The San Diego Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation took top honors at the organization’s West Coast Summit for recruiting more than 275 new members and membership renewals during the summer of 2012. San Diego’s membership growth was the highest among the 83 Surfrider chapters here in the US.

“Increasing our membership gives us more clout when we appear at public hearings in favor of Surfrider’s core issues, such as beach preservation, water quality and reducing ocean pollution,” said Chapter Coordinator Haley Haggerstone. “We’re grateful to our supporters in San Diego County for showing their commitment to our mission of preserving our beaches, maintaining access to the coast, and the waves that connect us to the ocean”, she said.

A dozen members of the San Diego Chapter executive committee, advisory board and staff attended the summit, which was held in Ventura, CA for the second consecutive year. The summit was a great opportunity to compare success stories and establish personal relationships with other Surfrider activists from California, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Hawaii and British Columbia.

In his speech to the 180 summit attendees, Surfrider CEO Jim Moriarty said the focus is not to grow Surfrider like an ever-expanding business franchise, but to increase the effectiveness of existing chapters.  Moriarty spoke about the concept of “conversion” as practiced by Facebook, meaning that engaging individuals and solidifying their commitment creates an effective social network with real voice and power. He also talked about how Surfrider has been shifting from a “me-versus-them” adversarial approach to building credibility and influence with decision makers through rational discourse and public participation. “The best battle is one you don’t have to fight” because of the trust and support you have earned from the community, he said.

Keynote speaker, Marcus Eriksen of 5 Gyres, told the inspiring story of his crusade to document how micro plastics—tiny bits of random plastic that is toxic to wildlife—are now found in alarming densities in the five gyres that exist in the world’s oceans. Eriksen has been sailing the seas and gathering data on floating plastics by using fine-mesh sein nets to scoop up the plastics along the surface of the oceans.