Members of the Ucluelet Secondary School Surfrider Youth Club enjoyed a team building surf session at North Chesterman Beach on March 14. (Nora OMalley / Westerly News)

Meet Canada’s first Surfrider Youth Club

Ucluelet Secondary School students raise awareness about protecting the environment

Sporting their new, grey Surfrider Foundation hoodies sponsored by Live To Surf Tofino, 12 Ucluelet Secondary School students huddled around teachers Jason Sam and Kevin Nixon after an inaugural beach clean and surfing field trip.

On March 14, the crew cleaned Wya Beach and then paddled out at North Chesterman Beach as a group. In only a couple hours, the eager bunch collected 57 plastic bottles and 538 pieces of marine debris.

This team-building expedition marks the first of many for the young crew of environmental advocates. Come May, they will journey as a group to clean the Wild Side Trail on Flores Island.

“I am extremely excited for the future of the Surfrider Youth Club and for the future of all our communities on the West Coast,” said Surfrider Youth Club co-chair Emmett Wellman who helped secure funding for the Flores trip by applying for the Stewards of the Future Grant from the Lieutenant Governor of B.C.

“I sincerely believe that we are moving towards a brighter and better future thanks to all the hard work of people like Jason Sam, Lilly Woodbury, Michelle Hall and all the rest of the people that are part of the Surfrider Pacific Rim Chapter,” he said.

The Surfrider Youth Club was established back at the beginning of the school year, in September 2017. They are a certified member of the Surfrider Foundation, and operate like a mini Surfrider board with their own executive committee in place.

Grade 8 student Toby Theriault is co-chair alongside Wellman.

“We are the first Surfrider Youth Club in Canada. We are hoping to pave the way for more in Victoria and on the Island,” she said.

Mackenzie Hale is responsible for social media. She runs the clubs’ Instagram and Facebook: @SurfriderfoundationUSSClub.

“A lot of what Surfrider does is raising awareness of what’s happening. Some people don’t live on the ocean like this. Even if you don’t live on the ocean in Ucluelet and Tofino, [pollution] will find its way,” said Hale.

They all expressed the fact that even though they have official roles on the executive committee, it’s what one does that makes the difference.

“If you’re not part of the board, you can still do as much as you can,” said Theriault. “Anyone can come. We always need help. Everyone is welcome to join. There are no closed doors.”

Wellman reiterates.

“There would be nothing without the countless dedicated volunteers in our communities and their devotion to the protection of our local wildlife and ecosystems,” he said.

Since forming, the Surfrider Youth Club has created a waste free lunch program at USS.

“We’ve done several waste free lunches where you bring in your own Tupperware and stuff. It’s like a challenge for the school,” said Theriault, noting that the movement is catching on.

“We had at least 20 people come to our table every day and check-in with a waste free lunch.”

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