Jim Moriarty is not due to leave for a surfing trip in Morocco for a week, but a part of him appears to be already there. His gaze isn’t roving, nor is he in any way distracted. On the contrary, the dapper surfer is fully attentive: his eyes are sharp and his mind focused. Still, it’s hard not to feel like you are keeping him from an important date.
“When you're a surfer and you're in the waves or you're under the water, you are transformed,” enthuses Jim, a former technology entrepreneur whose enduring passion for the sea led him to his role as chief executive of Surfrider, a dynamic activist network committed to the protection and preservation of American coastlines. “The water envelops you, and you're transported to a different place. That mystery of being encapsulated by nature — to me, it's just something you don't get anywhere else. If you skateboard, you're on concrete; if you snowboard, you're on snow. Those surfaces don't move. With surfing, everything's moving, everything's dynamic, and if you're underwater, everything's dynamic as well. You could compare it to flying in space.”
To Moriarty, the need to preserve this experience and the coasts and oceans that provide it was purely instinctive. “That’s what Surfrider is,” he says, “a group of people who are affected by the coasts, and the water, and the waves, and transform that into love, and then, into
But for all his concern Moriarty preaches enjoyment as well as protection: “Our goal is not to velvet rope off the coast. We're surfers, we're divers, we're snorkelers, we like to walk on the beach — we want that recreation, that use, to go hand-in-hand with preservation.” This unity of purpose and passion can make his work uniquely edifying. It can also make it wrenching. Moriarty describes how his “heart drops” whenever a floating piece of trash interrupts a morning surf. Ultimately though, he feels that such frustrations are essential for the would-be activist.
“No one is born an activist,” he explains. “There's a catalyst for all of us to become activists. And living, and knowing, and working with activists, day in and day out, is the source of my hope.”
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