Editor’s Note: Over the span of 10 weeks – and concluding on August 17, the birthday of the organization — founder Glenn Hening tells the story of creating the Surfrider Foundation 30 years ago this summer.

Author’s Note: The abridged version of this piece appeared in Surfer’s Journal Vol. 13 #3. My thanks to Steve Pezman and Scott Hulet for printing it in 2004 on Surfrider’s 20th anniversary.

Glenn Hening at the Pasadena offices, figuring out who next to reach out to. Photo: Courtesy of Glenn Hening

Glenn Hening at the Pasadena offices, figuring out who next to reach out to. Photo: Courtesy of Glenn Hening

By early August, I was fully committed to establishing something completely new in the world of surfing. It wasn’t “The Society of Soul Survivors” to be sure, but with the emergency at Malibu and Tom Pratte’s environmental leadership crying out for support, the Surfrider Foundation was going to be something special.

However, one idea would not die from that early brainstorming session: making a film. And that led me to Chris Blakely.

The growing team, from left to right: LJ Woods, Lance Carson, Chris Blakely, Dave Moeller. Photo: Glenn Hening

The growing team, from left to right: LJ Woods; Lance Carson; Chris Blakely; Dave Moeller, who designed the original Surfrider logo. Photo: Courtesy 0f Glenn Hening

Chris was in the middle of producing a film about the seminal L.A. band, “X”. He worked in the same building as my computer mentor, George Madarasz, who introduced us. Chris was a serious bodysurfer on a year-round basis, and he was stoked to hear about Surfrider’s environmental priorities. At the same time, he really liked the concept of Summer’s Over as a film to replace The Endless Summer. So he agreed to be on the founding board with more of an emphasis on producing the film than environmental activism.

“I know someone who will really help us lot,” he said. “You’ll have to meet Dan Young.”

Dan Young (L) and Tom Pratte (R) had discussed an organization back in 1983.

Dan Young (L) and Tom Pratte (R) had discussed an organization back in 1983. Photo: Courtesy of Glenn Hening

Next thing I know, I’m talking to a guy who had almost the exact same instincts as Tom, had wrote a serious letter to SURFER about what was happening to Malibu, and had even given some thought to starting an organization himself. Dan Young was completely sold on the idea of Surfrider from the moment I met him. He was working in the office of the Public Justice Foundation, whose founder, Tim Flynn, was a lawyer who could help us with the articles of incorporation.

At this point I was beginning to feel like Yul Brynner in The Magnificent Seven. I needed one more gun to round out the team. I knew exactly who to call.

The final piece, Steve Merrill. Photo: Glenn Hening

Last but definitely not least: Steve Merrill and the Baja Assistance Program. Photo: Courtesy of Glenn Hening

Steve Merrill was an old friend from my years in El Salvador, and we stayed in touch after I moved back to Pasadena in 1981 to escape the civil war down there. When I broached the idea of Surfrider, he made an immediate contribution by suggesting we build something charitable into the organization right away; the Baja Assistance Program.

Steve had been making trips south of the border for years, and he had often loaded up his truck with toys, tools, and clothes to drop off at the main church in Ensenada. I was really excited by the idea that the Baja Assistance Program would help establish Surfrider as a new version of surfers taking responsibility in more ways than one.

What a team! With Woods, Carson, Pratte, Blakely, Young and Merrill all on board, we were ready to change the future of surfing.

There was only thing left to determine: who would actually sign the documents that made the whole thing real?

Want to find out what happened next? Tune in this coming Sunday, July 27,  for Part 7: Birthday. And catch up on the series below.

Dawn Patrol: Creating Surfrider In The Summer of ’84

Creating Surfrider, Pt. 2: The Birth Of The Baby and The Impala’s Opinion

Creating Surfrider, Pt. 3: In The Shadow of The Torch — Brainstorming At The Olympics

Creating Surfrider, Pt. 4: Who Do We Know With A Big Name?

Creating Surfrider, Pt. 5: A Surfing Pioneer Joins The Team


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