FIGHTING UNGER

posted by / News / August 25, 2003

An obese man, dressed in a dark gray business suit, sits in his office with a foreign, shady land developer sipping cognac while plotting the latest scheme to build another set of beach-front condominiums and line his already bulbous pockets. This may be the stereotypical image of an American politician, but it fails to describe at least one would-be statesman: 51-year old, New Jersey Shore native Brian Unger. Unger’s background reads like the biography of a long haired, surfer hippie — a man whose bereen a wave junkie since twelve, studied Zen Buddhism for five years at the San Francisco Zen Center and lead protests to stop Army development of Sandy Hook. Today, Unger is the Green Party candidate on the November fourth ballot for the New Jersey State Senate, but Unger decided to try his hand at politics, the Loch Arbour local helped found the prominent environmental group, S.E.A., Surfers’ Environmental {{{Alliance}}}, which has raised wave-riding awareness and protected prime surf breaks around New Jersey from detrimental development.

SURFING Magazine called the Monmouth County ocean crusader at his day job in New York City to discuss his platform, political nepotism, and basic American rights.

SURFING: What did you do before you started campaigning for State Senate?
BRIAN UNGER: Marketing in New York City. I take a high-speed ferry to work, and I have vodka tonic on the ride home — unless there’s surf.

Describe your work with, S.E.A., Surfers’ Environmental Alliance
The main activities that we’ve been involved in is clean ocean issues when they come up. New Jersey used to be famous for having problems with ocean pollution, now the pollution seems largely improved, though not entirely under control. S.E.A. has been most active the last few years in fighting to save our surf breaks from destruction by the Army Corps Engineers.

So, have you had a great deal of success with the S.E.A.?
We’ve managed to hold back the Army core from destroying a really great right point break called Sandy Hook, it’s one of the top two breaks in New Jersey. The Army pretty much wanted to blow the main break to bits; eradicate the entire cove and the entire point area, and basically turn it into a kook beach. Pump in so many million tons of sand that when you step off the edge into the water you’d step into fifteen feet of water, kind of like a harbor instead of a surfing beach, and we succeeded in fighting a really tough public relations and lobbying battle to persuade the National Parks Service and the Army Engineers that it was not a good idea.

Big ups to you guys.
It was huge cause as a result. Surfrider helped us (S.E.A.) and it forced the National Parks Service to recognize that a lot of the National Parks around the country just happen to be around good surfing areas.

Aside from the environmental issues, what’s motivating you to run for State Senate?
Our neck of the woods are run by mostly white males in their eighties and they’ve been in power since like 1950 or something. There’s no diversity or young people, and they’re have been a lot of corruption scandals with them in the past nine months. Right now there is a general feeling that it’s a good time to get rid of them to get some younger folks in — maybe some people from the surfing community — and get better representation of different types of people. Not only that, but also the corruption scandals has been really embarrassing. I had a tough time just swallowing that, but other people weren’t stepping forward to take them on, so I knew that I was fairly articulate, I could get press coverage, and I knew I could fight a good race to force these people to acknowledge or deal with what they’ve created. So, I just jumped in not knowing much, but I decided to really work hard.

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