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Marissa Miller and the Cal Poly Surfrider Foundation Club


Here you will find reports of women surf events around the world, surf-related community projects, ways we as surfers can help our environment, short interviews, writings, and more!

Marissa Miller and the Cal Poly Surfrider Foundation Club

Charlotte Ross

Two months ago, we featured a profile piece on Marissa Miller, a surfer on the Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo (SLO) Surf Team and President of the Cal Poly Surfrider Foundation Club, written by Charlotte Ross. This week, we present a piece on Marissa Miller’s work as President of the Cal Poly Surfrider Foundation Club, also written by Charlotte Ross. At the end of the piece, we showcase art by Kara Gibson, a student at the University of California Santa Barbara, as well as a short bio Kara wrote about herself.

You can access Cal Poly Surfrider Foundation’s Instagram here.

Photo of Marissa Miller by Kalani Minihan

Photo of Marissa Miller by Kalani Minihan

As a female of the sea and an eco-conscious surfer, Marissa Miller grew up dedicated to helping out the oceanic community. She has been surfing her entire life in Oahu, Hawaii and has been involved with the Surfrider Foundation there for many years.

When coming to college Marissa said she saw a lot of potential for the organization to grow on Cal Poly’s campus because of how successful it was in her hometown. “I knew what [the Surfrider Foundation Club] could be and how to get it there.”

Marissa is in her second year at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where she studies environmental management protection and competes for the San Luis Obispo surf team. Growing up as part of the surf community in two different states, Marissa has been exposed to the different sides of surfers. She says there’s a side that doesn’t always insinuate the values of conservation and protection for the ocean and giving back to the places they’re in.

Being on the surf team, she says, is neat because she can connect that surf community with the Surfrider Foundation: “Surfers might have the motivation and the connection there but they don’t always act on it. And if they have a way to act on it, or a club to do it through, it kind of reminds them to do it.”

As club president, Marissa wanted to start out by creating a greater involvement and awareness of the Surfrider Foundation on campus. She states that she thinks she has achieved that this year--the club has grown significantly and now she aims to cultivate a leadership team. There are around 25 core members that make up the club and about 200 in total that pass in and out to help or attend the different events.

To get people more involved and wanting to participate, Marissa said she likes the low-commitment events where people can show up when they want to and still make some sort of impact on the community. The Cal Poly Surfrider Foundation Club will often collaborate with other clubs to create social events--for example, it recently joined the Garden Club to reduce waste and encourage sustainability with plastic single-use cups as flower pots. Events like beach clean-ups are also super easy to do and they get people excited and willing to help out. Last year the Surfrider Club’s greatest turnout was for the local film festival; it was effective and inspiring for both the surfers and non-surfers of the club to build a stronger connection with the ocean and a willingness to want to help protect it.

All photos are by Charlotte Ross. The first six photos above are of a beach clean-up conducted by the Cal Poly Surfrider Foundation at Pirates Coves in Avila Beach, CA that the author, Charlotte Ross, attended. The last two photos are from an event Surfrider held on the Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo Campus in which it teamed up with the Garden Club to collect single-use cups and plant vegetables and flowers in them. Surfrider then gave them out to students for free. 

The Cal Poly Surfrider Foundation Club teams up with the San Luis Obispo Chapter to produce ideas, data, and ocean research, and Marissa likes to stay in contact with the Oahu Foundation for inspiration and advice. She says she also connects with the Youth Chapter Coordinator of Surfrider Foundation USA to clear different projects and get resources for the on-campus club. The organizations all help one another out to build a stronger community of surfers and ocean conservation and awareness.

With an ignorance towards harm of the ocean and a disrespect for its beauty and offerings, it is important for organizations like Surfrider Foundation to exist in the community of professional surfing. It is most influential to create a coalition between ocean conservation and sport. The World Surfing League has been working to incorporate a stronger involvement and positive outlook in this movement through their growth of beach clean-ups and sorting trash for art exhibits at the contests.

The Surfrider Foundation Club on Cal Poly’s campus has gained a lot of positive feedback from its members. Marissa says she hears most often from people that it wasn’t until this year that they had even heard of the club, since she became president and created a more active participation. People are often surprised by the amount of work the club does with its research and the amount of trash that members are able to carry out from the beaches. This builds more of a willingness to get involved.

For Marissa Miller, everything is about the mindset of the people. She says it is most rewarding to get people inspired and fired up about things. “If they show up [to an event] once and it changes their mindset for a while, that’s more important than showing up and never grasping anything.”          

Art by Kara Gibson. Kara says:

Hi! My name is Kara Gibson and I am a third year student art major at the University of California Santa Barbara! I love to draw and create art about things I am passionate about. I’ve always loved the beach and the ocean; growing up I spent most of my days swimming in the ocean. Protecting our waters from pollution and single-use plastics is something of great importance to me. I hope my work can inspire those around me to maybe not use that plastic straw or to pick up rubbish on their beach walk! Little by little we all can make a difference.