You know bar talk, how it's all beers and babes and baseball and more bull like that.

And you probably know surfer-dude talk, all about boards and barrels and breaks and more along those lines.

So the other night at Maynard's in Margate, when a bunch of surfers bellied up to the bar, naturally you know how the conversation went. The only things anybody seemed to talk about were climate change and pinelands pipelines and sea-level rise and solar energy and other slightly heavier fare than you might normally find on the menu at a popular Margate watering hole.

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But most of the surfers in on this round of tavern talk were members or friends of the South Jersey Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, a group whose interests go well beyond riding waves and drinking beer.

The Surfriders are in a local push to attract more members - as part of an ongoing global effort to protect the world's oceans, bays and other waters.

Margo Pellegrino, a Surfrider who spends part of her summer across the street from Maynard's, teaching stand-up paddling on the local bay, is working to set up a weekly series of these bar sessions to further both those goals. The Surfriders call the get-togethers "Blue Drinks," and so far they're scheduling them in Brigantine and Margate, generally on Wednesday nights.

"But it's a very casual format," as she put it, "because there is no format."

Pellegrino commutes to Margate and Stacey's Surf & Paddle from Medford Lakes, Burlington County, but she has paddled much farther than that - including from Miami to Maine and Seattle to San Diego in an outrigger canoe, among other major ocean adventures to spread her environmental-protection gospel.

Margate's Stacey Marchel, who runs Stacey's, says she's lucky to have Pellegrino working for her - even if Pellegrino is just one of a corps of paddling instructors who also are committed environmentalists, and who got together on a brisk day this week for a quick ride around the Margate bay. Some of the others include Ventnor's Cassidy McClain, who has won local and national surfing championships, and Gonzo Macabeo, a regular rider on the waves in his hometown, Ventnor.

But Pellegrino has been busy trying to get her fellow Surfriders involved in an activity that sounds just a bit more dry than ripping over waves or gliding around the bay. She's pushing locals to make their voices heard in a coastal-planning process called MARCO, or the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean.

That's a body set up by the states of New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia to "maintain and improve the health of our ocean and coastal resources, and ensure that they continue to contribute to the high quality of life and economic vitality of our region's communities well into the future," as MARCO's website explains.

The South Jersey Surfriders encouraged members to go to a September planning meeting in Long Branch by emailing out this message:

"If no one shows up to talk about surfing, but 50 people show up to talk about fishing, boating, ports, offshore energy, etc, (MARCO) might get the idea that nobody really surfs in the Mid-Atlantic." And Pellegrino put that warning a bit more ominously in a conversation this week, before the Maynard's meeting.

"If you're not at the table," she said, quoting a bit of Washington wisdom, "you're on the menu."

The local Surfriders want South Jersey wave and water lovers to go online - at - to answer a survey about how they use and value the ocean.

And Pellegrino was using some of MARCO's collected data around the bar to warn that a proposed pipeline through New Jersey's pinelands won't necessarily stop at the B.L. England power plant in Cape May County's Upper Township. She worries the pipeline is actually the start of a system to ship natural gas through New Jersey and across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe.

Other Surfriders also had energy on their minds as they hung out at the bar.

Victor Maene, of Ventnor, figures he's been surfing for 50 years. He hasn't sold solar-power systems for that long, but Maene was talking up solar as a solution for climate change - which he worries could cause sea levels to rise by as much as 60 feet in future centuries. He's a member of, a group working to combat global warming, and he went to Maynard's "to try to motivate people" to join that fight.

"I'm in Audubon, I'm in the Sierra Club - you name it, I'm in it," Maene said. "And when you get these groups together and they cooperate, they're powerful."

He knows from experience it can be hard to get surfers to drop their boards and go to meetings. Surfing is fun. Most meetings aren't.

But once people start surfing, many get active in other ways too.

"You know the saying: 'Nobody likes a dirty beach,'" Maene said. "Well, even the most knuckleheaded surfer doesn't want to surf in dirty, polluted water. So once they get in the water, they become environmentalists. They want to save the world."

Marchel, whose business teaches rookies to surf and paddle, says she always makes sure her youngest students understand that right from the start.

"I tell the kids that if they find a piece of trash, they can tuck it in their wetsuits," she said - and she knows kids do that, because they all want to show her their finds.

(McClain, one of her star teachers, adds that often when she goes out surfing, she brings back enough trash to fill a small landfill.)

And the Surfriders take other more direct environmental action than just policy lobbying. The group has sponsored its own monthly beach cleanups for years - and after Hurricane Sandy, the members increased that schedule to weekly cleanups. Also after the storm, Pellegrino said, the Surfriders joined other local environmentalists in helping shore-town residents recover from Sandy, including rebuilding damaged homes.

Still, these Blue Drinks sessions are more about getting together with friends in a bar and talking - just not about typical bar stuff.

Dan Gottlieb, of Margate, showed up looking for local allies in the fight against dunes on his hometown beaches. And Lee Diamond, a Margate native who moved back to town last year from Washington, D.C., is another global-warming activist and member of

"You have to get to the bottom line, which is climate change," he said.

Albert Troiano Jr. is the son and namesake of Maynard's founder, so he knows how talk around the family bar usually sounds.

"Maynard's is a very conversational place," he said, smiling. "People aren't afraid to speak their minds."

Still, Michelle Hannon, a bartender for eight years, is very familiar with the more typical talk on the outside of her bar.

"Sports is big," she said. "And news events - whatever's on TV, they talk about that. And sometimes you hear some neighborhood gossip."

Hannon also took a few drink orders from the Surfriders that she doesn't usually get. Because when Maene heard about Blue Drinks, he went in and actually ordered a blue drink. His friendly bartender improvised one for him, with vodka, club soda and a splash of Blue Curacao, a liqueur that definitely lives up to that name.

The bartender couldn't make up a catchy name for her drink on the spot, but she did add that Blue Curacao is most commonly used in a shot called a Sharkbite - which is big during the Discovery Channel's Shark Week, another popular Maynard's event.

Maene, who worked for years as a chemist at the Atlantic County Utilities Authority, also was also looking for converts to his new drink - which looked suspiciously like Windex. Most of his fellow Surfriders were opting for more conventional-colored beers, but he was enjoying his blue drinks at Blue Drinks.

"Absolutely. It's delicious," he said, smiling and admiring its almost-Caribbean color. "And, it's environmentally safe."

Contact Martin DeAngelis:


For more information

For more information about the South Jersey Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, see

For details on "Blue Drinks," email Pellegrino at


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