Surfrider champion Jason Sam, back row centre, alongside USS Youth Environmental Stewardship program students after a triumphant marine debris clean up of Flo Bay. (Westerly File photo)

Jason Sam wins Surfrider Wavemaker Award

“It’s an award that reflects on everyone.”

Dedicated Surfrider Pacific Rim volunteer Jason Sam is the recipient of the 2020 Wavemaker Chapter Leadership Award for the west coast region, which encompasses a network of 80 chapters in Hawaii, Texas, British Columbia, and the Pacific coastal states of U.S.A.

The Wavemaker Awards are an annual affair hosted by the Surfrider Foundation headquarters in California. Sam’s win marks the third Wavemaker trophy the Foundation has bestowed on the Pacific Rim chapter. Last year, the Surfrider Youth Club won Outstanding Club and the year before that Michelle Hall picked up the Wavemaker Award for Outstanding Leadership.

“This is an award that the team won and I just happened to be the one that gets his name stamped on it. Literally, I couldn’t do this without the amazing team at Surfrider Pacific Rim. It’s an award that reflects on everyone,” says Sam.

Surfrider Pacific Rim chair Lilly Woodbury says Sam has been one of the most influential leaders within the non-profit since he started volunteering in 2015.

Over the course of five years, she says Sam has helped create the Youth Environmental Stewardship program (Y.E.S. program), led countless community and remote beach cleans, and helped the Pacific Rim chapter thrive financially by writing successful grant applications.

“The Surfrider Youth Club has been one of the brightest moments for me because the kids all volunteer on their own time to help out to make the world and the school a better place. That group of kids is very inspiring. I wasn’t doing that stuff when I was a kid, that’s for sure,” Sam notes as a personal highlight.

In February 2020, Sam acted as one of the main leads and facilitators for the Inaugural Surfrider Youth Conference in Ucluelet.

“The youth-driven event brought together schools across Vancouver Island to teach students about plastic pollution, circular economics, decolonization, social justice, climate change, and how they can lead systemic action in their schools and communities,” Woodbury describes.

According to Sam, the Surfrider Youth Conference will happen again, he’s just not sure when.

“We have funding for a youth conference for this year, but we’re holding off. We’re just going to bid our time and wait until the timing is right,” he says.

As an Ahousaht First Nation, Sam has been known to offer traditional salmon BBQs at local beach events and he is Surfrider Pacific Rim’s main communication liaison with Ahousaht and Maaqtusiis Secondary School.

“I was raised outside of my culture for the majority of my life. It feels natural that I clean my traditional territories and that is one way I have connected to my traditional territories and land is to get out there and clean up the beaches and the oceans that we all live off of,” he says.

With the help of Surfrider Pacific Rim, both Tofino and Ucluelet created a bylaw to ban single-use plastic bags and plastic straws. Surfrider has also joined the province’s CleanBC plastics action plan as stakeholder and strategizer.

“It’s nice that the government is calling on us for our expertise. It’s the recognition that we are an organization that has skills, education and professionals on board. It’s definitely a big positive that the government is inviting us to the table,” notes Sam.

He encourages locals to step up and help.

“The world needs it right now. Some of the most interesting, fun and healthy times in the past decade have happened thanks to Surfrider. I’ve made a lot of good friends,” he says.

Want to get involved? Check out or visit Facebook Page @surfriderpacificrim for upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.

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READ MORE: Fed offers $2.3 million for plastics-based scientific research

READ MORE: Remote B.C. tourism lodge staffed for coastal clean up instead of wilderness tours


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