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Crushing it at the 2023 Cascadia Chapter Leadership Conference

What a weekend this was! It feels strange to admit this, but this year’s Cascadia Leadership Conference was the first full in-person one I’ve attended, let alone planned, and I’m so stoked to report that we had an epic few days of learning, collaboration, brainstorming, and connecting, with good food, great people, and expansive ocean views.


The amazing volunteers and staff that attended this year's Cascadia Conference 

Each year, Surfrider hosts regional conferences across the country. These conferences provide vital opportunities for chapter leaders, core volunteers, and staff to connect and learn from each other. This year’s Cascadia Conference brought volunteers from across the Pacific Northwest, including Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, representing 14 chapters and clubs. We had record attendance of almost 60 people!

We were stoked to host our conference at Adrift Hotel in Long Beach, WA. If you haven’t been, we highly recommend booking a stay here. The owner, Tiffany Turner, is committed to making the Adrift, as well as her five other locations, a leader in sustainable hospitality, going above and beyond to reduce the use of unnecessary plastics, provide seasonal, locally sourced food, and ensure they contribute to the local economy. Our conference was catered by Pickled Fish, a long-time Ocean Friendly Restaurant that serves delicious food, including tasty vegetarian and vegan options. 

The serendipitous timing of our conference allowed us to announce that Adrift is Washington’s first-ever Ocean Friendly Hotel! It was amazing to be able to celebrate the launch of this brand new program at our conference and to hear from Tiffany herself about what it takes to make her businesses Ocean Friendly. You can read more about the soft launch of this exciting new program here!

A breakfast buffett with fresh fruit, bowls of granola and yogurt, and fresh baked goods        The entry table display of bright orange Stasher bags, reusable chalk name tags, a rustic Ocean Needs More Friends bag, and a ukelele

Tasty ocean-friendly breakfast vittles and Stasher bags generously donated to conference attendees

We kicked off day one with introductions so that each chapter and club could spend a few minutes describing the programs and campaigns they engage in. Then Surfrider Foundation’s CEO Chad Nelson presented on the state of Surfrider - where we came from, where we are now, and where we’re going, providing an overview of all the investments we’re making in network growth. After a tasty lunch, we did a deep dive into volunteer recruitment and retention, providing research about volunteer trends in the US and Canada, as well as tools and tactics for chapters and clubs to grow and thrive.

We ended the day with a Chapter Share Fair & Success Swap, where volunteers shared specific examples of unique programs, campaigns, and events they implement, as well as the challenges, successes, and lessons they’ve learned along the way. The Pacific Rim Chapter discussed their Take Back the Tap campaign to reduce single-use water bottles throughout the Tofino-Ucluelet corridor, highlighting the leadership of local tribes in protecting the forests critical to maintaining a healthy watershed. The Sound Sound Chapter described the Beach Cleanup Punch Card reward program launched this year, in which volunteers who attend their monthly beach cleanups and other chapter events can enter to win sweet prizes. The Olympia Chapter described their very successful Hold On To Your Butts program, which has removed over 120,000 butts from downtown Olympia, and how they’ve leveraged Golden (one of our digital transformation tools launched in 2022) to track how many butts our volunteers pick up so we can recognize them during our annual Best Butt Grabber Awards. Finally, the Newport Chapter described what it takes to make their annual Otter Rock-n-Roll Kid’s Surf Contest a huge success in getting kids into the water. 

We were done by 3:30, so everyone had a few hours to surf, walk the beach, explore the area, relax in the saunas, play some beach games, and do whatever they needed to recharge and relax. After another incredible dinner catered by Pickled Fish, we had a hardy crew descend upon the Long Beach Tavern for an epic night of karaoke and mingling with the locals, many of whom were excited to share how they remove trash from their beaches and how much they value their coastal places. #ProtectAndEnjoy

The next morning, after the healing powers of infinite coffee and nutritious vittles, we split into breakout sessions. One group took their laptops upstairs and learned how all our digital transformation tools integrate to streamline chapter operations, communications, and volunteer management, all while enjoying some relaxing ocean views. The rest of us learned about the University of Victoria Club’s Plastic Free Campus efforts, and the impact they're having on campus waste reduction. Then we reconvened for a short presentation about the boring but important side of non-profit work - How Not to Get Sued, followed by a speed round discussion on wind energy, aquaculture debris, and communicating Blue Water Task Force results.

UVic students presenting an intro powerpoint slide on their plastic free campus

The incredible students from Surfrider Canada’s UVic Club presenting on their efforts to fight plastic pollution on campus. The energy and creativity of this crew is unparalleled!

We shared some final takeaways and highlights before heading our separate ways. While there is never enough time to cover all the important topics or highlight all the amazing work of our network, I can’t express just how incredible it is to spend a weekend on Washington’s beautiful coast with the amazing volunteers and staff that make our organization what it is. Never is the power of our grassroots network more apparent than at these events - the collective energy, dedication, knowledge, and passion is what makes Surfrider such a powerful force for good. Thank you to everyone who attended, donated, planned, and otherwise contributed to making this year’s Cascadia Chapter Leadership Conference one for the record books!

Cheers to you, Surfrider fam!

Conference attendees in the presentation hall holding up their reusable mugs and water bottles

Our conference attendees showing off their reusable water bottles and mugs with pride. It’s so nice to be able to host our conference at a place that shares our stewardship values and vision for a healthy, resilient future for Washington’s coastal communities.

Want to be a part of our powerful force for good? Now is a great time to become or renew your membership during our annual Membership Drive. Any donation will make you a member, and the money goes directly toward your chapter’s on-the-ground advocacy and stewardship efforts.

Washington Chapters

Oregon Chapters

Surfrider Canada

Not in the PNW? You can find a local chapter or club here!


Surfrider staff at the 2023 Cascadia Conference posed outside under a textured gray cloudy sky with dunes in the background

Shout out to the dream team Surfrider staff that helped plan, present, answer questions, and make this conference a success!