Friday, July 22, 2011

Free Diving With a Mermaid

Photo by Bo Pardou

Dana Richardson was born a fish out of water, so-to-speak. Richardson, who began her life in the fossilized ocean (Phoenix, Ariz.), always felt the yearning to be in the sea. The need to be aquatic led her to practice free diving in pools at the age of 8. To keep her scales from drying up, Richardson moved to Southern California in 1996. Now, at 33, the self taught free diver and “mermaid” feels right at home in Kona on Hawaii‘s Big Island, a free diving paradise where she has lived for the past decade.

“I remember visiting Oahu when I was younger and Hawaii has always felt more like home to me than anywhere else,“ she says. “I’ve always had a deep respect for island culture and love all the islands, yet the moment I landed in Kona I knew this was my home. The island is alive and full of so much life and aloha, with an active volcano that is erupting daily. The Kona sea is filled with an incredibly vast amount of marine life, including my favorites, whales and dolphins."

An average day for Richardson is, of course, waking up to some Kona coffee, catching the morning sunrise and checking to surf. Luckily for her, Kona is the leeward side of the island so generally the water conditions are beautiful and glassy. If she’s not surfing or out on the boat she finds a good beach to swim from shore to say hi to all her sea buddies. Some of those “friends” are three main pods of spinner dolphins that travel off the Kona coast, which Richardson has swam with, photographed and researched for the last 10 years.

“I know their behaviors and routes well and can also recognize many by their scars and markings,” says Richardson, who also works on a dolphin and whale watch boat in Kona as a captain and naturalist. “ As wild dolphins, even though their route stays consistent, they do occasionally change it up, which always makes for an adventure.”

Richardson normally stays between 30-to-60 feet deep while swimming or photographing sea life (but she can go as deep as 100 feet) . She can hold her breath up to 4 ½ minutes now, but when she’s actively swimming, her breath hold is much shorter, around 1 ½ -to- 2 minutes, depending on how fast she’s going.

“I started as a self-taught free diver, having always been more comfortable under water than on land, and have since taken free dive courses to ensure safety and deeper levels of practice,“ she says. “The more you relax the longer you can stay down, and it truly is mind over matter. Free diving is a practice of discipline as well as awareness. I relate free diving to the alpha state, which is how some marine mammals rest. Basically they slow their heart rate down and shut half their brain down at a time, yet still are very conscious and aware of their surroundings. Underwater meditation.”

In between free dives, surfing, teaching snorkeling lessons, boating, “mermaiding” and underwater photography, Richardson, known to some as Dana Mermaid, took some time out to talk more in depth about her life under the sea.

DH: Describe to me as best you can the world beneath the depths.

DR: Beautiful, magical, amazing, and definitely to be respected. The ocean beneath the depths really is another world. The waves, plankton, coral, fish, turtles, rays, dolphins, whales, and sharks are all co–related and need each other to survive. Watching how the world works so gracefully in that circle of life underwater is a beautiful thing. Personally, I believe life on land is much more dangerous than underwater. The ocean life still has the ability to co-exist and everything is in tune with one another. Here on land, we seem to have forgotten that innate ability and there is much more destruction, which is now greatly affecting the underwater world. The ocean really is a magical place that needs to be respected rather than feared. Learning about sea life and their behaviors is so important and can help dispel the deep seated fears the world has spread about sharks and other sea life. Learning how the ocean world lives teaches us when and how to swim, which is key to respecting the sea life and being safe. Having swam with many types of shark species I can honestly say they are not out to get us. Rather, they are mostly shy creatures fulfilling an important role in the ocean ecosystem.

DH: What have been some of your most exciting experiences in the ocean?

DR: Swimming with sperm whales by far is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve swam with whale sharks, the largest fish in the ocean, and when rare species like beaked whales surface it’s very exciting. I had an amazing swim with some pilot whales who were extremely playful. When I’m swimming in the ocean I never touch or feed any of the sea life and match whatever mood they are in out of respect, and let them come to me. I’ve had some amazing dolphin swims, and it’s very cool since I know a lot of them. Many times they have swam over and rubbed up against me. One time in particular a dolphin and I were swimming and he stopped next to me and came so close he put his dorsal fin under my arm and glided with me down to about 40 feet. Humpback whales are also one of my favorites to be in the water with. I’ve had some insane experiences with groups of males competing for a female, singers that sing so loud you can feel the sound. I was swimming with the Southern Pacific Humpback Whales and there was a baby that was so playful that it just kept rolling and circling, blowing bubbles and even swam over and grazed me with her pectoral fin. I could go on and on.

DH: What have been some of your most fearful moments under the sea?

DR: One time I was swimming near this fish farm in a few hundred feet of water with a couple bottlenose dolphins when I noticed the dolphins swim off a bit. I dove down in an attempt to encourage their playfulness and invite them back over and out of the depths I saw a large shape coming towards me. Tiger sharks and baby whale sharks can look very similar so I just looked for either spots or stripes. I saw the stripes and waited as he came up to me and circled me a few times then lost interest. He was just curious, but I definitely was caught off guard and had that feeling of being checked out. Honestly, I really feel much safer in the seas than on land.

DH: What does it take to be a free diver?

DR: Free divers are definitely a unique group of people who continue to break records in the underwater realm, showing the impossible to be possible. Free diving is all self-discipline and mind-over-matter. We are basically diving underwater with breath hold and depth, which goes against what our minds and bodies tell us we can do. Much like yoga, breath is involved to relax the body and allow for more open movement. Breath is a big part of free diving, relaxing the body and lungs in order for the body to stay oxygenated longer. That ultimately takes practice, discipline and patience. It’s really important to not force dives, as you can really injure yourself. Most marine life seem to communicate through energy and there is the ebb and flow of life that shows their awareness of surroundings. Free diving is similar to surfing in that it’s very much self-discipline and ever changing. The ocean environment changes and each day can be a different experience in the elements. My body is also changing as well so it's very important to tune in to my surroundings and also where I’m at physically and mentally. Cold water is much more challenging to free dive in and also sinus problems or a full stomach really prevent length and depth while diving. When I’m away traveling on land, it takes a couple days for my body to re adjust back to free diving mode.

DH: How and why did you start “mermaiding?” Do you make your own costumes?

DR: I do make and create all my own tails to swim in. I started doing this about three years ago. As a child I always felt very connected to the ocean and played mermaids in the water. I believe a real mermaid lives and breathes the sea and has that deep connection to the ocean. As a marine mammal naturalist I’m blessed to be able to educate people about the ocean and help them experience the magic of the sea. Through the years my love of the ocean took me to different types of work from being a lifeguard, swim instructor, boat crew member, underwater photographer, snorkel instructor and safety swimmer, boat captain, surfer, and marine mammal naturalist. I just decided to take it to the next level and grow a tail! My main message is to re inspire our connection from land to sea as a mermaid. It’s pretty cool because I get to really capture the audience of kids and adults, educate about the magic of the ocean, and also really help others follow their dreams.

DH: Tell me about life behind the lens.

DR: I’ve been photographing underwater for the last 10 years. I’ve always loved the creativity of photography and started just playing around with some underwater cameras. The lighting underwater made for some really amazing photos. I started using a Nikonos film camera, which was fun for a little while until I realized what a drag it is to be having an amazing experience underwater and then run out of film and have to head back to the boat. So I switched over to the digital side and found a great housing that is perfect for how I swim with sea life and enables me to capture them in their habitat. My photography is called Mana Kai photography. Mana in Hawaiian means spirit, power, or life source, and Kai means the sea, so basically the spirit of the sea comes out through my photos. My favorite things to photograph are dolphins and whales and light rays beaming through the water. Sharks and rays are fun too. I love going back through the pictures and seeing the amazing things I was able to capture in that watery world. It’s pretty cool to be able to share that with others too, especially people who live far from the ocean and need to see what goes on under there.


DH: How do you give back to the sea and the environment?

DR: Every way I can -- picking up trash, educating others on the state of the ocean. The coolest thing is meeting kids even as young as 6 who are learning about the ocean in schools and how to make a difference. We all can create change at any age. I do some research for whale and dolphin species and do everything I can to bring awareness to marine life. I’ve come across several species of sea life entangled in fishing line and always carry scissors with me so if the opportunity arises I can help. I was able to free two different dolphins who had fishing line entangled in their mouth and tail. I also happened upon a humpback whale who I thought was entangled in a huge fishing net and lines. He was actually curious and starting to play with it, which is one of the main reasons whales get entangled. Luckily I caught him just in time and was able to get the entire mass of fishing line onto the boat and save him from an entanglement. “Malama I Ke Kai” -- take care of the ocean.

Thank you Dana for your inspirations and proving my belief that mermaids really do exist!!

Below are some more photos and a video of Dana the mermaid. Enjoy. Also check out Dana's website:

Photo by Sarah Lee

Misha Photography

Photo by Lisa Denning

Mana Kai photography

Misha Photography

Friday, June 24, 2011

Shark--preditor or victim?

After the popular 1970s movie Jaws came out I was even petrified to swim in a pool. The fear of sharks has stuck with me over the years and now, as a surfer, I often think about the "man in the grey suit" lurking below the sea's surface. But then I think, I am entering the shark's home. He has been kind enough to share it with me. I do think humans' general fear of sharks may be justified  in part, but just think about how many people are actually killed by sharks a year (less than a handful) compared to how many die of starvation a year (8 million around the globe).
In 2000, the year with the most recorded shark attacks, there were 79 shark attacks reported worldwide, 11 of them fatal. Ironically, the biggest threat to sharks is humans -- about 100 million sharks are killed every year by humans. Many of them are killed for the lucrative shark finning industry, which often illegally kills sharks  for their fins . These finners cut off the shark fins and then throw them back in the ocean to die. I recently watched an amazingly powerful film, Sharkwater, that shows the intense journey of a group of brave souls who try to save these sharks and  expose the shark finning industry.  While shark finning is illegal in some waters, there are no governments, including the United States, that have agencies enforcing these important laws. The reality is that sharks may be the world's top predators, but they are critical to the survival of the ocean's ecosystem, and ultimately our livelihoods. I highly recommend you see this film. It will change your view  on sharks and may even compel you to do something to stop the mass killing of these beautiful, powerful creatures of the sea. The ocean is not a free-for-all for us to drain all of its resources.
Here's a link to the Sharkwater website:
Check out the Sharkwater trailer:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hippy Glamour -- 50s style

 I've become more fascinated recently with the 1950s era of fashion, culture and surfing. I can't tell you how many times I've watched Bud Browne's Surfing in the 50s (and yes, on VHS!). Browne, the father of surf movies, captured some of the greats in his films, including Dewey Weber,  Buzzy Trent, Phil Edwards, Peter Cole, Linda Benson and Marge Calhoun, who is my favorite all-time female surfer.
Calhoun, Benson  and the other pioneering women from  this era had such style and grace, not to mention chutzpa for riding big surf on heavy logs sans leashes and wetsuits. And they were super stylish in their '50s bathing suits (I'm actually on the hunt  for one now, similar to one worn by Calhoun in the Surfing in the 50s film).
Many of the bathing suits during this era were fashioned by none other than the "Million Dollar Mermaid" herself -- Esther Williams. The  former competitive swimmer and starlet-turned bathing suit designer set the stage for classic, stylish and quality beach-going and wave riding attire. During my grand quest for such a suit  I came across some really great vintage wear sites, including Esther Williams ( and a cool blog called GlamourSplash ( 
I'm inspired and stoked to see this style of suit still being made. It's funny how the pioneers in fashion and surfing back then were making "modern" advances, and how today we want to reverse back to that time.  It was a time before polyurethane foam, plastic fins, Roxy, SUPs and everything made in China for cheap. I, for one, vote to go back to that era of classic, quality fashion and surfing, even if it means I can't wear a wetsuit.
Esther Williams

Marge Calhoun

Linda Benson

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Climate Change rap..yo!

The earth’s climate is influenced and changed through natural causes like volcanic eruptions, ocean current, the earth’s orbital changes and solar variations. However, climate change is now a global concern due to humans' growing heavy footprint on the Earth. Whether you believe that climate change and global warming are really happening, check out this great rap video. It does have some expletives at the end but it's a great message.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Beatnik Batik

Charlotte Quinn has never been a city type girl. Quinn, who grew up in Kill Devils Hill in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, spent her childhood living the laid back beach lifestyle roaming the beaches, sand dunes, and woods with her two sisters. Her parents were both artists – her dad a ceramics major who became an art professor, and her mom a sculptor and print maker. The apple didn’t fall far from that tree. Quinn, who earned her art degree from East Carolina University School of Art in 1991, came back to the Outer Banks (where she now lives with her husband, Jim and daughter and son) to make a life of her own and to carve a niche in a unique art form – batik.
Batik is an art medium and methodology for creating design, usually on cloth, by applying wax to portions of the material and then dyeing it, then removing the wax. This can be done to make vibrant colors and incredible designs. Batiks origins can be traced back to Asia, India and Africa. Some say the word is of Malay roots and translates "to write" or "to dot.”
I was impressed when I first saw Quinn’s whimsical batiks on silk. (Hard to believe  that one of Quinn’s art professors told her she would never do much).
I’ve also been inspired by Quinn’s lifestyle on the Outer Banks – one that is simple, beautiful, soulful and artful.  When she is not creating her art, the body boarder is often at the beach with her family.
Below are some musings from Quinn about her art and lifestyle.

Describe your artwork and the process of making a batik.
CQ: My medium of choice is batik on silk. Batiks are a wax resist dyeing technique in fabric.  So basically wherever the wax is, the dyes won't go.  Many batik or silk painting artists are very precise in their drawings/ painting techniques with the resists and dyes.  I am very gestural when using my Indonesian Tjanting  tool ( the tool that holds the hot wax that I use for my drawing onto the silk).  I incorporate the drips of wax in an impressionistic way as well.  I do sketches, what is on the fabric is all drawn freehand.  When mixing my dyes I'm like a mad scientist –  this would horrify my old art professors.  Exact measurements? What is that?  It is time consuming as well as hard on your back.  I work flat with the stretched silk resting on two sawhorses.  I draw with wax onto the fabric. Then I brush my dyes on, and then wait for the dyes to dry and start the process all over until I get to a point where I think the piece is ready to be washed.  Depending on what I pull out of the washer depends on whether or not the batik is to the point I consider finished.  If I don't like it, I start the process all over.  I once had a fairly well known surf artist tell me, after watching me do a demo, 'It would be a lot easier if you worked in watercolors.'
It would be, but I simply love working in this medium.  As for my subject matter of choice, I love doing surf art.  I enjoy my flowers and other subject matter as well, but I get lost in my waves and surfers.  I plan on doing some batiks featuring musicians, skateboarding, stand-up paddle boarding, of course my note cards and  some more watercolor paintings. I'm also thinking of doing some wood block printed T-shirts.

How did you choose batik as your medium of choice?
CQ: Ever since I was a kid I've either drawn or painted, and I took an art class or two in high school, but  I was never into art. Originally when I was accepted  into East Carolina University School of Art in 1987, I was going to study environmental design.  Well that didn't last long. I fell in love with my fabric design and my printmaking survey classes. I couldn't decide between the two so I majored in both.  In fabric design I studied everything from silk screening, to  weaving, to, of course, batik.  I had learned how to sew in high school and loved working with fabrics.  So playing with fabric and designing my own was very appealing.  I loved to draw, and print making seemed like a logical way to mass produce my drawings.   Jim and April Vaughn, owners of Whalebone Surf Shop, liked some of my body boarding drawings from one of my classes, bought the designs and had them made into T-shirts for their surf shops. They were my first real art clients in 1988.  Once I graduated in 1991, and had to buy my own art equipment for silk screening and printmaking, I quickly found out that batiking in my apartment was a cheaper route to go.  I figured at some point I would get around to being able to afford the equipment that I wanted for my  future studio. In the mean time, I grew to love the batiking process even more.  I figured out a shorter more economical way to removed the  excess dyes and wax from the silk, as well as a better way to secure my silk in the framing process.  I was taught to use a staple gun, thumb tacks are much easier to remove if you have to remove the batik from the stretcher for any reason. I also do not frame my work.  I loose so much of the batik when stretching it around the stretchers, it seems  sad to cover up more by framing it as well.  I created my first large wave batik in ‘92 to enter into a local art show (Frank Stick Show).  It won honorable mention. I didn't produce any more surf art until 2004, and even then I stuck to batiking waves because I feared that a surfer might be hard to draw with hot wax. I also knew what other surf artists were doing and mine looked nothing like their work. In 2005, I entered a batik of a guy surfing called "Lay Forward" and won the local beach book(phone book) competition in which the winner's artwork graces the copies of 55,000 phone books. This made me feel like I was taking a step in the right direction. 

What inspires you as a person and artist?
CQ: My family, in too many ways to list. I don't know what I would do without them.  I married Jim Quinn, a surfer  from Avalon, New Jersey.  I have a son, Chris, from a previous relationship.  He's a body boarder like me and his father. Jim and I have a daughter, Savannah, who is  learning how to surf. 
As for my other  inspirations, that changes daily...  I might be inspired by lyrics of one of my favorite bands(because I always have music blasting in my studio), something from a surf flick, flowers blooming in my yard, or a great day spent out in the ocean with my family.

What do you love about the East Coast, especially the coastline? 
CQ:I simply can't imagine living anywhere else.  I love the fact I can find a spot to paddle out where my family and I might be the only ones out.  Even when there's a crowd at some of the better breaks, it's still not really crowded –  not like the breaks everybody visits around the rest of the country.  We used to live
literally right down the street from Avalon Pier (a local spot), so you can just hop on a bike or walk if you want to check the surf, etc. Now I'm a mile south of the pier and in that mile stretch there are at least four or five nice sandbars to surf at.  The travel time is between five and 15 minutes max.  If you want to get "out of town" and go surf, you have Pea Island, S Curves( Turns) and Cape Hatteras Lighthouse all within an hour drive. I also love the local wildlife, watching the seasons change (yeah even the cold gray
winters where the wind howls at 25 mph for months) and the clean beaches.

Below are some samples of Charlotte Quinn’s amazing batik on silk pieces. For more info on her work email her at

 Below is one of Quinn's watercolors:

Charlotte Quinn and her beautiful beach family.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dirty Industry

"There's nothing more punk rock than being sustainable." This is my favorite line from the "Manufacturing Stoke" movie trailer. The film, which premiers in San Diego May 21 at Birds Surf Shed, takes a look at the surf industry's dirty habits and what some industry renegades are doing to help clean it up.  The closure of Clark Foam in 2005 turned the surf world upside down, not only financially but also from an environmental perspective. As this film depicts, the new generation of eco-conscious surfers (along with some old schoolers) are putting demands on manufacturers  to produce more earth friendly products. Check out the Manufacturing Stoke web site:

You can also read an interview with the film's creator  La Jolla native and surfer Pierce Michael Kavanagh in Transworld Surf:

Here's the trailer:

MANUFACTURING STOKE from misfit pictures on Vimeo.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Hipster Mom

The smoke alarm sounds off in the house while I'm cooking on a constant basis. I blame it on an over sensitive alarm. But it is apparent that I  did not inherit my mother's grand cooking skills. But I have gained a lot of other  insight and knowledge from my mom -- grace, faith, strength, humility and consciousness.  She is one of the most beautiful and sweet women I know (although I had different feelings as a teenager). As we grow older and wiser and have children of our own we realize what our mothers had to endure and sacrifice to raise their children. My mother, who grew up in rural Mississippi with nine brothers and sisters, has most certainly struggled during her 70 years. We all do to some extent. I know the beach has always been a place of solitude for my mom, as it is for me. Late writer Anne Morrow Lindbergh (wife of  the late aviator Charles Lindbergh) sums up this solace in her beautiful book  Gift From The Sea.
Here is one of my favorite passages from the book :

The sea does not reward those who are  too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, Patience, patience is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach -- waiting for a gift from the sea.

Twenty years after Gift From the Sea was published, Lindbergh wrote, "When  I wrote Gift From the Sea, I was still in the stage of life I called the 'oyster bed,' a symbol of a spreading family and growing children. The oyster bed, as the tide of life ebbed and the children went away to school, college, marriage, or careers, I was left high and dry. A most uncomfortable stage followed, not sufficiently anticipated and barely hinted at in my book. In bleak honesty it can only be called 'the abandoned shell.' Plenty of solitude, and  sudden panic at how to fill it, characterized this period. ...To quote my own words, 'woman must come of age by herself - she must find her true center alone.' The lesson seems to need re-learning about every 20 yeas in a woman's life.  ...As I look at my daughters, daughters-in-law, my nieces and my young friends, I am astounded at what they accomplish. They are better mothers than I was and they are the admitted equals of  their husbands in intelligence and initiative. They have no domestic help in their homes and yet with vigilant planning, some skillful acrobatics, and far more help from their husbands than any previous generation, they manage to lead enriching lives, including special interests of their own. ... Are they happy -- or shall I say, happier than my generation? This is a question I cannot answer. In a  sense I think it is irrelevant. Without hesitation I can affirm that they are more honest, more courageous in facing themselves and their lives more confident of what they want to do, and more efficient in carrying through their aim. But, above all, they are more aware."

This post is dedicated to my mom and all the other amazing mothers out there who have helped pave a positive path and have enriched the lives of many.
Below is a photo of me and my mom circa 1970s and a photo of my son and I (special thanks to my friend Kathy Klossner for taking the photo of me and my son). I am thankful that my parents are in close driving distance and that I can share my son with them. Thank you mom for all your love, support and strength over the years. Happy Mother's Day.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Life Aquatic

I'm always up for an adventure, especially if it's aquatic. Daniel recently bought these used Eaton paddle boards for us to use when the surf is flat. I've only paddled twice and I'm already addicted!  After dodging all the boats and jet skiers in Mission Bay (not to mention the dirty water) I was ready for the open ocean. Today we cruised outside the reefs along Cardiff and had a blast. It was a reminder of how vast and beautiful the sea really is. I am stoked to enjoy it in different ways.
On a side note, late great surf legend Tom Blake is credited as the pioneer in paddle board construction in the early 1930s. Blake built a replica of an olo surfboard ridden by ancient Hawaiian  kings.. He lightened his redwood replica (olo were traditionally made from wiliwli  wood) by drilling it full of holes and then covering them, creating the first ever hollow board as well as introducing the first modern paddle board. Blake promoted paddle boards are lifeguard rescue tools, but they also proved to be a wave tool of choice among serious watermen.  Paddle boards are NOT to be confused with SUPs! (Stand Up Paddle boards).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hippy Heroes

The Diaz family -- Lorenzo, his wife Patti and their three young kids -- has picked up roughly 500 pounds of trash over the last year-and-a-half. They are rubbish renegades, so-to-speak, who go around their hometown beaches and lagoons in North San Diego County scouting out plastics and other debris. Not only do they take the pollution out of the water, but they also pack it out, sort it, record the data, and recycle what they can to minimize the strain on the landfills.
“We started to notice how much trash was on the beach about 10 years ago when we would take our first baby to the beach and let her crawl in the sand,” Lorenzo says. “We were shocked every time she would pick up a bottle cap and aim it to her mouth. Now we always ask all three of our kids to pick up 10 pieces of trash each before we leave the beach. One day my daughter picked up 100 pieces of trash in 15 minutes. That’s when we realized we had to do something about it.”
And so, that’s how Lorenzo and Patti created H2O Trash Patrol in 2010. The non profit’s mission is to clean up those hard to reach places in and around the water by providing “custodial” services to the waterways for the benefit of the environment, public safety and health, and local businesses who utilize the nearby waterways as an added benefit to their local customers and tourists. The Diaz’s recently pulled 150 pounds of trash alone out of San Diego Harbor using their stand up paddle boards. You can check out the H2O Trash Patrol web site by clicking here.
One of the most alarming facts about all this garbage is the high toxicity of plastics, Lorenzo says.
“Plastics keep breaking down to what looks like plankton and krill and is ingested up the food chain,” he says. “Even at that size small pieces of plastic still leach out toxins. So if you eat fish, chances are high that it is tainted with PCB's and other toxic pollutants. Plastic water bottles and containers labeled BPA free have been found to be as bad or worse than non BPA plastics. Every bit of plastic that has been made is still around today in our landfills and oceans. The plastic debris floating in the 5 gyres  of the ocean  take up one-fourth of the planet’s surface; that’s a lot of trash! The only way to reduce the massive plastic dilemma is to refuse it, especially the ‘one-time use’ plastics.”
In recognition of the Diaz’s passion for preventing more plastics and other trash from tainting the eco system, the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation in Carlsbad, Calif., recently awarded H2O Trash Patrol with its Environmental Hero Award.
And to think, it all started with Lorenzo's and Patti’s drive to teach their own kids environmental responsibility.
“In the hopes of making a small and easy contribution to society, we focus on teaching our kids the simple idea that you should always try to leave a place better than when you found it.”
Lorenzo, Patti and their kids are true stewards of the Earth. Thank you for your endless efforts and inspirations.
Below are some photos of H2O Trash Patrol in action, as well as an interview I did with H2O in 2010.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sea Solace

As a surfer, I'm not always a fan of stormy beach days, especially when the surf has been consistently blown out. But as I snapped this photo over the weekend at Churches I realized that I captured exactly what the sea gives me, and that's peace.  So until we have some glass love from the ocean, I'll learn to enjoy it in any condition.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Stoked Sea Stories

The guys over at  always have amusing, inspiring and interesting stories/videos like the one below. It's a  good reminder that life really is beautiful and the ocean is everyone's playground. Let's take care of it and each other. Aloha Friday!

Subsistence Shredding - Sea Movies from on Vimeo.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Neon Hipster

It may be that I'm tired of  wearing a full suit -- since last summer -- but I think it's almost neon season --i.e, my  long john. Isn't it about time for the SoCal waters to warm up?  I'm not sure how long this so-called La Nina is going to last (our meteorologists really can't tell us), but I don't know much longer I can take it. Maybe I'll just bust out the neon anyway and shine a little brightness in the line up.

As for my 80s retro neon Hang Ten long john, I bought it a few years ago for $30 at the Longboard Grotto in Leucadia (now Surfy Surfy), and I love it! Here's to the 80s!
Thanks to my surf peep Jay Golien from Slider magazine for the photo.
See you in the surf!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Making Her Own Waves

Over the last decade or so of covering business as a journalist, I’ve come across many inspiring, creative and passionate entrepreneurs who have a strong conviction for what they are doing and have kept their nose to the grindstone to make the impossible happen.  Entrepreneurship – whether the economy is up or down – consists of a lot of passion, heartaches, failures, frustration and satisfaction.  One entrepreneur who has really made an impression on me is Sandra “Dee” DeLaRosa, who has, despite many road blocks, succeeded beyond expectations. Aside from her being my best friend, Sandra has proven that if you really believe in something and have the talent, you can make it happen.

Here is her story:

Sandra  “Dee” DeLaRosa  (yes that’s her real name) is elated when one of her employees at Raw Skin Surf N’ Sport calls her with the news that the shop made $2,000 in sales in one day. However, on another day, the quaint, colorfully-painted shop – which sits on the north end of Highway 101 in Carlsbad, Calif.– will make only $24. Sometimes, there isn’t a single sale.
And so it goes for the life and times of a small surf shop owner.
Despite the fickleness of the retail business, Sandra is not giving up.
“It’s a daily high and low in retail,” she says. “When sales are good you’re stoked. When sales are bad and you have a zero-dollar day, that’s the low. I’ve made it for almost eight years struggling with finances. What’s another couple of years to get through the tough economy?”
Sandra, who opened Raw Skin Surf N’ Sport in 2003, says the highest sales years for the privately held shop were 2003-2004.  The market was good back then – the surf industry was hitting its peak and surfboard sales were way up.  The tremendous influx of women hitting the waves has made a major contribution to the growth in retail sales in this industry.  According to a Surfing magazine reader study, women surfers now comprise 15 percent of America’s 1.8 million active participants in the sport. 
It’s a market that Sandra began to tap into back in 1997 when, using $3,000 from credit cards and family and friends, she created and launched her first line of Raw Skin rash guards for women and girls. Since then, her product line –which is sold in surf shops in Southern California and Florida – has expanded to wet suit jackets. (And I have to say that Sandra’s rash guards and wet suit jackets are the best I’ve ever shredded in). She was the first woman around the globe to design her own line of tailored fit rash guards for women.

Sandra opened her shop to help promote her Raw Skin product line.  She mentioned her plans to the owners of the shop -- which was then called Salty Sister -- who were thinking about selling.  Several months later, they called Sandra, and the rest is history. Sandra, who changed the name of the shop to Raw Skin Surf N’ Sport, thought it was the perfect opportunity to not only increase the visibility of her rash guards and jackets but to also further take advantage of the booming women’s surf market. Several studies have indicated that the female portion of the surfing population is the fastest growing demographic, increasing as much as 25 percent a year, according to the Surf Industry Manufacturing Association (SIMA).  
Despite these demographics, Sandra has yet to make a profit from Raw Skin Surf N’ Sport. To help keep her shop afloat, she has sought funding from several different sources, including SBA loans, only to be turned down. And so it goes for a woman/minority small business owner, especially one who is in an industry with a lot of multibillion-dollar big fish.
“Trying to find investors and convincing them of their payback is tough in this industry,” she says. “In this industry and market you’re turn-around for profit isn’t as fast as other industries. It has been very challenging.
“One of the most challenging things is having stock of everything you need at the right time and having the funding to do it. For the most part we’re covering our areas. It’s just borrowing and paying back—from my credit cards and my parents. I borrow money in the winter and pay it back in the summer. Hopefully the borrow-pay back ratio will come to an end some day.”
Since she doesn’t pay herself a salary from the shop, Sandra works part-time to pay her own bills as the chief financial officer of Just Surf, Inc., an Encinitas-based surf accessory and products distribution company, which subleases the back of her shop. Sandra, who has two part-time employees at Raw Skin Surf N’ Sport, says she tries to maintain a competitive edge by carrying different brands than other shops do. She has also diversified the products in her shop, which sells surf and skate-related clothes and accessories for women, men and kids. Surf lessons and surfboard rentals, as well as kayak and paddle board rentals, have also been added to the mix to help supplement the shop’s cash flow.
One of the ways Sandra has set Raw Skin Surf N’ Sport apart from the regular everyday surf shop is by renting bikes—from beach cruisers to mountain bikes and kids bikes. The shop, which started with only two bikes, now has a fleet of 30, and sells bike accessories.  Check out her web site by clicking  here. You can also check out:

“Any smart business owner should diversify,” she says. “That’s why I named my shop ‘Surf N’ Sport.’ I didn’t want to be stuck in one market. If one market goes soft there are other markets to tap into. Since I have added bike rentals and accessories it has helped me keep my sales up since the apparel side of the business is down.”
Sandra’s next set of plans include growing the shop’s skateboard section. The 38-year-old entrepreneur has another plan up her sleeve – she is currently seeking capital for a woman's wetsuit she designed. (I can’t wait for this one! Sandra is one of the best designers I know).

Sandra and her shop have become ingrained into the Carlsbad community culture. She attends business owners’ gatherings, fought to help beautify her shop and the surrounding areas and volunteers for community events.  That must be why Raw Skin Surf N’ Sport  was named as the U.S. Commerce Association’s 2009 Best of Carlsbad Award in the Sporting Goods category.
“Sandra is just overall a really nice person and that shows through at her shop. She is also willing to help anyone,” says friend Brian Seibert, also a professional photographer.

Aside from the daily struggles of not knowing whether she will be able to pay all of her bills (personally and for the shop), Sandra says there’s nothing else she’d rather be doing (well maybe surfing or snowboarding, but that’s also part of the job)
“It has to payoff. Sometimes it seems like it’s not going to,” she says. “I stay strong because I do what I love.  I love doing business; I love negotiating. It’s in my blood. It keeps me going. I like the freedom of being able to do what I want when I want. I can go surfing during lunch breaks. Sometimes I even make a detour to the beach before going into work.
I truly believe you need to do something you enjoy doing to be a happy person,” adds Sandra, a Southern California native who grew up in Simi Valley. “I could be making lots of money, but I could be miserable at another job. That’s why I stick with it. My ocean view from the shop is not that bad either.”

Below are some more  photos of Sandra’s rashies, shop and her ripping and chillin’ in Mainland Mexico. (Yes even busy entrepreneurs  find time for some R&R). If you're ever  in Carlsbad, stop by the shop and say hi to Sandra. Tell her Dre sent you. 

Thanks Sandra for your passion, zest for life, inspirations and for being my best friend.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Love Letters From Hawaii

It’s been about a year-and-a-half since I made my first “virtual” acquaintance with Daniel Partch. What started out as a digital romance (yes, we met on Facebook via mutual friends) has blossomed into a kind of love I have never experienced. The common bond between us was and still is a deep love of the ocean and surfing. But over our three-month correspondence and his courtship – which included emails, phone calls, handwritten letters and even a couple of surprise packages via snail mail – I found out a lot more about Daniel. A former marine who suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) after serving in Desert Storm, Daniel moved to Hawaii’s Big Island a year prior to our “meeting” to get away from the hectic SoCal life he grew up with. I also discovered that Daniel is one of the best wood fin makers in the surfboard industry. (Daniel trained with and learned from the best, legendary fin maker Larry Gephart). Daniel is not only a master fin maker, he also does amazing wood burn art (on his fins and on pieces of wood) , shapes surfboards and paints.  I was intrigued. And apparently so was he. After that three months of getting to know each other, Daniel decided to hop on a plane from the Big Island back to SoCal to meet me. That was on Valentine’s weekend 2010. He hasn’t left since. He now lives with  me and my son and  has been a welcome addition to our family. In between shaping fins, surfboards and painting, he grooms both yards, takes care of the dogs, does the dishes and the laundry (should I pinch myself now?).  Daniel is as strong as an ox but has a heart and soul of pure gold.
Below is an excerpt from a story I wrote last year on Daniel for my friend Robert Wald’s Ocean magazine:

San Diego’s cadre of revolutionary and underground surf board craftsman has remained a tight knit circle – Steve Lis,  Rich Pavel, Steve Pendaris, Jeff McCallum and Many Caro to name a few. This eclectic bunch has had a great influence on surfing, creating novel wave riding tools such as the fish and the Min Sim.
Among this elite group of fiber glass and foam inventors is Daniel Partch, whose handcrafted marine plywood fins have helped propel these highly in demand boards.
From slant back keel fins to tri fins, quads, asymmetrical, cut-aways and single fins, Partch’s peers have continuously required him to push the envelope on one of the most important functions of a surfboard.

Some of the best surfboard shapers in the business have used  Daniel’s fins – such as Skip Frye, Josh Hall, Tyler Warren, Many Caro, Michael Miller and Michele Junod. He has also shaped fins for  boards created through the Swift movement, a collaboration of influential top shapers, surfers, designers and film makers in San Diego and Australia such as Hank Warner, Larry Mabile, Andrew Kidman, Rich Pavel, Bob Mitzven and Wayne Lynch. 
“He has a unique gift,” says friend and legendary surfer/shaper Skip Frye. “The whole surfboard process is an art form, so adding that to your board enhances the whole art characteristic of the board. “They also function well. Function is the first order of business.”
Daniel, who often listens to jazz and ‘70s disco while foiling fins, now uses our garage and backyard as his shop.
“It’s amazing how Daniel can pour such soul into something that is going to bring so much joy to someone’s life – sliding waves on a  custom board with a custom art fin,” says friend and shaper Josh Hall. “More important for me is that Daniel’s fins are a connection to a small group of hard core underground locals that I am very fortunate and proud to be linked with. Daniel embodies every aspect of a true craftsman, and it shows in every fin. He’s in a category that few people are in and who is highly sought after.”

You can also check out an interview Liquid Salt did with Daniel by clicking here.

Below are some of Daniel’s amazing fins/artwork. The photo of Kelly Slater holding a Tyler Warren Mini Simmons with Daniel Partch fins was taken by Steen Barnes. The radical 70s surfboard is one that Daniel shaped for a dear friend of ours. I've also included a photo of Daniel during his Desert Storm tour. Thank you for serving!

 *Thank you Daniel for your unconditional love, talent and daily inspirations.