Glenn Gordinier on "Epiphany: From Surfer to Activist, Inspirational Lives from the Surf Zone."

On Friday, May 5, Glenn Gordinier, Associate Professor of History at Williams College Mystic Seaport Maritime Studies and lifelong surfer, spoke to Log Lunchers about what he calls the surfer-activist “epiphany.”


Gordinier, whom geosciences professor Rónadh Cox introduced as a “righteous, badass, old-dude surfer,” described his own epiphany at the age of sixteen, when he rode a “huge glassy wall” of a wave and felt “one of the most fundamental elements of the universe” flow through his body.


According to Gordinier, most surfers experience this sort of epiphany that makes them fall in love with surfing. Despite the fact that “surfers are generally known for being selfish,” said Gordinier, a handful of surfers have a second epiphany where they realize that they want to help others or change the world.


Gordinier told three stories of surfers turned activists.

Gordinier speaking at Log Lunch


Serge Dedina had his first epiphany at age thirteen, said Gordinier, when he saw surfers silhouetted against the sunset on a beach in southern California. According to Gordinier, Dedina’s activist epiphany had occurred several years prior, at age seven, when he sent his first letter to his mayor. Dedina went on to found WiLDCOAST/COSTASALVAjE, an international conservation organization that recognizes that the “environment goes across the border,” said Gordinier. Dedina is now mayor of Imperial Beach, CA.


Morgan Rich, Chandler Rich, Meghan Christie, and Samantha Huff—four teen surfers from Marin County, CA—founded Surfworks, a free, one-week surf camp for underprivileged youth, in 2012. According to Gordinier, this organization not only helps make surfing more accessible, but provides environmental education and helps campers develop confidence and independence.  


Beverly Sanders, feeling that something was not right with her life on the east coast, said Gordinier, bought an old bread truck and drove across the country to become a ski instructor near Lake Tahoe, CA. According to Gordinier, she then founded Avalanche Snowboards with her husband, Chris Stevens, and began fighting for women’s place in the snowboard equipment industry and in the sport. After twenty years of “banging her head against a wall,” said Gordinier, fate brought her to Maui, where she had her first epiphany and took up surfing. Sanders’ second epiphany came when she realized that was “plenty of testosterone poisoning” in the surfing world, said Gordinier, but not enough women surfers. In order to create a “safe environment for women” within the sport, Gordinier said, Sanders founded the Las Olas resort in 1997. According to its website, Las Olas is recognized as “the world’s premier surf camp for women.” 


— Sophia Schmidt ’17