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How the surf industry helped save Trestles

Bob Mignogna, a key surf
Bob Mignogna, a key surf industry player in the fight to stop the toll road.
By Tiffany Montgomery
February 20, 2008 7:09 AM

I know action sports companies has been involved in the fight to save Trestles, but I wanted to find out exactly how they helped after the big Coastal Commission victory earlier this month.


First, I followed the money and looked up the Surfrider Foundation's IRS 990 filing and annual report that detail big contributors. I was a little surprised there weren't more action sports companies and executives listed, though Paul Naudé and Billabong come up often.


Matt McClainSo I asked Matt McClain, right, Surfrider's national communications director, and Bob Mignogna, a Surf Industry Manufacturer's Association (SIMA) board member who was intimately involved in the fight. They both filled me in on how important the community was.


Most companies donated money to Surfrider via the SIMA (SIMA) environmental fund, a lot of it through the annual Waterman's Ball fundraiser. Over the lifetime of the fund, SIMA has given Surfrider about $2 million, Bob said, and Surfrider is SIMA's largest grantee.


In addition, SIMA gave $25,000 specifically for the Save Trestles campaign, which went towards hiring a full time grass roots organizer, McClain, said.


Surfrider save TrestlesThat organizer, Stefanie Sekich, was crucial in rallying the thousands of people to attend the Coastal Commission meeting, left. Action sports companies also loaded up employees in company RVs and bused them to the hearing, McClain said.


The industry also supported the cause with smaller fundraisers over the years and by including Surfrider messaging in Webcasts from surf contests at Trestles and making Save Trestles T-shirts with proceeds going toward the fight.


"The industry drew a line in the sand," McClain said. "Trestles is one of the most premiere breaks. ... and it's in the industry's backyard. I think they thought, ‘If we can't rally to save the wave in our own backyard, what does this say about us as an industry and about our ability to save other breaks around the world."


Having the brands involved in environmental issues also helps Surfrider reach young people, who follow the brands and their sponsored athletes.


"(The message) resonates a lot more when they hear it from their cultural touch points," McClain said.


McClain said Mignogna, former publisher of Surfing Magazine and now a behind-the-scenes dealmaker, was crucial in communicating Surfrider's needs to top executives in the industry.


I asked Bob a little bit about why Trestles is so important to the industry.


"The success of the surf industry starts with the core - people who actually surf. San Onofre State Park had over 2.4 million visitors in 2007, of which over 500,000 were surfers. Surfers from all over the world visit and surf the different breaks at Trestles. Having such a great venue so close to the industry's epicenter gives the industry workers a great place to surf, too. I see people from just about every company in the water on a regular basis.


"No doubt about it - building the Toll Road as designed by the TCA would destroy the pleasant experience of surfing Trestles and seriously damage the quality of the surf breaks over time. The risk is that the surf breaks become (bad), as the Toll Road would alter sediment and cobblestone flow down the San Mateo Creek. The bottom contours of the various surf breaks are formed by the sediment and cobble stones. (Bad) surf breaks don't attract a half million surfers a year. (Bad) surf breaks in the sport's business epicenter could render a severe blow to the industry's psyche as well as image.


"If that Toll Road gets built, there will be no event permits issued during the construction period because of the contractor's use of the Old Coast Highway. That means the NSSA Nationals, Boost Mobile Pro and the WQS Event at Lowers would need to find other homes. Those events have built their reputations on the quality of the surf venue, so to move them would be a big - a HUGE - blow to the industry."


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