The Surfrider Foundation’s annual Cascadia Conference is an annual event anticipated by activist veterans, staff, and emerging leaders new to the Surfrider family. This year’s Cascadia Conference was held in Newport, OR and activists from Washington, British Columbia, and Oregon all showed up in force, with record numbers and a high level of engagement, passion and dedication from our chapter leaders.
In addition to the general focus on providing mission-centric learning opportunities and a platform for peer-to-peer training, the moniker of this year’s conference was leadership. The thread weaved throughout the weekend delved into how can you best engage within your chapter, how to be a coastal defender in your community, and how to utilize Surfrider and our organizational framework to grow individual skill-sets for victories on the local, regional, and global scales.
In traditional fashion, and an excellent opportunity for new people to mingle and mix, the conference began with a field trip highlighting the Cascade Head Marine Reserve and Cascade Head Nature Conservancy Preserve. This special place is one of five marine reserves in Oregon that Surfrider Foundation has been heavily involved in the establishment and continued protection of. Similar to the 2015 conference, the field trip started out with informal presentations from experts who work on conservation in the area. Cristen Don, Marine Reserve Program Leader and Brittany Huntington, Ecological Monitoring Project Leader from Department of Fish and Wildlife talked about the importance and unique ecological features of the marine reserve. Debbie Pickering, Oregon Coast Ecologist, for The Nature Conservancy spoke about the history and establishment of their preserve and Jim Carlson from the Coast Range Association spoke about the importance of local community teams in long-term protection of places like this. Volunteers then took to the water by canoe, kayak, SUP and small platform ferry for guided sunset tour!
Following the trip, members converged on OMSI’s Coastal Discovery Center, an outdoor education overnight camp in Newport, OR where members received their bunk number, picked their bed of choice, and were privileged to a communal “campy” style conference, designed to help facilitate engaged dialogue with old and new chapter leaders. While the fog settled, as it would for the remainder of the weekend, the camp (complete with nightly bonfire) and conference had that distinct feel of the Pacific Northwest with the cool summer weather mixed with ocean air and evergreen trees.
Kicking off the conference in prime fashion was Surfrider CEO Dr. Chad Nelsen, who set the tone of focusing on leadership development and highlighted concepts ranging from the upcoming “Long Live the Beach” marketing campaign and ONE Surfrider to a “State of Surfrider” update and glimpse into the future. Attendees were encouraged to offer their own thoughts and share ideas openly and collaboratively. By establishing leadership as a cornerstone goal, it gave attendees the vision and opportunity to help the organization reach new heights laying the foundation for following presentations.
The presentations stuck to a continued thread of how can attendees grow, develop skills, and utilize resources provided by Surfrider and ranged from fundraising by Director of Development Dan Bruer, to the engrossing personal story of former board member Steve Shipsey and his journey as a life-long activist, from one of Oregon’s first chapter founders to the chair of Surfrider’s national Board of Directors. Cutting edge conservation issues like ocean acidification and coastal resiliency planning were also heavily discussed demonstrating our networks knowledge and awareness on key issues.
Individual chapters each had an opportunity to highlight their work and local victories and successes ranging from running successful youth surf competition in central Oregon, to winning a campaign and developing one’s professional skills throughout the process as Ken Campbell described from his work with the South Sound chapter and the Tacoma Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance. Following the first day of presentations and activities, members hit the beach, filled up on dinner, and then headed back to the campus for another foggy PNW bonfire. As anyone who has sat around a campfire knows, some of the best conversations and camaraderie happens there.
On day three of the conference, presentations included new programs like Ocean Friendly Restaurants from by Bill Hickman, Southern California Program Manager and new leadership and skill development tools like Surfrider Foundation University from Chapter Manager Sarah Damron. With the prevailing theme of leadership development, the Surfrider’s Washington Leadership Academy was highlighted with two past participants and two current on hand, referencing the development of their skills resulting from this unique opportunity.
A HUGE thank you goes out to all who attended and engaged in a positive and educational dialog on how both staff and chapter leaders can better protect our coasts, natural resources and special places at the local, regional and national level! We are grateful for the dedication felt throughout the weekend and opportunity to celebrate the many successes of the past year. Cheers Cascadia!
For more information and downloadable versions of the presentations – see this post (coming soon!)