Help Sea Better

December 2017
Written By: 
Paul Grimshaw
Photographs by: 
Jody MacKenzie

The local chapter of the Surfrider Foundation works to keep our coastal environment clean and healthy

It’s fitting that the Surfrider Foundation USA can trace its roots back to 1984 when a handful of California surfers created a loose affiliation with one another, promising to help protect the beaches, the waves and the oceans they loved. Some 35 years later, the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit, claims more than 50,000 members and 80 chapters worldwide, including one here along the Grand Strand.

Best known for its annual Lip-Rippin’ Chilympics Chili Cook Off fundraiser, the local Grand Strand Surfrider Chapter serves Pawleys Island to Little River and is made up of surfing enthusiasts and environmentalists of all ages who want to do their part to help save the coastal environment we call home.

“I’ve been with the group ever since my band, The Strike-O-Matics, played the first chili cook off 18 years ago,” said Surfrider chair Joey Skipper, a lifelong surfer, bass guitarist and floral/produce manager at Lowes Foods. Skipper recalls recurring health issues after surfing near swashes along the Grand Strand as a youth. “And I watched my neighbor change the oil in his car and dump it down the storm drain,” he added. These issues eventually led to his activism and volunteer work with the Grand Strand chapter of Surfrider. “I feel like it’s my obligation and my delight to help out.”

Like other Surfrider chapters around the world, our local team helps run annual Beach Sweep cleanup events, prints educational flyers, manufactures reusable cloth grocery bags, plants and maintains ocean-friendly gardens to lessen the impact of rainwater runoff and lobbies local municipalities on environmental issues. “It’s our job, our mission and calling to protect and serve the ocean and to create awareness and help educate,” said Skipper.

It’s often the simple things that get overlooked, according to Surfrider. Skipper wishes that restaurants would switch to biodegradable paper straws. “Think about every restaurant and bar along the Grand Strand, and that every drink they serve comes with a plastic straw. That’s a huge impact.” Too often those straws and other plastics find their way into the ocean, where they eventually turn into microplastics (tiny particles that can’t be broken down any further) that enter the food chain, wreaking havoc. “Plastic water bottles are an even bigger problem,” he added. “Fishing line, cigarette butts—there’s a place to dispose of that stuff. We can co-exist if everybody is even a little more responsible.”

In addition to the Chili Cook Off, Surfrider will host a Christmas Tree Drive in November and December. Watch their website and Facebook page for details and information on volunteering.

“Offshore drilling is another major concern,” he added. “If that happens here and there’s even one major screw up. … I just wish we could all be a little more conscientious.”


Pawleys Island to Little River