Not that members are seen as surf angels by everyone. Surfrider's opposition to a 1,100-acre development on the North Shore of Oahu—the mecca of surfing with the holy trinity of breaks: Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay and the Pipeline—is viewed with suspicion by one of surfing's early heroes, Rick Grigg. Grigg, 55, is a coral reef specialist and professor of oceanography at the University of Hawaii. Grigg rejects Surfrider's concern that runoff from the development's construction will endanger coral reefs and near-shore fisheries. "The longshore currents are so strong that sediment runoff will be swept away from the shore so fast that it will have no impact on the fisheries or coral reefs," Grigg says. While Grigg agrees with Surfrider's intentions, he objects to what he believes is the organization's tendency to publicize its claims before thoroughly researching them. "No one wants to disagree with them because their cause is so noble—who wants polluted water?—but they're blowing their credibility right out of the water."
But Surfrider's environmental director, Scott Jenkins, argues that Grigg himself isn't entirely credibile. "Ricky was a great surfer, one of my heroes," says Jenkins, 42, a coastal engineer at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif., and a specialist in sediment transportation ("Just say I'm a guy who studies motion in the ocean"). "But Ricky has testified on behalf of a number of Hawaiian developers. It's disappointing but not surprising to see him aligned against us." Grigg, however, says he testified on behalf of the North Shore developers only because he found Surfrider's claims to be so greatly exaggerated, adding that he's not even in favor of the project.
A less controversial item on Surfrider's agenda is the Blue Water Task Force, a legion of test-tube-toting surfers who will sample the water wherever they go, checking its coliform bacteria count with EPA-approved devices. "We've already got a few California radio stations giving daily water-quality alerts," says Jenkins. "There are about 1,000 kits out there now. I think the average Joe is starting to look at surfers in a different light. Maybe their initial reaction was 'Yeah, right, here come the surfers,' but I think now they know we're really making a difference."