The teenage girl living in Jefferson City, Missouri, doesn’t spend her days pondering the condition of the surf. The nearest body of water to this Midwestern city is Lake of the Ozarks, and the closest relative to a wave is the wake left behind speed boats. In fact, she probably spends more time gawking at pin-ups of Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder or interpreting Everclear lyrics than she does worrying about what the pulp mills in Humboldt County, California, are pumping into the Pacific Ocean.
Yet somehow the Surfrider Foundation — founded 15 years ago in Malibu, California, with the hope of preserving the country’s oceans, waves, and beaches — has found an effective way to penetrate the consciences of ocean-less Midwesterners. The Music for Our Mother Ocean (MOM) benefit albums have successfully employed the nation-wide popularity of artists like Paul McCartney, Pearl Jam, Everclear, Jewel and the Red Hot Chili Peppers to bring Surfrider’s message into the heartland. The third MOM record is slated to hit stores August 10.
“It brings our message to a different demographic, people who aren’t from coastal states,” says Surfrider acting executive director Michelle Kremer. “It just creates the awareness that it’s all connected. Even though you don’t live at the beach, you might go to the beach one day, and it should be a place that is healthy and enjoyable.”
Aside from pumping in more than $300,000 to the Surfrider Foundation, the MOM I and II albums also facilitated a spike in membership from regions that Surfrider doesn’t normally have a stable reach to.
“It’s helping with the educational message so we’re trying to get it out there,” Kremer says.
Although a majority of the first two MOM records, released in 1996 and 1997, contained previously released material, the third installment will be almost entirely comprised of new songs and remixes or remakes of classic surf tunes. Brian Setzer, for example, got together with head Beach Boy Brian Wilson to remake “Little Deuce Coupe” and Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell is contributing a remix of the band’s “Ocean Song.”
The music industry enthusiasm revealed by the MOM projects stems from the personal ties many artists have to the ocean.
“All of them have been very friendly and really wanting to get involved with the album project, and some of them have wanted to get involved with the organization, especially those with ties to the surfing culture like Eddie (Vedder), Perry Farrell and the guys from Sublime who were involved with the first album,” Kremer says.
As with most “star power” endeavors, Kremer maintains that it is the grassroots support that provides the heart and soul of the Surfrider Foundation. The Foundation has 25,000 members and 44 national chapters dispersed along the East, West, Gulf, Puerto Rican and Hawaiian coasts, plus branches in four foreign countries.
However, while 60 percent of the foundation’s revenue comes from the organization’s member dues and donations, the remaining 40 percent comes from other types of fundraising, like the MOM albums. And it is hard to imagine a better way to get the seaside message to the girl in Jefferson City than to utilize the charitable benevolence of the 1990s version of an Alaskan Joan Baez — Jewel.
“She’s really great. I met her once,” Kremer says. “She’s quite the environmentalist.”