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Somebody Should Do Something

Santa Barbara oil spill, 1969
San Diego, 1961
Surfrider Foundation promo

Surfers made two forays into mainstream politics during the mid-'80s. First, voluntarily, on behalf of the environment, and then as a reluctant bit player in South Africa’s apartheid struggle. “Sports and politics don’t mix” continued to be the surfers’ default position. But the mixing had already taken place. Athletes had in fact proven themselves to be, at times, politically influential: from Jackie Robinson’s dignified crossing of major league baseball’s color line, to Bill Russell marchin...

Surfing fed and nourished an apolitical mindset. The sport was famously and proudly unorganized. “Surfing’s always been totally self-indulgent," as former world champion Nat Young put it. "We're selfish."