Mark Massara

A surfer and attorney, is General Counsel and Vice President of Social Responsibility at O’Neill Wetsuits, LLC. and formerly served as Director of the Sierra Club’s California Coastal Programs from 1991 through 2009. During the 1980s Massara gained a reputation in the surfing and environmental communities when, as counsel for Surfrider Foundation he won a major lawsuit against two pulp mill companies near Eureka, California that were dumping 40 million US gallons (150,000 m3) of toxic effluents per day into the ocean. The 5.6 million dollar penalty was the second largest collected for Clean Water Act violations.

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In 1992 Massara founded Surfers Environmental Alliance (SEA) and later established the National Association of Surfing Attorneys (NASA), and then partnered with Kenneth and Gabrielle Adelman in 1998 to create the California Coastal Records Project. He has also served on the board of directors of Vote the Coast, the California Coastal Protection Network, and serves on the advisory board of Save the Waves Coalition and Project Kaisei. He is currently a Board member of CoastWalk, a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishment of the California Coastal Trail, and a support of the O’Neill Sea Odyssey (OSO), a nonprofit youth marine education organization. He writes extensively on coastal and environmental legal issues for surfing magazines, Coastwatcher and other publications, and has lectured widely and taught ocean law & science at Stanford Law School and other colleges and universities.

In 2014 Massara put together a dream team of some of the nation’s most celebrated lawyers (including Joe Cotchett & Pete McCloskey of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthey) to represent Surfrider Foundation in a Coastal Act violations case against Silicon Valley billionaire Vinod Khosla, who had purchased Martin’s Beach along the San Mateo coast and subsequently eliminated century old public beach access rights. Following a trial during the summer of 2014 the Court has found Khosla in violation of the Coastal Act and ordered Khosla to allow public access to Martin’s Beach.

Activist Career

Currently, Massara focuses on climate change related coastal protection and land use issues. With a predicted 4.5-foot (1.4 m) sea level rise along the California coast in the next 80 years, Massara states, “There is no time to waste in implementing aggressive land use retreat and resilient habitat and wetlands protection measures.” Massara is urging private property owners along the coast to adopt “managed retreat strategies” and begin moving residential and other structures away from coastal bluffs. He is also arguing that coastal open space and wetlands areas be protected and expanded as “resilient” habitat necessary to protect wildlife in future decades.

Massara started in environmental activism at the age of 7. He was living in Santa Barbara when a Union Oil offshore rig leaked 80,000 to 100,000 barrels (13,000 to 16,000 m3) of oil, and he and his father threw hay bales on the beach and collected dead and dying birds. As a surfer and activist, Massara states, “Surfers bring to the cause of protecting the coast an intimate knowledge of the California coastline and its many resources, along with a zeal for recreation.”

When the California Coastal Commission held a hearing in 1998 on whether to approve a Hearst Corporation proposal to build a series of resorts on one of that last untouched stretches of coastline, surfers protested. Massara and other Club activists organized aerial photos, obtained damning documents about significant Native American resources that would be disturbed by the project, and rounded up a crowd of 1,500 to show up for the hearing. Surfers provided signs for protesters and wore wetsuits to testify against the plan.

“Whether I’m working with surfers, farmers or Chumash Indians, I listen to them, go to their meetings and immerse myself in their perspective and genuinely empathize with their viewpoint,” states Massara. “It helps to walk a mile in someone’s shoes.”

The Smithsonian has declared Massara an “ocean hero”.

In April 2007, Massara and Sierra Club led a coalition of dozens of environmental organizations and thousands of coastal activists in the defeat of a multi-billion dollar proposal by BHP Billiton to construct a 14-story liquid natural gas terminal that would have been a floating industrial facility several miles off the Malibu-Oxnard area of Southern California. The victory, in which both the California State Lands Commission and the California Coastal Commission denied the project in separate hearings, is considered the Waterloo for LNG terminals along the California coast.

In 2008, Massara, Sierra Club, California State Parks Foundation, dozens of organizations, and tens of thousands of activists won one of the biggest environmental victories in Southern California history by defeating the Orange County Transportation Corridor Agency’s proposal to construct a billion dollar 17-mile (27 km) toll road highway. The project would have cut through San Onofre State Park and endangered species habitat along San Mateo Creek, through sacred Native American sites and adjacent to one of America’s most famous surfing environments at Trestles Beach. Prior to the California Coastal Commission denying the project, Massara stated, “The TCA’s rich man’s highway to nowhere is the wrong road at the wrong time at the wrong place.”

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Recognition

  • In 2010, Massara was interviewed on Sea Change Radio.
  • As of January 1, 2010, Massara is General Counsel & Vice President of Social Responsibility for O’Neill Wetsuits, LLC in Santa Cruz, CA.

  • In 2009, Massara was featured in an article entitled “Ocean Hero” in the University of San Francisco School of Law’s USF Lawyer magazine.
  • In 2009, Massara participated in SEA Paddle NYC, a 28-mile (45 km) paddle around New York City that raises money for charities.

  • In May 2008, Massara was featured in The New York Times’ video entitled Planet Us: The Coastal Warrior.
  • In 2008, Massara participated in SEA Paddle NYC, a 28-mile (45 km) paddle around New York City that raises money for charities.

  • In May 2007, Massara was featured in Vanity Fair’s Green Issue: “He is a polluter’s worst nightmare: a longhaired surfer with a law degree. Now that’s righteous.”
  • In 2007, Massara’s efforts resulted in the California Coastal Commission denial of Pebble Beach Company’s plan to cut down over 18,000 trees on the Monterey Peninsula.