The CODE of the ocean: Nonprofit blends surfing with environmentalism

Coastal CODE to lead local beach cleanups Saturday morning

Posted: Thursday, September 17, 2009

Many surfers live by a code.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

"It seems to go hand in hand, surfing and a passion for a clean ocean," said Ashley Johnston, spokeswoman for the Alaskan Brewing Co.

The local brewery has been working to highlight how important oceans are to Alaska through its nonprofit, dubbed Coastal CODE (Clean Oceans Depend on Everyone), that was unveiled alongside its popular India Pale Ale in 2007. One percent of all sales from the IPA go toward coastal cleanup activities.

Money for cleanup projects is also raised through small fundraising events like Friday's concert with the popular Anchorage-based rock band The Whipsaws organized in conjunction with Autumn Festival 2009. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. at Centennial Hall and will include opening sets by Deering & Down, Collette Costa and DnR.

For the second year in a row the brewery and Coastal CODE have organized a surf trip and beach cleanup effort in Yakutat - Alaska's best-known surf haven, which is prominently featured on the label of the IPA products.

Last year Coastal CODE sponsored two "environmentally minded professional surfers" to ride the icy waves off Yakutat with a handful of environmentally friendly amateur surfers.

"It was really exciting and a whole lot of fun but it was kind of more of a surf trip with some beach cleanup when the waves were bad," Johnston said.

This year the nonprofit worked at expanding its efforts and teaming up with other groups to see that more stretches of beach get cleared in both Juneau and Yakutat. Coastal CODE sponsored an essay contest this year that highlights new and inventive ways to make a difference for participants' favorite shorelines or surf spots.

"We got some really interesting entries, but we narrowed it down to four people that are really pushing the boundaries and making big changes," Johnston said. "And actually, once we got to talking with them it wasn't just ideas, they are putting these ideas into practice already."

The winners, three from California and one from Alaska, include:

• Jared Criscuolo of San Diego, a cofounder of "Below the Surface," a combination of a business and nonprofit organization that educates people about the need to reduce water pollution and promotes sustainable alternatives through water-based expeditions and documentaries.

• Kathleen Egan of San Francisco, who founded a local plastic-awareness and gorilla anti-plastic group called "Stop the Plastic Wave," which works with companies to reduce plastic packaging and with consumers to change the way they think about disposable plastic.

• Loren Luyendyk of Santa Barbara, who co-founded "Surfers without Borders," a humanitarian and environmental aid organization aimed to reduce ocean pollution, promote sustainable development and mitigate the effects of traveling surfers.

• Elizabeth Stergiou of Anchorage, who has previously worked in both terrestrial and marine oil spill and response and is preparing for graduate study in oceanography.

The four left for Yakutat on Monday and have spent the week cleaning beaches, surfing and interacting with the locals to discuss the importance of clean beaches, Johnston said.

The four, which the nonprofit has dubbed CODE Keepers, will also be on hand for Friday's concert featuring The Whipsaws. All profits from the show will go toward Coastal CODE, which has awarded more than $50,000 to coastal cleanup projects from San Diego to Seward since 2007.

Fitting with the environmentally minded theme, concertgoers that bring their own 14- to 16-ounce beer glass to the show will receive a $2 discount off the $25 ticket at the door. Tickets cost $17 in advance. The event is for people 21 and over, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Coastal CODE will also partner with the International Coastal Cleanup Day held on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at both Auke Rec. and Sandy Beach. Last year the event, which was founded by the Ocean Conservancy 25 years ago, collected 6.8 million pounds of trash in 105 different countries across the globe.

Those participating in Saturday's cleanup will receive a free beer at the Autumn Festival held later in the day at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center if they turn in their trash collection statistics sheet.

"The bands are going to come out and hopefully cleanup with us, which will be fun," Johnston said.

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or

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