In 1984, a group of surfers in Malibu, Calif., were worried that they would lose access to the famed Malibu Point surf break because of looming development.

They had reason to be concerned. Rampant growth, especially along U.S. coastlines, had been booming for years, with public access to some of the best surfing locations being cut off seemingly overnight.

The surfers in Malibu formed an advocacy group to protest and protect their access to their favorite surf spot. That group became known as the Surfrider Foundation, and in 1991, the organization started forming its first chapters, helping it transition into a grassroots movement that today includes 50,000 members and more than 80 chapters across the globe.

Texas boasts five chapters throughout the state, fighting on behalf of surfers, beach lovers and ocean enthusiasts to protect water quality, beach access, beach and surf spot preservation and sustain marine and coastal ecosystems.

Formed in 2010, the Galveston chapter is the newest in Texas and is focused on a variety of initiatives that support the mission of the national organization, while spearheading activism on critical local issues, said Janese Maricelli Thomasson, vice chair of the local chapter.

One of those initiatives is the Galveston “Bring the Bag” campaign. Working in conjunction with the Turtle Island Restoration Network and its Gulf Office Campaign Director Joanie Steinhaus, Surfrider is aiming to reduce and eliminate single-use plastic bags that have become ubiquitous at local grocery stores and area merchants.

“This initiative is part of the national Surfrider’s Rise Above Plastics campaign,” said Maricelli Thomasson. “These plastic bags are a huge concern here on Galveston Island because plastics endanger wildlife, clutter our beaches, clog storm sewers and lead to other problems for the city and for taxpayers.”

Surfrider has worked closely with Galveston Councilman Craig Brown and other city leaders on developing a city ordinance that would eventually lead to the banning of single-use plastic bags on the island. However, with the state of Texas currently embroiled in litigation with other Texas cities that have instituted similar bag bans, the local initiative is on hold at present.

Other local Surfrider initiatives include raising awareness of the dangers of the San Jacinto and McGinnes waste pits, two sites known to contain toxins that some fear are seeping into local bays and waterways; opposing the proposed Ike Dike because of its potential to change the contours of the ocean bottom and surf breaks; maintaining monofilament recycling stations along the coast where fishermen can place their fishing lines; and supporting a program for the recycling of Mardi Gras beads.

In addition, the Galveston chapter hosts five to 10 beach cleanups a year on Bolivar Peninsula and in Galveston, and works with the nonprofit group the Mauli Ola Foundation, which helps people with genetic diseases by introducing surfing as a natural therapy.

Finally, each of the state’s chapters supports the efforts of Ellis Pickett, chairman emeritus of the Texas Upper Coast Chapter and longtime Surfrider activist, who lobbies on behalf of surfers’ interest with state officials in Austin each year.

Maricelli Thomasson said the Galveston chapter is in desperate need of volunteers who want to get involved in the organization’s initiatives.

“We want people who are passionate about the environment and passionate about community service,” she said. “We welcome everyone, from families with children, college students and local residents. If you care about the ocean and the marine environment, we’d love to have you join us.”

The Galveston Chapter’s next meeting will be 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at MOD Coffeehouse, 2126 Postoffice St. This month’s speaker will be T’Noya Thompson, a Texas A&M University at Galveston graduate who now works at the Galveston Bay Foundation. Thompson will discuss the foundation’s 2017 Report Card, which was released in August.


Surf alert

for this weekend

Hurricane season along the Gulf Coast continues for another month and a half, and this weekend the upper Gulf Coast — from Louisiana to Florida — is bracing for a landfall from what likely will be Hurricane Nate.

A tropical system that makes landfall east of our region usually results in a strong swell, accompanied by light offshore winds. The best bet, according to swell forecast models on Friday afternoon, was late Saturday and most of Sunday for the best surf. Watch the surf cam at for the arrival this weekend.

Surf Swap Meet

set for Oct. 14

Lolo Kai Smoothies and Wraps will hold its annual Surf Swap Meet starting 6:30 p.m. Oct. 14 at 2002 Postoffice St. (next to The Grand 1894 Opera House). The event is held so that surfers, skaters and artists can sell or trade items related to surfing and skating. Items must be in good condition. For more information, check out Lolo Kai’s Facebook page at

Stephen Hadley is a longtime surfer who lives and works in Galveston. If you’ve got a suggestion for a surfing-related topic you’d like to see covered in this column, email

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