By Jefferson Huddle

For a Research 1 classified institution like Old Dominion University where scientists research the world’s oceans and beaches protecting and preserving are at the forefront academically and via activism. With the addition of Surfrider-ODU, a new student organization making waves on campus, ODU students will get to play a vital role in protecting the planet’s oceans and beaches through preservation and protection.

Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit environmental organization that works to protect and

preserve the world’s oceans, waves, and beaches. Orginially founded in Malibu, California almost 40 years ago by a group of surfers protesting threats to local sea life, the organization has evolved into a network of regional chapters and student clubs worldwide. Adding Surfrider to a resume of 300 student organizations to ODU in 2023 was an easy wave to catch onto.

Jonoven Savage, the first president of Surfrider-ODU, was born and raised in the Tidewater area.

Before Savage got involved with Surfrider, he noticed cars with Surfrider license plates and became curious about the organization. Then it clicked for him. “I got in contact with the local Surfrider chapter, and the rest is history,” says Savage.

Savage explained two separate approaches to creating change and protecting oceans.

“There’s a hands-on approach involving beach cleanups, anti-single-use plastic drives, and then there are also groups that sit on Capitol Hill lobbying for advanced practices in reducing the amount of pollution in the first place,” says Savage.

Since ODU is located so close to the beach, Savage says that the club runs a more front-line and hands-on approach. However, Savage’s preferred hands-on approach isn’t always directly on the beaches.

In fall 2022, in their first event as a brand-new club, Surfrider-ODU participated in their first official cleanup. When ODU took on Virginia Tech at the epic rivalry football game, students hit the parking lots as soon as the game began to clean up trash from the tailgates. They may have missed the game going on inside of Ballard Stadium, but they beamed with pride as they were certain they did not miss a piece of trash.

“In the Hampton Roads area, I could throw a stone into the river, which slings into the bay and eventually the Atlantic Ocean,” said Savage. “So that piece of trash I dropped on Hampton Boulevard blows and blows and gets caught on a tree, stays there for six months, then a storm comes, and eventually, everything ends up in the ocean.”

As a member of Surfrider-ODU, students get to be on the frontlines of protecting and preserving oceans and beaches, from volunteering to outreach opportunities. The club welcomes Monarchs from all majors to join. Savage majored in Civil Engineering, and the club is comprised of students from multiple majors across the university.

The club attends the local Surfrider-Virginia Beach Chapter events every third Saturday of the month. Activities involve a beach cleanup on any of the beaches the city has to offer, including Oceanfront, Croatan, North End, Chase Beach, or here in Norfolk at East Beach.

If you’re interested in joining ODU’s Surfrider Club, you may contact Erin Murray at Murray is the new president of Surfrider-ODU for the 2023-2024 year.