Wisconsin Great Lakes Chapter

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John Suhar
January 8, 2013 | 2 Comments

My Personal Surfing Story by Chair John Suhar

Included below is a brief history of the Surfrider Foundation in addition to my personal connection to the Surfrider Foundation.

A little over 25 years ago three people in Malibu, California found out that their favorite wave was about to be destroyed. Think about that for a second. Think about something you love… something that gives you enjoyment. Taken away. The quintessential perfect California wave was about to be destroyed.

Those three people organized and worked with the local municipalities until they were satisfied that their efforts to preserve that iconic wave would be successful. They succeeded and this was the genesis of Surfrider Foundation. Today, Surfrider Foundation is doing this same thing across the nation and throughout 18 countries around the world. The mission of the Surfrider Foundation is the protection and enjoyment of oceans, lakes, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network.

My personal connection to the Surfrider Foundation began during a study abroad experience in Perth, Western Australia in 2004. After learning how to surf in Perth and being immersed in a surf culture for the better half of six months, I returned to Wisconsin eager to explore fresh water surfing. Upon my return, I quickly learned about Lee and Larry Williams in the legendary surf documentary Step Into Liquid (a widely popular surf film featuring 2 locals from Sheboygan, Wisconsin) and became inspired to further explore the Great Lakes surfing scene. Eager to learn more, I read the book “Some Like It Cold“, watched countless Great Lakes surfing videos online and introduced myself to the Wisconsin surfing community at events and through online forums. In 2011, I watched the movie Unsalted and attended my first Dairyland Surf Classic (the largest surfing event in the Midwest) shortly after establishing our Surfrider Foundation Wisconsin Great Lakes chapter.

After visiting beaches in Milwaukee and learning how many of the water quality issues we face today stem from our inability to contain rain water on site, I realized how important it was to inspire individuals to take action, create systems, and change behaviors to improve our waterways. Surfrider Foundation, to me, seemed like the best platform to address these issues and make lasting improvements. In light of this, I founded and became chairman for our Surfrider Foundation Wisconsin Great Lakes chapter in the fall of 2010 and thought if there was ever a “leverage point” to create change, this was it. My interest and passion in doing so was without ego as I truly believe we can use surfing to lure people’s senses into awareness while highlighting local environmental issues and instilling an ethic to protect our beautiful waterways. Of course, after awareness comes education and then action and I believe surfing can be the vehicle to touch all three, especially because surfing is such an incredibly contagious experience.

To me, surfing is a transformational experience. Surfing is recreation, but to me it is also a magical re-creation. To ride a wave you have to completely forget yourself. You have to be absorbed in the moment or you’ll fall off, so every wave is about union. It is a momentary connection with something far beyond ourselves. The feeling one experiences from riding a wave is like nothing else. Because the activity of surfing can be so joyful, I believe our Surfrider chapter, and chapters across the globe, will achieve great things by both inspiring more surfers and inspiring a mindfulness around more environmentally responsible behaviors.

If you are interested in joining the movement, recreating on our waterways and becoming involved with our chapter, please reach out to us via the information on our contact page linked here. We look forward to seeing you at our events and in the lineup!

Mahalo and thank you everyone for sharing “The Stoke.”

THE ALOHA SPIRIT IS ALIVE AND WELL in Wisconsin!

John's Story

2 thoughts on “My Personal Surfing Story by Chair John Suhar

  1. Mitch McNeil says:

    Love you personal statement. Can you give me a brief status report of your water quality issues as it pertains to Milwaukee and the waters that empty into the Lake, beach closings (are there beaches?), water quality testing, color, clarity. Share with me (and I’ll talk your ear off about Chicago if you want).

  2. Very cool. I love the idea of personal stories being shared.

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