Today marks 25 years since a bunch of surfers from St Agnes and Porthtowan organised themselves ( a minor miracle in itself back then) to fight against the dumping of raw sewage into their local lineups.
Dealing with condoms and sanitary towels in the lineup was more common than offshore days back then. It was so bad it was common to see kids on holiday making sandcastle flags out of the later on Cornish beaches. It was pretty disgusting. Yet the water authorities, councils, politicians, tourism chiefs and even some hoteliers in certain holiday resorts thought this was ok. The surfers did not. What started as a small group representing the locals soon grew as word spread up the coast from Cornwall to Devon, Wales, the east and south coasts. A movement was born.
In a remarkable stroke of luck, and it was pure luck, the small group at the heart of the campaign voted onto the SAS campaign board and a certain set of skills. Non were qualified in anything much apart from riding waves, but they had a healthy disregard for authority, a hatred of surfing in crap and a vivd imagination. Pretty soon images of gas masked surfers were captivating the publics imagination and a PR campaign had swung into action. MP’s were being chased around with an inflatable turd, shares were being bought in water companies and bags of sanitary towels and condoms collected at the beach were being handed back to shareholders at AGM’s. The authorities simply did not know how to handle it. SAS weren’t playing by the rules, mainly because SAS didn’t realise there were any. The water companies called in the po po, they tried to ban SAS from meetings, anything but admit they had to treat sewage before dumping it on millions of water users.
As more and more surfers got involved, the press backed the campaign and the public realised the surfers were fighting for them and the argument for disposing of sewage untreated into the ocean was decimated. It was a long hard fight, and to some extent is still not over, but when you sit above certain beaches now and look down into clear water it will be pretty tough to imagine how dirty our beaches were and what the surfers and pubic of the time were swimming in.
From groms who sent in their £1.50 pocket money, through pro surfers who supported the campaign some against advice of sponsors who thought the campaign may slow down T shirt sales, through to advisors and supporters, hard working staff, reps and directors of the SAS campaigns everyone should be proud of what SAS achieved and continues to fight for to this day.
As well as wishing happy birthday to SAS there is one other important thing you should take from this day and that is this. Anyone can change the world for the better. All it takes is belief and imagination!