Surfrider CEO Chad Nelsen Wants To Keep Our Coastlines A 'Healing Place'

It’s no surprise that Surfrider Foundation CEO Chad Nelsen has long taken the environmental destruction of California’s coastlines personally.

“I was one of the lucky kids who grew up on the beach. My dad was a marine science educator and my brother and I grew up surfing, life-guarding, fishing and swimming in the ocean,” Nelsen, of Laguna Beach, told Civilized.

“When I was a kid, if you had a cut on your hand or foot, your mom would say ‘go rinse it off in the ocean; it’s healing.’ By the time I was in high school… [the ocean had gone from] a place that was thought to be healing to a place that could actually be poisonous.”

Reversing that reputation has been at the core of Surfrider Foundation’s mission since the grassroots non-profit environmental organization was founded in 1984. Headquartered in San Clemente, California, the group has been known to pour its efforts into issues surrounding water quality, beach access and sustaining marine and coastal ecosystems under the larger mandate of protecting and preserving the world’s oceans, waves and beaches from encroaching pollution.

That said, the organization’s new awareness campaign, Long Live the Beach, was a no-brainer – one that holds special significance for Nelsen, who has twin boys he’d like to see clean their cuts in the ocean some day.

“When we think of that coastal place we love, [we all] sort of expect it’s going to be there forever,” said Nelsen. “But without stewardship and action and advocacy, that’s not going to be the case.”

Enter Long Live the Beach, launched in conjunction with International Coastal Cleanup Day earlier this month. Nelsen calls the nationwide campaign a “rallying call to protect our ocean, waves and beaches for today, tomorrow and the future.”

“A lot of people take the beach and the coast and the ocean for granted, and we can’t accept that,” said Nelsen.

“We need to get people to take action and have some accountability. That’s really the goal at the end of the day: to encourage everyone who really loves the coast to find their way of making a difference.”

Before this can happen, many Americans need to rethink their perceptions about conservation and their relationships with the ocean as a whole, said Nelsen. When it comes down to it, too many people think that “the oceans are too big or too vast to be impacted” and not enough people realize they can make a positive change.  

“[People need to] get off the sidelines and take action,” said Nelsen. “Everybody can play a role.” 

Civilized was a sponsor of Surfrider's annual event, Two Coasts: One Ocean, which took place September 17th in Malibu, California, and Montauk, New York.


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