Our Tofino Neighbours: Surfrider Foundation - Pacific Rim Chapter

Article Information & Social Sharing

Shawna Gardham
By Shawna Gardham, Public & Media Relations Manager
Newsletters20 March 2018


The key to any successful organization is its people. Surfrider Foundation is a worldwide organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network. Surfrider Foundation – Pacific Rim Chapter has become a very strong, reputable chapter of Surfrider Foundation with the dedication and determination of people such as Michelle Hall and Lilly Woodbury.

In September 2015, Michelle Hall, a native of Liverpool England and new 2-year resident of Tofino, began volunteering for Surfrider Pacific Rim and very quickly became the Chair. Michelle, who sees herself as a “builder”, revitalized the local chapter by celebrating successes of locals and businesses doing good things for the ocean.

Michelle recruited Lilly, who has a double major in Environmental and Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto, to volunteer for the organization in 2015. With a “life goal of making a difference on this planet”, Lilly started volunteering right away.

Lilly Woodbury is one of the very few people that has Tofino on her birth certificate. Although Lilly was raised in Ontario, she always dreamed of moving back to Tofino when the time was right. She has strong memories of playing on North Chesterman Beach at the carving shed as a child while her mother visited her good friend, carver Henry Nolla. In 2016, Lilly followed her environmental pursuits by moving to New Zealand to work with Greenpeace all the while still volunteering remotely for Surfrider Pacific Rim.

In 2017, Michelle wanted to focus on the sustainability of Surfrider Pacific Rim Chapter. Michelle approached the Wickaninnish Inn who were already supporting Surfrider initiatives such as the strawsSuck campaign to see if they would be interested in supporting the foundation further. The values of Surfrider were congruent with the values of the Wickaninnish Green Committee so the Wick team proposed hosting an annual fundraiser at the Inn to raise funds for Surfrider Pacific Rim. With this support, Michelle contacted Lilly in New Zealand to offer her the position of Chapter Manager which Lilly accepted.

In 2017, the Surfrider Pacific Rim Chapter collected 20 tons of debris from 44 beaches in the area. In the past, debris would be taken to the landfill but in 2017 with the help of Ocean Legacy, 90% of the debris was recycled. The Pacific Rim Chapter have shared their knowledge and connections with Ocean Legacy with the Vancouver and Victoria Surfrider chapters who are looking to work with Ocean Legacy to recycle debris rather than adding to the landfill. It is no surprise that Surfrider Pacific Rim Chapter won non-profit organization of the year from the Tofino Long Beach Chamber of Commerce in 2017. And, Michelle was named volunteer of the year by the District of Tofino in 2017.

Michelle has now taken on the role of treasurer with Jason Sam as the new Chair for Surfrider Pacific Rim. As treasurer, Michelle will work to maintain relationships with sponsors and search out grants to ensure the sustainability of the organization. She is off to a good start with the first annual Surfrider Sessions fundraiser hosted at the Inn raising over $22,800 in March 2018. Jason Sam, originally from Ahousaht now living and teaching in Ucluelet, has championed the Youth Environment Stewardship (YES) program as the youth coordinator for Surfrider Pacific Rim. Jason is an inspiring new leader for the chapter, taking over the Chair role from February 2018. As well as, leading the YES program, he has also started the first Surfrider youth club for Canada with kids from all communities welcome. His goals include streamlined remote clean ups, increased presence in Ucluelet and engaging our youth.

The strong Surfrider Pacific Rim team have three tiers of focus, currently:

Eliminating Single Use Plastics

Ban the Bag (#banthbag) – the Pacific Rim Chapter successfully worked with the two major grocery stores on the coast, Tofino Coop and Ucluelet Coop to eliminate single use plastic bags in 2017. These stores now offer paper bags or reusable bags. In 2018, the organization will continue the “Ban the Bag” campaign assisting more business to eliminate plastic bags with the goal to have 80% of local businesses plastic bag free by April 2019.

Diverting Waste from Landfills

Hold on to your Butt! (#HOTYB) – goal is to raise awareness about the impact of cigarette butt litter on our oceans and beaches as well as making cigarette butt littering socially unacceptable. The Pacific Rim Chapter has installed cigarette canisters throughout Tofino and Ucluelet. The butts will be recycled by TerraCycle into new industrial products such as plastic pallets.

Straws Suck (#strawsSUCK) – Surfrider Pacific Rim was successful in getting 41 businesses in Tofino to eliminate the use of plastic straws. The focus will be to increase the number of businesses in Tofino and to focus support on Ucluelet businesses in 2018.

Ocean Friendly Business (#OFB) – working with 16 local businesses to help them eliminate single use plastics, implement progressive recycling practices and increase sustainable initiatives in businesses operations. The Wickaninnish Inn is proud to be one of these working toward reaching the requirements by Earth Day April 22, 2018.

Wetsuit Reincarnation

1,500 pounds of old wetsuits were diverted from landfill in 2017. Surfrider Pacific Rim has partnered with SUGA to recycle old wetsuits into yoga mats.

Awareness and Education

Youth Environment Stewardship (YES) program –They learn about consumption of plastics, what happens to plastic in the ocean and what it does to marine life. Students also participate in beach clean ups and use the debris to make art. 210 kids have gone through this program so far and Surfrider Pacific Rim is looking to expand it.

View All & Social Sharing

See All News