Surfrider Foundation works to improve beaches

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Sylvie Belmond/Staff Writer

A Chumash ceremonial healing circle, beach clean up at Surfrider, kids conference and a gala fund-raiser were all components of the 4th Annual Save the Malibu Day event on Sunday at the Adamson House.

The Malibu Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation organized the event. “The organization started here in 1984,” said Jeff Duclos, co-chair of the Malibu Chapter, “waves and beaches are our focus.”

The foundation operates with the help of involved volunteers who bring in a different level of expertise and passion. They put an emphasis on the preservation, restoration and maintenance of beach environments, said Duclos, a surfer who has been surfing in Malibu since 1980.

“Not all are surfers, but they all love the beach,” he said about the volunteers who give their time to the foundation.

The Surfrider Foundation’s originators, Tom Pratt and Glen Henning, were both surfers who wanted to get involved to improve the beaches. Pratt died a few years ago, said Duclos.

During the kids’ conference event, children learned about marine biology through speeches and interactive exhibits. They also learned about the importance of the Malibu watershed, which encompasses 109 square miles.

The Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, California Wildlife Center, UCLA Ocean Discovery Center and Kirstie Alley Foundation provided interactive activities.

Hersch Farberow, co-chair of the Surfrider Foundation Malibu chapter, explained the watershed’s functions. Farberow teaches landscape architecture in a local university, and his son, Josh Farberow, is a local surfing champion.

While speaking to The Malibu Times, Farberow said that the residents of this city should ask the council to get involved with Ahmanson Ranch, a large development project upstream.

“I strongly believe they should get involved,” he said, as he is concerned about the consequences such a development would have on the entire watershed.

Deborah Low also came to speak about the watershed’s interconnection. While she outlined the Malibu watershed, she asked the children where they came from. The largest group came from Saugus while others had traveled from Huntington Beach, but only two local families were present.

The daylong event changed pace as the fund-raiser took place in the early evening. Shelley Merrick, a well-known Malibu surfer, was on hand to great the guests as they arrived.

The late afternoon scenery overlooking the Pacific at Surfrider Beach topped a well-attended silent auction followed by a catered dinner with Afro/Cuban sounds of ‘Speakeasy’ featuring Joaquin Cooder.

One guest was environmentalist and actor Ed Begely Jr.

“I’m here to help out,” said Begley as he sat under a tree waiting for the event to begin.

Begley drives an electric car for local trips and a natural gas power car for longer ones. He grows his own garden and lives environmentally consciously because he believes one person can make a difference.

Begley said he came to the fund-raiser because “It’s a good organization.”

Trevor and Lindsay Albert also attended the event. They both grew up in the Malibu area and support the foundation because they believe local beaches need help.

Lindsay said that when she was a child the ocean was much cleaner. “You could see your feet in the water,” she said, adding that poor water quality at local beaches is a concern.

The money from the fund-raisers have been used for purposes such as a special water-testing project.

The Surfrider Foundation contracted Dr. Rachel Noble from USC to do a different kind of testing, which measured levels of water-borne viruses as opposed to bacteria testing that is regularly done by Heal The Bay. The tests concluded that viruses were not found in local waters.

Though viruses were not found, the findings did help to gather interesting facts about water flow currents and pollution problems.

“Water testing is a hugely expensive undertaking,” said Duclos. “Since that time we’ve focused our energy in education relating to issues that affect our local beaches.”

They have also used some of the money for enhancement projects within the Malibu Lagoon State Park. This project includes restoration of natural habitat and trails and re-vegetation plus more.

“Some of it has gone into developing educational material,” said Duclos. “Some of it also goes to maintenance and upkeep of Adamson House.”