Environmental Quality Protection, Beautification

Surfrider Foundation

San Clemente, CA


The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to the preservation and enjoyment of our world's oceans, waves and beaches, for all people, through conservation, activism, research and education. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California who were concerned about threats to their local break, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains over 50,000 members and 80 grassroots chapters worldwide.

Ruling Year


Principal Officer

Dr Chad Nelsen

Main Address

PO Box 6010

San Clemente, CA 92674 USA


Coastal, water quality, beach, plastic pollution, ocean





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Natural Resource Conservation and Protection (C30)

Pollution Abatement and Control Services (C20)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Sign in or create an account to view Form(s) 990 for 2016, 2015 and 2015.
Register now

Social Media

Programs + Results

What we aim to solve New!

Add a problem overview to your profile.

Update now

Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Environmental Protection

Where we workNew!

Add a map of your service areas to your profile.

Update now

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have and haven't they accomplished so far?

Surfrider Foundation protects the coastal environment for all to enjoy. We focus on the coastal zone, where the land meets the sea. Our primary issue areas are coastal conservation, ocean ecosystem protection, marine pollution, surf break preservation and water quality. We operate through a worldwide network of grassroots chapters and activists who are empowered to take action to protect our oceans, waves and beaches.

Our ultimate vision is for healthy coasts.

We plan to achieve this vision by increasing the number and scale of our coastal victories. Ultimately we hope that our local victories can be applied to meaningful state and national policy advancements.

The vision will also be achieved through growth of our grassroots network. Only by creating and maintaining avenues to engage, educate and inspire individuals, groups and activists can we connect people to our campaigns and develop a culture that encourages citizens to take action on behalf of their oceans, waves and beaches.

1) Stop Human Interruption of Natural Beach Processes
2) Improve Coastal Water Quality
3) Ensure Healthy Coastal Ocean Ecosystems
4) Protect Surfing Areas
5) Secure Universal, Low-Impact Beach Access
6) Motivate a Global Movement of Care for Coasts
7) Expand & Increase the effectiveness of our global chapter network

Founded in 1984, the Surfrider Foundation has grown from a small group of dedicated surfers in Malibu, California, to a global movement made up of over 250,000 supporters with 82 domestic chapters and representation in 14 countries worldwide. With a professional staff of 44 (31 professionals supporting our grassroots chapter network from our headquarters in San Clemente, California, and thirteen regional and field staff operating on the ground in California, Oregon, Washington, Florida, the Mid-Atlantic and the East Coast) we enable our network of community-based chapters to implement local campaigns and programs that advance long-term ocean protection and coastal preservation. Surfrider Foundation's 30-year track record of environmental victories for the coast speaks to our grassroots, community-based focus and our ability to educate and empower our activists to protect their local coastal areas.

The strength of the Surfrider Foundation lies in our grassroots network (supported by regional staff) and our presence in coastal communities nationwide. Because our activists live and recreate in the communities they are striving to protect, they build connections with other like-minded organizations and individuals, as well as key decision makers, to achieve coastal victories. Organizationally, we seek to build partnerships that leverage strengths and resources to achieve even broader environmental outcomes.

Organizational indicators of success include:

• Increase victories by 10% per year. Every victory brings us one step closer to our vision of healthy coasts. We will increase the effectiveness of our campaigns, and build and support our constituency, while striving to increase the reach of our local victories by scaling them into meaningful state and national policy advancements.

• Create exponential growth in the use of tools and services throughout our activist network. We support our chapters and activists by providing and maintaining tools and services – ranging from integrated online systems to communicate with staff and other chapters, to one-on-one and group leadership development and campaign support – that enable us to grow our activist base, deepen the commitment to our mission, and ultimately yield more coastal victories. Our core strategy of engaged activism requires a dual focus on growing these tools and services as well as ensuring that our activists use them to their fullest extent.

• Scale the network. We will create and maintain an increasing number of avenues to engage, educate and inspire the Surfrider Foundation network, which includes chapters, individuals, groups and activists. Our emphasis will be to connect people to campaigns in order to win more coastal victories, thereby creating a culture that inspires people to take actions that achieve healthy coasts.

We believe that more victories lead to a self-perpetuating cycle of increased chapter membership and numbers of local citizens who wish to personally participate in Surfrider Foundation campaigns. Such activism and involvement in coastal resource issues that directly affect local communities will lead the Surfrider Foundation to achieve the following outcomes:

1) Development of a broad, educated constituency that demands greater ocean and coastal protection, measured by estimated people reached through chapter-based outreach activities.
2) Increased citizen involvement in the local, state, and federal decision-making processes that affect their communities, measured by levels of attendance at local meetings and hearings.
3) Greater participation in hands-on coastal preservation and water quality monitoring activities, measured by numbers of people participating in these activities.
4) Movement toward stronger ocean protection and coastal access policies, measured by the amount of support shown by local, regional and state decision-makers for coastal-friendly measures.
5) Increased chapter membmembership, measured not only by the number of operating chapters, international affiliates, and international chapters but also our ability to support the network.

We first started tracking our campaign wins in 2006, setting a goal for the organization of 150 Victories in 5 years. Our activists surpassed that benchmark in 2010 and now have accomplished 271 victories, with 33 in 2013 alone, making a huge difference for the health and accessibility of our coasts. A full list of victories to date can be accessed through our website at www.surfrider.org.

In addition to victories, we are developing ways to help us track progress and impact toward our ultimate long-term goal of building a powerful enough force for coastal protection so that fighting battles is no longer needed. Victories is one indicator; others include process indicators such as water quality tests conducted and beach cleanups held, and outcomes such as the number of beach access points retained or acres of coast preserved.

We also measure the potency of our volunteer activist army. We seek to take a citizen from initial connection to a point of engagement and ownership. From the lightest weight interactions such as receiving our newsletter to heavier weight engagement such as leading a local environmental campaign, we seek to identify, understand and communicate best practices by activists across our chapter network. We routinely survey our chapters in order to understand entry and exit points for volunteers, success and failure of various efforts and total overall work output being achieved in each area. These findings are then shared network-wide through five to seven annual regional conferences as well as through our chapter intranet and other communication vehicles. Ultimately our goal is to disseminate best-practices and grow the efficiency and overall size of our network.

External Reviews



Surfrider Foundation

Need more info on this nonprofit?

Need more info on this nonprofit?

FREE: Gain immediate access to the following:

  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2016, 2015 and 2015
  • A Pro report is also available for this organization.

See what's included


The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Need more info?

FREE: Gain immediate access to the following:

  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2016, 2015 and 2015
  • A Pro report is also available for this organization.

See what's included

Board Leadership Practices

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?