Well there isn’t really any way to sugar coat it…2020 was a challenging year to say the least. As the year comes to a close and Winter solstice is upon us, it offers an important time to reflect back on some of the accomplishments that we’ve made, as well as reason for optimism of a better year ahead in 2021 and a reminder that next Summer is actually not that far off. The wave of the global pandemic has washed over us all like a tsunami, hitting some harder and more directly than others, but affecting us all. Despite all of the challenges, our local Surfrider chapters around Washington have adapted to the times and offered ways to engage virtually and recreate responsibly. We hope that the coming days offer you some restorative relaxation and memory making with friends and family. Happy solstice, holidays, and new year from your Washington Surfrider Team!

Washington Regional Manager Liz Schotman and WA Policy Manager Gus Gates collaborating for a distanced paddle session.

Washington Becomes 8th State to Ban Single Use Plastic Bags!– In early March, following the passage of SB 5323, a bill eliminating single use plastic carry out bags, Washington State became the eighth state to pass a statewide policy addressing this chronic source of plastic pollution via the legislature.  The bill passed with strong bi-partisan support by a vote of 67-29 in the House, and a concurrence vote of 35-15 in the Senate. Surfrider Foundation Washington Chapters have been addressing the impacts of marine debris for many years, leading hundreds of beach cleanups, and working on source reduction policies by supporting local plastic bag bans in various communities. Surfrider worked closely with a coalition partners including Environment Washington, Puget Soundkeeper, Seattle Aquarium, Zero Waste Washington, as well as the Washington Environmental Priorities Coalition – read more about this historic coastal victory.

“The passage of the Reusable Bag bill is an important step in Washington’s efforts to eliminate a chronic source of plastic pollution from our watersheds, beaches, and ocean.”

~ Gus Gates, WA Policy Manager.

The policy was set to go into effect on January 1st, 2021, however due to concerns surrounding supply of alternative bags due to COVID-19, the implementation will be delayed by 6 months. The good news is that most stores are once again allowing you to do the right thing and bring your own clean, reusable bags to the store with you (so long as you’re willing to bag your own).

King Tides Offer a Window into Future Sea Level Rise and a Renewed Focus on Coastal Resiliency – Over the past year, Surfrider in Washington has been using the wintertime king tide events to raise awareness about our the impact of climate change on our coasts. By encouraging participation in this effort via community science, as well as partnering with LightHawk to get an aerial perspective, we have really upped our game on this issue. Sea level rise is a real and growing fear for Washington’s coastal homeowners, tribes, and communities. In many places, today’s king tides will be “normal” high tides in the future due to sea level rise. Thanks to constantly improving sea level rise projections, leaders, planners, and decision-makers now have access to better information critical to plan for, and adapt to, Washington’s future. Rising seas are already damaging highways and sewers, intensifying erosion, shrinking beach access, and causing rivers to flood and saltwater to seep into groundwater. Still not convinced that we need to take action to ensure that our coastal communities are resilient in the face of this coastal hazard? Take a look at the recent drone footage captured in Westport.

Vulnerable coastal infrastructure. Photo by Gus Gates, aerial support provided by LightHawk.

Taking Our Civic Engagement to the Next Level – It was a great day in Olympia on January 30th for Environmental Lobby Day as the rain subsided and environmental activists from around the state traveled from far and wide to make their voices heard in support of Reducing Plastic Pollution, Clean Fuels Now, Climate Pollution Limits, and Healthy Habitat, Healthy Orcas. All 5 Washington Chapters sent leaders to participate in constituent meetings with their Representatives and Senator to advocate for environmental priorities. For some, it was their first time at our Capital meeting their legislators, and for others it’s become an annual event.

Our chapter leaders on the steps of the Capitol building

Additionally, Washington Surfrider Chapter leaders and staff joined over 150 Surfrider members from around the country, as well as industry leaders and surf ambassadors who traveled to Washington D.C. on February 26-28 to meet with federal leaders about ways to protect our ocean, waves, and beaches. Participants visited 145 Senate and House offices to urge immediate action on climate change, plastic pollution, water quality and other key issues affecting our coasts and ocean. Check out the rad video!

Washington Chapter leaders meet with Rep. Derek Kilmer in D.C.

We Welcomed Liz Schotman as our New WA Regional Manager! – In April we hired Liz to fill some really important shoes providing direct support to chapter leaders throughout Washington. Liz dove in headfirst at a challenging time, bringing her humor, passion, and dedication to the Surfrider mission to the position. If you haven’t gotten to know Liz yet, take a look at her intro blog post and learn more about what makes her so awesome!

WA Regional Manager Liz Schotman enjoying a ‘sunny’ day on the coast!

Recreating Responsibly in times of Covid – When you choose to recreate responsibly, you are doing your part to keep yourself and others safe and healthy. No one wants to see our parks, trails, and beaches re-closed, and we can all do our part to take care of each other and these places so we can maintain access. We all have a shared responsibility to care for these places and ensure they remain for future generations to enjoy. Lead by example and join us in learning how to #RecreateResponsibly 

In Memory of Kay Treakle – On June 10th, the Surfrider Foundation and anyone who loves the Washington coast lost one of our biggest champions, Kay Treakle. As the Executive Director at The Harder Foundation, Kay was a supporter of the Surfrider Foundation since 2007, but she was much more than that. Like the best supporters, Kay was also an ally, a strategist, a mentor, and a champion. Surfrider will be forever grateful for Kay’s partnership in protecting Washington’s ocean, waves and beaches. Kay will be sorely missed but the legacy of her work will continue. Read more about Kay with some tributes from Surfrider staff, as well as a a powerful Earth Day essay from the environmental champion herself.

Kay Treakle, Point Defiance

The Threat of Seabed Mining – We continue to keep our eyes on the horizon for issues that have the potential to threaten our coastal quality of life. Here in Washington, we have a chance to prevent a disaster before it happens. Our state currently has no specific regulations on seabed mining, and that needs to change. Oregon banned the practice in state waters back in the early 1990’s, and there’s no reason we can’t do the same here. Learn more about this emerging threat, and what you can do to help stop it. If your livelihood depends on a healthy ocean and Salish Sea, consider adding your name to the growing list of businesses in opposition to seabed mining in Washington waters.

Image credit Pew Charitable Trusts.

Join or Renew Your Membership with Surfrider TODAY! – This holiday season, consider supporting your local Surfrider Chapter by signing up for or renewing your membership. Memberships go a long way in supporting chapter programs and campaigns, whether that’s purchasing Blue Water Task Force equipment, buying beach cleanup supplies, or helping chapter volunteers attend public hearings and advocate for our ocean waves and beaches.

To sign up, head to your chapter’s website (links below) and click on the Give button on the upper right. Not sure what to gift your friends and family? You can purchase a gift membership, complete with sweet Surfrider swag and good vibrations!

Looking forward to happy and healthy days like these in 2021!!!