You have to wonder what the South Orange County Chapter of Surfrider Foundation was thinking when board members abruptly pulled the plug on a long-standing and highly decorated ocean water quality testing program at Laguna Beach High School.
The adults at Surfrider decided late last year to stop funding the weekly water testing by students in 2009, an action that essentially closed down the school’s Surfrider Club.
Since Surfrider will no longer allow water testing as part of its student clubs, and the sanctioned activities "” beach cleanups and educational programs "” are offered in abundance here by other groups, the club now has no purpose.
Students and parents were left without resources and without warning that an established activity at the school would be ended after eight years. And no one really understands why.
It appears that Surfrider is attempting to wrest back the use of its name from groups around the globe that have co-opted it and even gone out and obtained grant funding without the group’s permission. In issuing its edict to the schools, the group is apparently trying to regain control.
But to what end?
At Laguna High, kids and parents are baffled and confused. Students who have been collecting water samples and bringing them to the school science lab at 7 a.m. on a weekly basis for years "” with no school credit given "” are scrambling to raise enough money to get the program back on track through the end of the school year.
Surfrider board members say they are trying to “upgrade" the Surfrider clubs at the schools by ending a duplicative water testing program that lacks “teeth." It’s true the county health department tests the beaches regularly and has the authority to close the waters to swimmers; and other groups, like Heal the Bay and the Natural Resources Defense Council, have been tracking data to keep the issue of pollution in the public’s mind.
While the student testing program may be unofficial, it pays huge dividends in educating the younger generation that what we put into the storm drains ends up on our beaches and in our surfline.
That lesson is driven home every time the kids take water samples from their own local beaches and test them for bacteria. It’s a real shame that Surfrider has lost the point of that exercise.