“The ocean is her home, no question,” my mother always used to say.
Growing up on Aquidneck Island, I was lucky enough to form a deep bond with the ocean at a very young age. While I never truly understood why, I have always spent as much time in the water as I can. Fascinated by fish, dolphins, waves, and anything else I could grasp, it simply felt like home.
Through finding the sport of surfing, I learned that I was not alone. Surfing is one of my favorite ways to connect with the water and I realized that it is also an outlet for others to do the same. I remember catching my first wave and feeling as though I was an extension of it. As I became more involved in the local surf culture, I met new faces who shared my interest and respect for sea life and marine environments.
With time, I also met more people who did not understand the ties between people and marine ecosystems. While some do not inherently feel drawn to the water, most can find a sense of respect, appreciation, and even admiration through surfing. I love seeing that same connection being shaped over time and eventually being shared with others as we form a positive and personal relationship. While many fear things they do not know, I have always wished to learn more about the parts of the ocean that scared me.
Training surfers has always held great rewards for me. Through teaching others to surf and connecting with those that did, I found community, support, passion, activism, enthusiasm, and peace. Without even realizing it, I also found myself teaching people about the ocean itself as well as the sport – and learned more and more about it in turn. Since I was a young child, I could always find peace of mind offshore. As familiar, constant sounds disappear underwater, a comforting peace surrounds me. It’s as if nothing matters anymore except the present moment. Like coming home after a long day, heading out there always offered me a hard reset and new energy.
Taking a Deeper Dive
As I always long for that feeling, I also found new ways of interacting with the ocean. Once I discovered freediving, my love of marine life took on a new form. By putting on my fins and slowing down my heartbeat, I can truly take a temporary, minor place in the marine ecosystems I visit. I also learned just how naturally we can fit in this climate if educated and trained properly. While we are not born to do so, we still hold many of the adaptations and traits designed for diving, even overlapping in some ways with manatees and dolphins. By learning more in the water, I naturally brought my interest to other areas of my life.
Experience to Action
Finding a passion in teaching those who have minimal experience in the ocean about its key role in our lives has driven me to pursue college degrees in marine conservation and business. Throughout my life, I have encountered many who ask: “Why should I care?”.
The more I have expanded my outlets of spending time near the ocean, the more I can answer this big question. I have seen the connections that make the ocean our home. While I do simply find refuge there, I realized I interact with the ocean every day in much less obvious ways. My hometown never reached as high summer temperatures or low winter temperatures as the mainland, because we are surrounded by water; the air I am used to is kept in balance largely by the ocean; the food I eat every day is affected by the ocean. Like any relationship, many things I do impact marine habitats just the same.
In my college classes, I have learned more and more of the endless ways humans and the ocean are connected. At The Ocean Foundation, I have been able to work connecting the science behind ocean conservation with many of the people and corporations who can impact it in big or small ways. By bridging the two, we create a more cohesive understanding of the world around us.
As more people learn about ocean conservation and the enormous chain reaction we live out every day, they can also find empathy towards marine life and the sea as a whole. I always knew whatever I did, I wanted it to focus around the ocean. And I continue to find new ways of doing so. I continue to surf, freedive, and find outlets to expand my small role in ocean conservation, so I can do my part to protect my second home.