‘More than anything you’ve got the knowledge that you’re part of the solution rather than part of the problem’ says Surfers Against Sewage campaigner John Griffiths

We probably all know someone who’s emerged from the sea with something more than a healthy glow. Gastro-entoritis is an unpleasant, but by no means the most serious, result of a trip to the beach. Towards the end of the 1980s, many of the surfing population – hardy perennials of the marine leisure world – found themselves laid low with a variety of illnesses. Action had to be taken.

Surfers Against Sewage was formed in May 1990 by a collective of regular riders quite simply sick of pollution. Sewage, tank-flushing, industrial effluent, collisions; there are no shortage of ways to make things worse. This band of disgruntled surfers began plotting feverishly in their caravan headquarters in deepest Cornwall to make things better.

“It doesn’t matter is you sail, surf, windsurf, or even if you just paddle once a year, says John ‘Badger’ Griffiths (one of the original activists, so-called for his penchant for unusual haircuts), “you have the right to go in clean water.” This cornerstone belief, free of political affiliation and combined with their particular style, has attracted much public and official support and the change they set out to create is happening.

“Through a lot of hard work from us, things are beginning to get better. We now meet with executives of water companies on quite a regular basis, we’ve been called in to the House of Lords to deliver a paper on one of the water bills. We go to Europe, Brussels, we’ve got a couple of MEPs onboard with us, they’re very much behind us and they help with our campaigning.”

Griffiths stressed that the group still has much work to do, both to maintain the raised standards and to push them yet higher. “We were up in Parliament about a month and a half ago, we held a big demo and we got in to see a few MPs and chatted with them for an hour or so.” The good work continues apace.

If you want to lend your support to this cause – one that benefits every visitor to the country’s shores – you can become a full adult member for £12.50 a year, £7.50 for the unwaged and students and there’s a £20 family membership. “If you join, you don’t get a lot of actual stuff in your hand. You get a magazine four times a year which tells you what we’re doing, what’s going on and how the campaigning’s going but more than anything you’ve got the knowledge that you’re part of the solution rather than part of the problem.”

Click here for the online membership form.