Hicks and Carlyn Hiller, both expressed concerns over the growing threats facing our beaches. Hicks is hopeful that a grass roots movement such as the Surfrider Foundation can “provide a road map for future organizations and show that activism and action can truly have an impact.”

Founded in 1984, Surfrider is dedicated to “the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches, for all people, through conservation, activism, research and education.” They are growing rapidly and have 50,000 members comprising 60 chapters across the globe.

Surfrider’s guiding principle is really quite simple: one person can make a difference. Whether that difference comes in the form of picking up beach debris or writing a letter to a local politician, action leads to results. If Saturday’s event was any indication, the Surfriders can look forward to growing and continued success.

For more information on state-by-state beach conditions,visit www.surfrider.org/stateofthebeach.

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