The Surfrider Foundation is a 501(c)(3) environmentalist group headquartered in San Clemente, California.The Foundation was founded in 1984 in Malibu, California and has since grown to be the largest activist network focused on oceans and beaches with 90 chapters and 50,000 members nationwide.
Surfrider Foundation is notable for its support of environmentalist policies and regulations in regards to climate change and has drawn controversy in recent years for allegedly misreporting its lobbying expenses and using its activist network to generate support for issue campaigns.
The Surfrider Foundation was founded in 1984 by Glenn Hening, Lance Carson and Tom Pratte, a group of surfers from Malibu, California. According to the Foundation’s website, the three men founded the group because they “were concerned about the environmental threats posed by escalating coastal development at their favorite surf break, Surfrider Beach in Malibu, California.” Hening became the first president of the organization upon its founding and began establishing local chapters in California and across the United States in 1985. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the foundation became more and more political in nature, focusing on specific legislation such as the 1991 reauthorization of the Clean Water Act.
Organizational Overview and Controversy
The Surfrider Foundation has over 90 chapters across the United States and in foreign countries. The foundation leverages its activist network to oppose certain political and legislative measures that it feel would harm the oceans and beaches and to support measures against climate change and pollution.
Tax-Exempt Status Controversy
In recent years there have been complaints filed with the Internal Revenue Service challenging the Surfrider Foundation’s use of its tax-exempt status to support political issue campaigns. Complaints have also been filed alleging that the foundation under-reports the amount of money it spends on lobbying activity. The foundation boasts about trips by activists to lobby members of Congress in Washington, D.C., but reports a very low amount of lobbying expenses on its tax returns.
Recent Surfrider campaigns mostly consist of efforts to influence action by state local and federal government concerning climate change, pollution of the oceans and beaches, and beach access on privately owned property
According to the 2015 Annual Report of the Surfrider Foundation, individuals, corporations, government agencies and private foundations that fund the Surfrider Foundation include: