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Ocean Love

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The reef at Kekaha Kai State Park.

Ocean-loving people are often drawn to islands, which is definitely true for the field instructors and staff of Hawaii Outdoors Institute. We were surfers, SCUBA divers, paddlers, and swim instructors before HOI existed and that passion is what we love to share with others. It is not uncommon for staff training to take place at the beach; with a review of upcoming trip safety protocols followed by a surf session. We are familiar with the underwater topography, currents, and any potential hazards for the sites we explore with our students. This level of experience makes for superb bonding time with the ocean and with fellow humans during our courses.

Here are the Top 5 Reasons We Love the Ocean:

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East Bay Waldorf students sailing a sunfish on Hilo Bay.

1) It is a great teacher.

So much can be learned by observing the ocean; about the world around us, about ourselves as individuals, and about each other. Ocean activities offer rich opportunities for experiential education. Our students are challenged physically and mentally as they improve their knowledge and skills through sailing, hiking up streams, and SCUBA-diving.

2) It is a great provider.

We often take for granted how much we enjoy that comes from or by way of the ocean. It is both a means of transport and a bounty of food; which we can hopefully be wise enough to sustain for years to come. One benefit often overlooked is the fact that approximately 70% of the world’s oxygen is provided by marine plants. According to world-renowned scientist Dr. Sylvia A. Earle, phytoplankton provides one out of five breaths we take. We have the ocean to thank for much more than we realize. We are inspired by people like Kimi Werner, champion spearfisher, who truly understands and appreciates her place in the food chain. Watch her catch her own food and swim with a Great White shark. (Don’t try this at home!)

Variables with Kimi Werner from Patagonia on Vimeo.

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Makalani, one of our field instructors, wears a tiny octopus on his nose.

3) It is amazing!

The ocean provides us with so much of the air we breathe, yet offers so much that takes our breath away. Humpback whales breaching off the Kona Coast, an eel wriggling through a tunnel of coral, a tiny octopus no bigger than your thumb, the zip of a gust of wind hitting your sails on a sunfish sailboat; these are the little things that can make for a truly memorable ocean experience.

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A confident SCUBA-diver, with his newly earned certification.

4) It keeps us humble.

“Never turn your back to the ocean,” was one of the first lessons I learned as a child. The ocean can be a moody friend, but respect replaces fear when one learns to understand the ocean’s temperaments. Perhaps the poet Lord Byron said it best in the final stanza of Apostrophe to the Ocean; “I wantoned with thy breakers–they to me/ Were a delight; and if the freshening sea / Made them a terror–’twas a pleasing fear . . .” It is definitely a rush to experience the power of the ocean, and when done wisely, these experiences can teach us so much about humility and respect.

5) It is the great connector.

Environmental lawyer and passionate outdoor parent, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. once said “This is what connects us, this is what connects humanity, this is what we have in common. It’s not the Internet, it’s the oceans” (Louv 200).  In a time when technology is such an important part of daily life, it is good to be reminded that the world ocean is what has always tied life together on this planet. Our love for the ocean connects us with our ancestors and with others around the world who share this love. Our decisions impact those living thousands of miles away because of this ocean we share. At HOI, we pledge to leave the beaches and ocean better than we find them and strive to instill that respect in our students.

Sunset on the Kona Coast.

Sunset on the Kona Coast.

Sources referenced:

Louv, Richard. Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder.

Nelson, Diana. “Save the Plankton, Breathe Freely.” National Geographic Education. <http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/activity/save-the-plankton-breathe-freely/?ar_a=1>.

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