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Interview: Graham Hamilton of Surfrider Foundation


We spoke with Graham Hamilton, volunteer with the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit organization, to find out just how they keep the beaches looking so clean.
Interview by Katie Gregory



Introduce yourself! Tell us a little about what you do.
I’m Graham Hamilton, and I’m the chairman of the West Los Angeles Malibu Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. I’m out here today helping you guys conduct a beach cleanup at Malibu Surfrider Beach.

Great! Can you tell us a little bit more about Surfrider Foundation?
Well, Surfrider is a global nonprofit. We started in 1984 and our mission is the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans and beaches. So, throughout our network, we have about 85 chapters worldwide, and every chapter is run by a core group of volunteers. These volunteers are working on a number of issues depending on whatever’s happening within their jurisdiction. For example, here in West L.A. Malibu we do a lot of water quality testing and a lot of education and awareness about single-use plastics. Things like that.

Can you tell us what you guys usually look for when you go out on a beach clean?
When we come out to do a beach cleanup, we’re looking for essentially anything that doesn’t belong on the beach. A lot of times people come out and the beach looks relatively clean, and they don’t really know what they’re doing there, but if you look closely, especially on the high tide line, you can see where the sea has deposited pieces of micro-plastic. Something we found today was a tiny little Barbie slipper which, if it doesn’t get removed from the beach, will ultimately end up in our ocean, and potentially in the food chain. A small piece of plastic like that looks like food to a bird or a sea creature and they don’t think twice about swallowing it.

If somebody wanted to get involved with the foundation, where can they go to learn more about it?
We hold monthly beach cleanups; they're the first Saturday of every month and they’re free and open to the public. If anybody wanted to get involved more directly with the organization, I would recommend that they go to surfrider.org where you can look for your local chapter.

Last question: where’s your favorite place to surf?
My favorite place to surf would be wherever it’s firing. [Laughs] Specifically in L.A. it would have to be Point Dume. It’s beautiful, it feels remote and it doesn’t feel like you’re in L.A. county at all. It’s really, really gorgeous. There’s lots of sea life. I see dolphins and seals out there on a regular basis!

See the rest of our beach cleanup here!