Surfrider Foundation marks milestone year in 2011

By Alex Wilson 03/31/2011

The Ventura County chapter of the Surfrider Foundation turns 20 years old this year. In addition to that milestone, it’ll also be celebrating major progress on one of the largest projects it’s ever championed.

The charity’s leaders have been working for about 15 years on plans to replace a storm-battered parking lot and bike path at Ventura’s iconic Surfer’s Point near the mouth of the Ventura River, and create a more natural environment.

The multimillion-dollar managed shoreline retreat project has required cooperation with numerous groups, including local, state and federal officials. The first phase is well under way.

It’s just one of many environmental projects spearheaded by the group, projects that also include testing water in local rivers for contaminants, and painting storm drains with a reminder that anything dumped into them winds up in the ocean.

Ventura resident Larry Manson is a retired Ventura College history instructor who was a founding member of the chapter, and went on to serve on the organization’s national board. He’s traveled internationally to educate people about protecting the ocean environment.

Manson says the Surfrider Foundation has grown considerably over the past two decades starting with just a few chapters in Malibu, Santa Cruz and San Diego, and spreading overseas to places like Japan, Australia and Peru.

“There’s some friendly discussion between the chapters about which chapter came first, but it all pretty much happened simultaneously,” says Manson.

The local chapter has become one of Ventura County’s most active and visible environmental advocacy groups, with more than 1,000 members. Some of them help financially by paying dues, others attend monthly meetings, and some donate their services, according to Manson. “One person, for example, is a filmmaker and he makes films for us quite successfully, and a lot of people bring a very specific skill,” says Manson. “We have a pro-bono attorney who, for free, will donate services, and a lot of us have other skills. So it’s kind of like a net; throw out the net and we have people who can do things for us.”

Debby Tygell is a fifth grade teacher at Saticoy School in Ventura and serves as treasurer for the chapter. She believes protecting the ocean environment is important. “Because it is part of our globe and we’re connected to everything, the earth and the plants and everything in the ecosystem. Once everything goes off balance, it affects everything else,’ says Tygell. “So it’s very important to be stewards for the ecosystem.”

Tygell says it feels good to make a difference, and encourages students to get involved. “It empowers me to empower my students to make a difference, because the world’s going to be in their hands,” says Tygell.

Manson says many of the members don’t surf, and ages range from teenagers to retirees. “I can’t make a characterization about members, except they all love the ocean,” says Manson.

Manson says they’re still contemplating how to celebrate their anniversary year. “We’re not quite sure, but the first phase of the restoration of Surfer’s Point is moving along rapidly and has to be done by the start of summer because of bird nesting periods. So we’re thinking about some kind of event where we celebrate the ending of phase one and the 20th anniversary of the chapter. That seems to fit together,” says Manson.

People interested in getting involved are invited to the monthly meeting on the first Tuesday of every month at the Topping Room in Ventura’s E.P. Foster library. The group’s Internet website,, also has links to local chapters.


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