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Surfrider Spotlight: Delia Bense-Kang, Northern and Central California Regional Coordinator

What was your relationship like as a child to the ocean and beaches? Did you have easy access to them? How has that relationship with the ocean changed as you've grown older?

I grew up a Northern California beach bum, spending entire days in a wetsuit, and exploring empty coastlines with my family and friends. Growing up surrounded by natural beauty and addicted to surfing inspired me to create a life centered around protecting the oceans and coasts. As I've grown up, that relationship has grown deeper. I have so much love and respect for the ocean and have a hard time leaving the coast.

How did you get involved with Surfrider? What about the organization's mission resonated with you?

When I was a kid I learned that the water at favorite home break is clean and safe due to Surfrider. In 1989 Surfrider won a landmark lawsuit filed against Samoa pulp mills, which were discharging toxic wastewater offshore and making people sick.  Although the case happened before my time, its legacy inspired me to become a volunteer. I started as the Volunteer Coordinator with the chapter and eventually became Chair. I love that Surfrider's mission is all about the protection and enjoyment. I think the enjoyment is important to remember because it's why we dedicate our lives to this cause.

What does your role at Surfrider entail? What are you responsible for?

My role is the Northern and Central California Regional Coordinator, which means I support our chapters from the Oregon border to San Luis Obispo. I am the bridge between our National headquarters staff and our volunteers on the ground. I am responsible for making sure volunteers have the resources they need to execute our mission at a local level and help support larger regional and national campaigns.

What do you love about your role at Surfrider, and what proves challenging? How has your position changed over time?

I love that every day I feel like I've done something to protect the places I love the most. I get to work with all kinds of amazing people who take the time do this work because they care and want to make a difference. Every day I'm inspired by our volunteers and our network. There is so much work to be done it can feel overwhelming at times, but the small wins make it all worth it.

Do you have a favorite California beach? If yes, which one and why? Do you have any other favorite beaches in the US or in another country?

It's hard to pick a favorite in California, but I would have to say my home spots in Humboldt County take the win. There are so many remote stretches of beach lined with Redwood Trees and rocky cliffs; it's a very magical place. Some of my other favorite places are Santa Cruz, Malibu, and Trestles.

Do you have a particular story or memory related to your relationship with the ocean that you can share?

This season I had the opportunity to surf Mavericks for the first time. Surfing there has been a goal of mine since I was a kid, so it was super surreal to finally be out in the water, looking back at the iconic bluffs. I spent a lot of time training and preparing, so I felt good about my abilities, but it was still the scariest wave I've ever surfed. I was in the water for over 6 hours and got three waves -- but it was worth it, 100%! The waves I got will stay in my memory forever. Surfing Mavericks definitely deepened my connection and respect for the ocean.

Can you recommend a few ways a person can help keep our beaches and the ocean clean?

We're all familiar with beach cleanups, which are a great way to start! If you want to take it a step further, reducing your single use plastic intake and carbon footprint are also great ways to help the ocean. Another thing I recommend is making your voice heard by signing action alerts on our website to tell your representatives to make decisions that will benefit our coast and ocean. And of course, join your local chapter!