Jim Moriarty is a California surfer/activist who is the current CEO of The Surfrider Foundation. An organization founded by surfers, Surfrider is dedicated to bringing awareness of the environmental issues that face our coastal waters. We had the chance to ask Jim a few questions.
What was life like growing up?
It is safe to say as a child, I was a skater. You could always find me on a skateboard or snowboard more than any other type of board—surfboard included. Since I grew up in Ohio, my family’s visits to the coast were only during the summer months.
When did you get your first surfboard?
In the summer, our family vacationed in Rhode Island. It was there I was introduced to surfboards, but not necessarily for surfing. See, when we were out in the ocean—not the Atlantic, but more like large bays and inlets—on our boards, we were mostly goofing off. In fact, we would go clamming off of them.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
You never forget your first time you stand on a surfboard. I remember I was at Cardiff Reef on a 9’0” Herbie Fletecher that was red with white flames, and a skull and crossbones on the deck traction. The ride was unforgettable: it was a low tide and the sea grass was swaying just underneath the board. In a sense, I felt like I was walking on water.
Who/what inspires you?
I am inspired people who stand up for what they believe in. From a business perspective, I love that Yvon Chouinard started Patagonia to offer climbing supplies to meet the demand he knew personally even though being in business was perhaps the farthest thing from his aspirations. I love that Linus Torvalds created Linux and then gave it away. On a more personal note, I’m inspired by Churchill’s stance against Hitler. I love how punk rock challenged the view of modern music. I love that Jesus gave his life for his beliefs and Nelsen Mandela’s story of 27 years in prison to president of his country.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
I was never a traditional sports kid; I got the adrenaline rush from board sports. As I get older, the simple joy of cruising on a wave with my hand tracing the wall of water of the wave forming is extremely satisfying. It is just myself and the water, and the life that it fuels. It is so simple and awe-inspiring, and satisfies my desire to connect with nature.
What is in your current quiver? What is your favorite board? Your favorite surf spot?
I have about a dozen boards in my quiver, from a small 19” Danny Hess handplane for body surfing to a Gerry Lopez Standup paddleboard. I love my 9’8” Bing pintail when the waves are under chest high. I love my 5’6” Channel Islands Fishcuit and a Joel Tudor singlefin when it’s head high.
My favorite spot is fortunately right down the street from my house at Swami’s in North San Diego County.
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
I’m literally listening to “Heavy Metal Drummer” by Wilco, but love all kinds of music. I will listen to everything from Lee Scratch Perry to Cesaria Evora, Eddie Vedder to Bryan Wilson, Black Flag to Vampire Weekend.
What’s the number one priority project for Surfrider in 2010?
Engagement. As Surfrider Foundation goes into 2010, we want to connect with people that live in coastal areas and help them understand that they can make a difference at their beaches, and there are people just like them who currently are making a difference.
What’s a bigger problem—a few large industrial polluters or many small individual community polluters?
I’m not sure it’s clear to suggest one is “bigger” than the other as they are different from one another and substantial in their own right. As Surfrider, it is our mission to address both types of polluters as well as the myriad of polluters that don’t fall into either category, and educate them on how their practices are affecting our oceans, waves and beaches.
What’s next for Jim Moriarty?
The word that comes to mind is “network”. Surfrider Foundation now has 73 chapters in the United States and over a dozen outside the U.S. We want all those locations connected and feeding, supporting and encouraging one another. If we can achieve this, the end result is a large force with great value, but it’s created and maintained by thousands of people all around world. Think of it as Wikipedia for the coasts except we are building a real, on-ground presence in coastal towns everywhere.