Early Beginnings of Surfrider Foundation: Exclusive Story by Gordon Polk
October 15, 2010
If you’re lucky, you’ll encounter an issue that stirs within you the desire to fight and protest for a cause. We all deal with the insignificant trials of daily life, but it’s rare when we find a cause worth protesting for. Here’s a guy who risked sitting in front of a moving bulldozer in hopes of defending the world-class surf breaks in Malibu against destruction. He claims this act of bravery led to the creation of one of the largest coastal preservation groups of all time: the Surfrider Foundation. – Leila Thomas
The account by Gordon Polk:
Back in the early 80’s Malibu County decided to renovate the area behind the colony. To this day I have not been in there. Although as a young boy I played there often and caught lizards, frogs and stepped on rusty nails. Brad Ford had a fort we spent the night in as well. But that’s another story.
Cut to the chase.
The water that ran underneath the bridges needed to be “flushed” occasionally due to the fact that it was stage two water. I believe the man in charge was Kurt Wallace. He would have the bulldozer dredge the sand at First Point, and the water would come rushing out. I imagine First Point was better than Third Point because after a few days the current would seal the break, and the water would start to fill up again. Thus this produced ample water for the park behind the colony.
Well after some time, the water began to rush out causing damage to the bottom at First Point. The wave started to close out, mushy and sectioned. One Sunday the wave was actually breaking all the way in. This had become a rarity. It was a fun day for all of us out surfing. Then from the Third Point area we suddenly heard the destructive sound of the bulldozer. Enraged, I turned to the guys with me in the water and said, “Hey! Are we going to let this happen?” The surfers replied, “Calm down. There’s nothing we can do.” Infuriated by their passive reactions, I took matters into my own hands and paddled straight up to Mike Sprock, who was president of the MSA at the time. He told me to calm down. Thank you Mr. President.
I directed my attention to the guys hanging out behind the lifeguard tower only to get the same reply. Unwilling of surrender, I stood in front of this massive dozer and started to yell at the conductor to back off. He ignored my angry complaints and continued on his destructive path. Once I became an unavoidable nuisance, he and I began to scream back and forth. I demanded to see his supervisor.
After some time this guy came down and said that he was his super. “Great”, I said. “If you are so low on the totem pole that you are watching a guy on a bull dozer on a Sunday afternoon, then I want to talk to your supervisor.” I sat back down. If you can imagine, this was getting a bit out of hand at this time. Soon after a woman appeared and declared that she was the supervisor of the guy watching the driver of the bulldozer. Again, I demanded to speak to her supervisor. Her refusal led me to another enraged yelling fest. Oddly enough the everyday beach goers that passed by decided to help out this angry surfer, and sat down. Then some of the guys that weren’t at first interested in my cause decided to join in, although to mock more me than help. Mike even came over and wanted me to chill because MSA was a member of the chamber. Ha!
At this point, with the mob of people creating a commotion the bulldozer began to loose steam and halted progress. I then slipped out the back of the crowd and phoned Lance Carson. By this time sheriff cars, a blazer, and a helicopter circled the beach as I watched from the street above.
Lance called me a couple of days later, and we met at the Baja Cantina with Snodgrass, a surf legend, a lady from the LA Times and Tom Pratt. Lance and Tom took it from there. I really just sat back and listened. Guess I was invited cuz I pushed the snowball down the hill. Lance went up, I think with Tom to meet with Wallace. He said he was a real A-hole.
I was semi threatened by some guys who said, “They knew who I was.” I replied, “See those guys?” and pointed to the surfers by the wall. I threatened that if they hassled me that these locals by the wall would take them into the polluted lagoon and tie them up at low tide. This was of course not meant seriously.
I opted to take a back seat and stay low, out of the picture. But there’s one thing that has always bugged me that I have never spoken of, and I am going to throw them under the bus now. Joe Sanders was one of the surfers in the water that told me to calm down and just stood by watching the bulldozer destroy our home break. Yet later I see him and Mike Sprock on the news “tackling the problem.” That really got my goat since that fateful day at Third Break they did nothing but mock me. There I said it.
Almost a year later, there was this big meeting at the Point Dume Civic Center. Jerry Browns, J Paul Getty Jr., blah. Charts, graphs, newscasters, the whole deal. Even with a high fever, I knew I couldn’t miss the spectacle. So with a temperature of 102, I trudged down to the Civic Center and stationed myself in the back of the room. Funny, the day of the bulldozer it was only about the waves, but now it was much more. The pier was getting trashed, and the colony was loosing beach. It was so much more and so many people were involved. Really, it was huge.
After all was said and done, I sat waiting for the hall to empty. Feeling nauseous, I didn’t want to get up and see anyone. But here’s my small gratification. As I sat on the aisle seat a complete stranger came by to shake my hand. Then another and another until a small line formed down the isle to shake my hand. Even to this day I get a little wishy-washy when I think of it. Someone in there must have said, “That’s the idiot that sat in front of the bull dozer.”
From my understanding this is the cause that brought together Lance and Tom to start the Surfrider Foundation.
As for me, I am old and surf shitty breaks in North County, San Diego.
There ya go. I am sure there are people that will say I am full of shit. That it didn’t happen that way. It did and I don’t care what anyone says.
Leroy Blowfish Buttlips Polk II