Mati Waya, Chumash ceremonial leader, Executive Director of Wishtoyo Foundation, and Grades of Green Board member, helped declare the waves off Malibu’s Surfrider Beach the first-ever World Surfing Reserve. This is a distinction meant to celebrate surf breaks not only for their size and shape, but also for their cultural significance.

Mati was chosen because he links the people of today to their environment – the land, air and water that support and sustain them. His aim is to preserve Chumash culture by using traditional beliefs, practices, songs, stories and dances to create self-respect and teach a greater awareness of the connection with and dependence upon the natural environment. Mati is the first Native American to become a Keeper – an ombudsman dedicated to protecting, preserving and restoring our marine habitat, coastal waters and watersheds and to bridging the gap between pollution laws, as stated in the federal Clean Water Act, and the government’s ability to enforce them.

Surfrider’s designation as a World Surfing Reserve is largely ceremonial and does not grant greater protection for the surf, but the hope is that by raising awareness today, it will one day lead to legally binding protections against development and pollution.

Congratulations to Mati for his incredible contributions to our planet. We are honored to have you on our Board!

Photograph by Christina House for The Los Angeles Times