– stripping surfing back down to its most elemental form

I Surf, I Vote

I have been seeing more and more I surf, I vote stickers on vehicles around Central Coast breaks these days. The sticker was produced by the Surfrider Foundation to illustrate (I assume) that surfers are active members in society, and that we represent a constituency that can and will, demand political action to address our needs (i.e. clean water, coastal access, etc) via our power to vote. I love the simple power and overall message of these four words and find the stickers growing popularity encouraging.

I Surf, I Vote - Surfrider Sticker

In a recent article entitled “What is a Wave Worth”, author and Save the Waves founder, Will Henry quotes Billabong CEO Paul Naude as saying, “…It’s up to governments and businesses to recognize surfing as an asset, and to take measures to preserve it.”

I surf, I vote seems to acknowledge Mr. Naudes statement as true, and seeks to encourage surfers to raise their collective voices to inform this process. Only, here is where I find the message gets muddled. I feel that the voting being addressed on this sticker refers to, or at very least is being perceived as, a solely political vote.

Voting with a ballot to participate in the political process is fundamentally important and I cannot encourage surfers to exercise their right to vote enough. But voting by ballot on Election Day(s) represents only one half of the government/business sphere of influence mentioned above. Just as election ballots serve as a surrogate voice to shape political action, our dollars hold the power to determine the direction of industry. It is not enough to simply voice our support for socially responsible industry, alternative building materials, fair trade goods, and so on. We need to show our support for these products and trends by voting with our wallets.

I surf, I vote.

about the author:

Daniel is the author of Wine and Woodsmoke. He is an ecologist by trade and lives and surfs on California’s Central Coast. We are stoked to have him contribute to Phoresia and look forward to posting more of his thoughts. As always we welcome your comments, suggestions and contributions.

• Category: daniel, environment,

8 Responses »

  1. i surf-i vote actually is ann east coast sticker that had it’s start out here in jersey—bill rosenblatt was the mayor of a small beach town in monmouth county and as both a surfer and surfrider guy made these stickers very big here—-i guess now they have slid out tothe left coast…….vote the bastards out!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Hey Chuck,
    Thanks for the clarification on the origin of the sticker, which reminds me to see if the local Surfrider chapter has any of these stickers available.

  3. “I surf I vote” is profoundly flawed in its ambiguity

  4. So Paul, what you’re saying is?

    Where is the ambiguity in “voting with our wallets?”

  5. Since this sticker was the doing of the Surfrider Foundation, I’m assuming that it was done to push an environmental agenda. So what is the message here: that if you surf you’re automatically inclined to vote for candidates who support the environment? Sorry, but I just can’t buy that. “I surf, I vote” is flawed because it is possible to surf and still vote for candidates that are either complaciently ineffective in protecting our environment – or worse – actively working to undermine existing laws that work to protect our environment.

    All you need to do is look at Dana Rohrbacher, Brian Bilbray and Fred Hemmings (all prominent State or federal legislators and self-professed surfers) and look at their track record on environmental issues (available at the League of Conservation Voters website) to realize that notion is out the window.

    As a resident of Orange County, I can tell you first hand that merely being a surfer in no way guarantees that your political affiliations will jibe with the environmental agenda. In fact, more often than not, those two mindsets are at odds – at least when it comes time to cast ballots. And given the complexity and gravity of issues facing our leaders today (national security, the economy, etc) one could argue that it is probably unrealistic to expect them to be so.

    We live in a world where black and white has given way to various shades of gray, and ambiguity is the order of the day. As such, in order for any sort of messaging to be effective it needs to be clear and unequivocal.

    Which is why I usually love bumper stickers so much – their brevity practically forces them to be on point(I’m recalling the classic “Another environmentalist for nuclear power”). However in this case Surfrider has fallen short of the mark…

  6. Maybe as surfers we should just get off our butts and study the topics, stances and THINK then VOTE–so many surfers do live up (or down ) to the slacker image — the original idea of the sticker was that surfer can have an effect upon the political process….and , by the way the original sticker said–” i fish, i vote’ and here on the east coast fishermen are a powerful political lobby–often at odds with the desires of the surfriding population

  7. I would put one of those on my vehicle but not before I cut out the surfrider foundation logo. They started out seemingly good for beach access and cleanliness. They turned into some chic social club of sue happy attorneys and their college coed groupies. Save the waves!

  8. Hey pointsurfbaja – There are only two attorneys on staff at Surfrider and neither one of them are litigators. Typically when Surfrider is a plaintiff the case is handled through a network of pro-bono attorneys who care about water quality, access, and break saving issues. Often times other organizations are plaintiffs as well and use their own staff attorneys. Most environmental victories are due to lawsuits or the work of lawyers.