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Volunteer Spotlight — Holden Hardcastle

Q. What is your current role with the Surfrider Foundation and how long have you been in this role?

I am currently the Executive Committee Chair. I’ve been in my current role for just over 4 years now. Most people serve two years in a role unless there’s extenuating circumstances, and a world pandemic falls into that realm!

Q: What inspired you to get involved with the Surfrider Foundation?

What inspired me was the people and the mission. In January of 2019 I first went to a chapter meeting and I quickly fell in love with the mission, the community and getting involved, so taking on a leadership role was something I looked forward to doing. 

Q: What were any particular challenges that you faced during the pandemic as an SF Chapter?

I took the opportunity to digitize things as much as possible. We took a lot of the paper documents and scanned them in, and safely shredded and recycled the hard copies. For example, previously there were physical copies of waivers that people had been signing and handouts that we would take to cleanups or events, and we digitized those and put them all on our website. We also provided opportunities for people to join our chapter meetings virtually. We all want the same things and we try to be as inclusive as we possibly can.

Q: You have such a creative background - how do you bring your past experience into this role?

What I really try to bring to the role is to bring in people who are passionate about a subject matter and allow them to do the jobs that they want to do and to provide direction but also to allow people to bring their own thoughts and feelings to it. We’re a volunteer run organization, and from my perspective, we’re allowed to make mistakes, but it’s better to make a mistake than to do nothing at all.  

Q: In terms of environmental issues affecting SF in general, what are those you are particularly passionate about?

For me, it’s plastic and trash on the beaches. I’ve tried to instill this in my daughter as well. We can’t walk down the street now without her pointing out the trash and wanting to pick it up. 
Very early on I was upset at the people who were bringing it to the beaches, but I’ve switched that to looking at ways we can get organizations or the producers of the plastic to change their ways. We’ve raised awareness of that through our corporate beach cleanups. One of our biggest strengths and something that I hope continues in the future is enacting ‘work locally, think globally’ - if at an individual level people at companies are aware of this then hopefully they can help change the culture at those companies. We’ve even had some corporate cleanups where people have come out and picked up their own company’s garbage and they really see the impact firsthand.

Q: Are there any specific projects that you have worked on or experiences with Surfrider that have impacted you?

Re-engaging the corporate and regular beach cleanups late last year was really interesting. As soon as we could start hosting cleanups again, I went out and brought all the buckets I could fit in the car, about 30, and gave what is now known as “the speech.” People were asking a lot of questions and  I advised them “you can clean up anything” because there was trash literally everywhere. It was better to have it in a bag and not blowing around in the wind or on the beach.

To see how not only our public cleanups, but also how our corporate cleanups have grown in popularity where we have about 2-3 corporate cleanups a week and we’re getting anywhere from 200-400 people at the public cleanups every weekend is pretty great.

Also, I love the fact that we have a good core group of people coming back together to help keep the chapter running at various levels. Rebuilding and connecting back in with the community has been the driving force behind a lot of what I’ve been trying to do. I will also say, no one feels terrible after doing a beach cleanup (laughs).

Q: What is one thing that you think it important to tell people about Surfrider?

The Surfrider mission is great and it’s relatively easy to understand. My interpretation of it is that we are all about protecting the world’s oceans, waves and beaches for all to enjoy. As a chapter, we’re working locally to fulfill that mission, and we do that through our beach cleanups, fundraising efforts, our Ocean Friendly Restaurant program, Restore Sloat, corporate cleanups, the legislation (RAP), and protecting our local resources including the Outer Richmond and Sunset in SF. Surfrider helps keep the beaches pristine and beautiful for all to enjoy.

Q: Why is being a part of the Surfrider ocean conservation community important to you?

Primarily for my daughter. The work that we’re doing right now is for the future generations. From an educational standpoint, I think it is incredible that my daughter knows what shotgun wads or cigarette butts are and that they should not be on the ground. I will be on phone calls that have nothing to do with Surfrider and she will come up and whisper in my ear that I need to let people know to leave living things on the beach (laughs). There have been mornings when we are heading to a beach cleanup and she doesn’t want to go for whatever reason, like it’s warm inside and she has to put on a jacket, but whenever we get there she lights up and she runs out of the car. She loves finding treasure on the beach and we have to limit the amount of treasure she can bring back to one piece (laughs). We’ve been at press conferences with London Breed and Scott Weiner and we’ve also been at protests where she’s leading the march, singing and dancing. It’s amazing to see her enthusiasm and engagement in the community. Her and future generations' involvement is really what I get out of it, that’s my driving force.