Dr. Chad Nelsen is the CEO at the Surfrider Foundation where he has worked since 1998. At Surfrider, Chad leads the world’s largest grassroots network dedicated to healthy a ocean, waves and beaches through approaches that integrate coastal recreation with conservation.
Before becoming CEO, Chad served as environmental director at Surfrider, providing strategic guidance on coastal and ocean environmental campaigns at the local through international level on topics ranging from ocean planning, water quality, coastal management and protection of beach access and coastal recreation. He also oversaw a number of environmental programs that included volunteer water quality monitoring, ocean friendly landscaping, and education and outreach programs.
Prior to joining Surfrider, Chad was a NOAA Coastal Zone Management Fellow working with Oregon's state coastal zone management program. He is an alumnus of Brown University and Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment and earned a Doctorate from UCLA in the Environmental Science and Engineering program focusing the economics of coastal recreation and surfing. He helped to develop the field of “surfonomics” – an extension of natural resource economics focused on the values of surfing. He was one of the first to estimate the non-market value of surfing through his research at Trestles in Southern California.
He led a team that earned recognition from the US Coral Reef Task Force for coral reef conservation in Puerto Rico, where they established the first marine reserve on the mainland of Puerto Rico. Chad has served as President of Save the Waves, a small international coastal protection organization, and Director of The Coastal Society. He's an avid surfer and beach enthusiast who lives in Laguna Beach with his family.