Inspiring for environmental change through science, education and activism

(Pictured from left) Surfrider Foundation South Bay Chapter Coordinator Craig W. Cadwallader, former Santa Monica High School student Anastasia Shakhidzhanova, Surfrider LA Chapter Manager Newara Brosnan-Faltas, Santa Monica High School and Santa Monica College Professor Benjamin Kay, Surfrider LA Chair Eugenia Ermacora, former Santa Monica High School student Vaughn Mickshaw and Kay's son Cody Walker Kay, are shown after the Surfrider LA Chapter meeting on Wednesday, July 27. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

Marine scientist Benjamin Kay, who is also a marine biology teacher at Santa Monica High School and Santa Monica College, said there’s a need to take three pronged approaches to tackle climate issues — science, education, and activism.

Over 45 volunteers attended the Surfrider LA July chapter meeting at Boardriders in Malibu on Wednesday, July 27, and learned how they can make small environmental changes in their daily routines. Kay provided an information discussion on current policies, local programs and inspired individuals to make social changes, big or small.

Since its inception in 1984, the Surfrider Foundation has evolved into one of the largest nonprofit grassroots organizations with a volunteer-activist network dedicated to its mission to protect and enjoy the world’s oceans, waves and beaches. 

Today, the Surfrider Foundation has 80 chapters, including 96 student clubs, and more than 1 million supporters, volunteers, and activists in over 100 active campaigns around the country. Surfrider LA hosts a national network of chapters and clubs to protect the coast in the local communities. They collaborate on both the local and national level with regional staff and issue experts to carry out their mission.

Kay serves as vice chair and former chair of Clean Beaches and the Ocean Parcel Tax Citizens Oversight Committee and the co-founder of the Santa Monica Team Marine. Kay was the guest speaker for the chapter meeting.

“My hope is to inspire you but also bring some of you to the next level of your eco education,” Kay said. “I’ve been doing this a long time, and the more I learn, the more scared I get, but at the same time, I put myself into places like the ocean to restore myself, and that’s an important thing.” 

Kay knows how overwhelming information can be, and he reminds everyone to be mindful mentally and do what you can.

“We need to make sure that we find time to protect our mental and physical health; first and foremost, you can’t save the planet without taking care of yourself,” Kay said. “Be intentional with everything you do. I intentionally became a member of this committee, so I can see what the heck was being done, and not done, about this.”

Kay encouraged individuals to attend city council meetings for political change but also highlighted the importance of encouraging the youth.

“As adults we get up there and hope that they listen to us, and bring credible information, but oftentimes they’re just so sick of it, they’re not fully listening,” Kay said. “But when the youth get up there, it can really play in the hearts and minds of council members.” 

Kay shared ways to make better environmental choices, at home and outdoors.

“Sometimes you just have to put on your cape and go out and do stuff, like clean the beach,” Kay said.

Surfrider LA hosts beach clean-ups. The next beach clean up in Malibu is on Aug. 28 at the rocky shoreline of Sunset Point from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. RSVP to see the exact location. 

Members of the audience included Surfrider Foundation South Bay Chapter Coordinator Craig W. Cadwallader, Surfrider LA Chapter Manager Newara Brosnan-Faltas, and Surfrider LA Chair Eugenia Ermacora.

“I’ve known Ben Kay for maybe 15 years and he’s one of the most effective educators and in fact he’s a hero of mine and he has taken very important scientific information, educated students throughout the years and made a bigger impact than anyone else I know,” Cadwallader said. “So he’s my hero, and this is just a small example of what he’s done throughout his time.”

Surfrider LA Chair Eugenia Ermacora shared Surfrider’s mission to tackle plastic pollution.

“We [Surfrider LA] follow plastic-free July, so we were focused on plastic pollution and we invited Professor Kay, he’s been a volunteer and advocate for Surfrider for years and started several of our programs,” Ermacora said. “One of our main focuses in Surfrider is to fight against plastic pollution, especially single-use plastic that ends up in the ocean and contaminates our marine life and biodiversity.”

Ermacora said this is affecting every community.

“We’re trying to create a message and educate people and get our activism message out there to create cautiousness that this has to stop and that we can do something about it,” Ermacora said. “Surfrider believes that if we can start at a local level and go to a state level to pass federal level bills, it will help not only us in the community but everyone.”

Kay shared the important work Surfrider Foundation Los Angeles has done on a local and national level.

“Surfrider Foundation Los Angeles is really at the cutting edge of citizen science and policy initiviate and as a grassroots and nonprofit organization they’re doing tremendous work in which community members can engage in these issues,” Kay said. “Doing a beach clean up is a great starting point for people to open their eyes on issues such as plastic pollution and that’s a starting point and as you get more and more educated it blends itself to getting more involved in more meaningful ways.”

“Change starts with that individual and Surfrider just provides stepping stones to take their habits, their products and their advocacy to the next, and that’s why I really value the organization,” Kay said. “We need all solutions and it’s time for all hands on deck.”

For more information on the organization visit

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Guests along with Surfrider LA members pose for a group photo after the July chapter meeting at Boardriders in Malibu on Wednesday, July 27. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.