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A close up of a big ocean wave

Meet The Team

Cape Fear Chapter Board

Keni

Keni Rienks – Chair  Growing up I spent a few weeks every year in Hawaii. Not only was that the location of my first steps in the ocean when I was just under a year old, but I also rode my first wave there at age 11. Though I lived in Illinois at that time, I was obsessed with the ocean. I moved to Wrightsville Beach in 1993 to attend UNCW and got my degree in environmental science. I bounced around the world for a while, but settled back in the area in 2014 with my husband and two children. One of the first things I did upon returning was join the Cape Fear Surfrider chapter to surround myself with people that share my passion for ocean conservation and advocacy. I teach high school environmental science, so it’s very important to me to share my experiences with my students. For me, the greatest part about being a Surfrider member is educating the public, advocating for the protection of our ocean, cleaning up our local beaches, and being a role model for my students and my own children.

Sarah Cavrak – Vice Chair & Blue Water Task Force Coordinator   Hello, new friends. I am a scientist, educator, activist, and the current Blue Water Task Force Coordinator for the Cape Fear Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.  Throughout my life, the ocean has always been an instant source of joy for me – most likely stemming from the yearly vacations my family used to take to the Outer Banks each summer. My most cherished childhood memories are of crabbing in the Currituck Sound, making the long climb up (and eventual sprint back down) the dunes at Jockey’s Ridge, and the countless bike rides my sisters and I made to and from the shore.  Having relocated back to the east coast (and onto the little island of Carolina Beach after a short stint in the Pacific Northwest), it’s heartbreaking to watch the buildup of trash along the water’s edge, and ongoing dune erosion and tidal flooding, due to rising sea levels. I am deeply passionate about protecting the health of the world’s Ocean, and in sharing my love of water with fellow community members. You can find me taking long, rambunctious walks with my fur baby Moonstar, dropping into a downdog or child’s pose (as needed), or eagerly talking about coastal and climate policy. 

Stephen Sistrunk– Secretary   My love for the ocean began as a kid growing up in Jacksonville, Florida. Some of my best childhood memories involve my mom loading up the car and making the 30 minute drive to take me and my friends to the beach. It didn’t take long for me to start begging my parents for a surfboard and they finally gave in. I began surfing at 10 years old and fell in love the with the sport. As I’ve grown up, after spending years of long hours grinding away in the office, I am appreciating more and more the value of the ocean and nature itself. We are blessed with an amazing home (the Earth), and I believe we should put forth a real effort to take care of it. That is why I joined Surfrider.  My wife Austin and I recently moved to Wilmington so that we can live our lives on the water and we are extremely grateful to be here.

Dan Ambrose – Treasurer   I grew up on the Barnegat Bay in New Jersey, about ten minutes from the beach. Some of my fondest memories growing up were either riding around on my family’s jon boat with my dog exploring the creeks and marshes of the bay or spending the day with my family at the beach, playing in the ocean with my brother. My grandfather bought me a subscription to Surfer Mag my entire childhood, and I spent countless days as a kid flipping through the magazines, daydreaming of what it would feel like to surf waves that perfect, with so much style and ease.  When I was sixteen, I started a summer job as an ocean lifeguard, and my love for surfing became a pivotal point in my life. My first paycheck from lifeguarding went to buying a surfboard, and I spent as much time as I could in the water, trying to mimic the surfers in those magazines. That summer lifeguarding, I also learned about UNC – Wilmington from my boss who attended the university in the ’90s. After hearing about Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach, I knew that is where I needed to go. After just a week of living here, I knew I made the right decision. I fell in love with the kindness of the people, the surf community, the weather, the waves, everything. I look forward to helping Surfrider Cape Fear protect the beauty in this extremely special place.

Jeff Nagy – Social Media & Marketing Manager  Jeff is stoked to help the chapter in its social media content and messaging. He is passionate about helping inspire others to take action and to grow our activist network through awareness of our chapter’s news and events. Grateful to be a part of our team, he truly believes that the Surfrider Foundation’s programs and grass roots campaigns are instrumental in helping bring positive change for the ocean environment we all enjoy. He appreciates the sense of calm and beauty that the ocean can provide, as well as the power it can display. Exploring our beaches and coastal areas with his family is always an adventure he loves going on.

Topher Davis  – Volunteer Coordinator  (coming soon…)

Maia Dery – JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion)  A child of North Carolina’s Piedmont near the headwaters of the Cape Fear River basin, I first saw surfers in the early 1970s during a summer visit to my grandparents’ place in Del Mar, California. I longed to learn but, afraid of losing me to the ocean, my grandparents wouldn’t let me try it. I thought, “Someday…” I let a lot of somedays flow by and then, for my 40th birthday, I gave myself a week of surf camp in Santa Cruz. Despite never successfully standing up without an instructor dragging me to my feet, I was hooked. That was in 2006 and I’ve surfed most days since then. For years I drove to the coast weekly. After three days of teaching my classes at a small liberal arts college a few hours’ drive inland, I’d head straight for the coast and four days of as many sessions as I could squeeze out of myself. The ocean turned out to be the best, most exacting, ass-kicking teacher I’d ever had. The hard-won lessons and guiding metaphors that came from them made me better at most of what I did in my life on land. Teaching, mentoring, and guiding students offered as may great rides as the surf but, in 2016, I shifted my professional focus, began working with adults as a life and leadership coach, and moved to Wilmington. Surfrider’s mission of access, protection, and enjoyment has given me a platform to advocate for the sort of creative revision both surf culture and the larger culture are desperately in need of. Many of us feel intuitively that being in the water helps us be more fluid, flexible, healthy humans. When more of us can learn from and on the waves, when we can bond with people different from us over our shared passion for our beloved wave-centered lifestyle, when the line-up and the organizations that come from it are more diverse, welcoming, and inclusive places, all of us stand to benefit in ways none of us can predict. I’m grateful and honored to be able to work on behalf of that goal. In a sense, my grandparents’ fears were well-founded- I have, in the best possible ways, been lost to the ocean.

Adam Root – Beach Sweep Coordinator   Growing up in rural Central Pennsylvania, the closest “beach” was along a wide-deep creek in a local state park. The ocean was a luxury that I got to visit every other year or so and I remember those times fondly. After meeting my wife, these trips became annual ones with close family friends. There is something about being at the coast that truly brings people together and once we had the opportunity to move to Wilmington, we jumped on it! We were quick to embrace the access to the water, surfing and SUPing whenever we had the chance, and walking our dogs in the sand. We also choose to begin putting more time into preserving and protecting this valuable resource that we have and Surfrider was the perfect fit for us. With their grassroots approach, Surfrider’s campaigns directly impact our local communities and we can actively see and be a part of the change!

Austin Sistrunk – Rise Above Plastics Coordinator   My hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, is more than seven hours from the nearest beach.  But I made the most of the water that was available, growing up skiing and wakeboarding on local lakes.  I’ve always loved the beach, and cherish the memories from my family’s annual trips to the Gulf Coast.  My husband, Stephen, introduced me to surfing on trip to Costa Rica a few years ago.  We have spent time in some amazing coastal communities in Jamaica, Barbados, Puerto Rico, the BVIs, and here in the U.S.  I am so grateful to now live in Wilmington, where we get to revel in the beauty of the coast every day.  Our ocean is an incredible gift, and it is absolutely critical that we do our part to protect it.  I am thrilled to serve as the Rise Above Plastics (RAP) Coordinator for the Cape Fear Chapter.  Please join us in protecting our coast, and Rise Above Plastics!

Dave Jacobs   Ocean Friendly Gardens Coordinator   We weren’t really a “beach” family growing up, skiing was my thing until I fell in love with the beach after moving to Bethany when I was in College. I then became obsessed with the outer banks after a trip there in 1990. The wind, the waves and the feel of that place dug deep into my soul. Surfing was just a natural progression from my general love of the ocean and the dream to learn became a reality after a trip In 2008 to Costa Rica. We’ve since moved to Wrightsville Beach to be closer to the water; I can’t imagine being anywhere else. We joined Surfrider in 2010 and  became full fledged members after moving to WB in 2013.  We feel it’s really important to be active in protecting this precious resource; I feel genuinely blessed to be able to jump in the water any time I want and I want to do everything in my power to protect it. Surfrider is the vehicle for that desire, not only because of the great people that participate but because of the  incredible focus and passion throughout the organization.

Tony Morin, Hendy Street Produxions Photographer/Videographer   Tony Morin is a Videographer/Photographer living in Wilmington, North Carolina. He grew up taking road trips to Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks with his father before permanently relocating to the beach. After getting hired to follow a small group of surfers to Puerto Rico, he sold most of his stuff and moved to Rincon to perfect his surfing, photography, and immerse himself in the Spanish culture. He’s been in the film industry for almost 15 years now as a Location Manager and UPM for episodic TV and Fortune 500 commercials. His company Hendy Street, focuses on Live Music, Outdoor Sports, and protecting the greatest resource we know, Water. His company is the official media team for Cape Fear Surfrider Foundation and has created multiple award-winning spots that help tell the story of Mother Ocean and the people that protect her.  

Ethan Crouch – Board Member at Large   I moved to Wrightsville Beach in 2005 from Virginia and relocated to Carolina Beach in 2009. I started surfing in Virginia Beach and in the OBX. Surfing has been a guiding light in my life providing a physical release along with an emotional and spiritual connection to this world and the forces beyond. As a shaper making custom boards for the right waves also provides an artistic expression. Environmental consciousness has been a part of my whole life, from growing up gardening, spending time in the woods, sailing and fishing in the Chesapeake Bay, culminating in surfing and fishing here on the Cape Fear Coast. I feel very fortunate to live in Carolina Beach surrounded by the beautiful waterway, yacht basin, river, and ocean. This appreciation is the driving force to be a good steward of our natural environment. I joined Surfrider in 2004 during undergraduate studies. Once I found out there was a grass roots organization working hard to help protect the things on this earth I love so dearly I knew I had to help out and become a member.