You know that moment when you read a book or a quote by someone wise, and something just clicks and you think, “YES! This is perfect. I needed to read/hear/see this”. For the members of Bodhi Surf School, that feeling came to us when we learned about Wallace J. Nichols, a marine scientist and conservation activist, who uses science to prove why we as humans need the ocean and, consequently, why we should protect it.
Bodhi Surf discovers Dr. Wallace J. Nichols
It all started a few years ago when I asked the other Bodhi Surf members to write me a list of their favorite and most memorable quotes for an online poster campaign I was doing. The list was littered with the usual suspects: Rumi, Gandhi, Socrates, Lao Tzu, Einstein. But one of the Bodhi team members put up a quote that caught my attention, by someone I’d never heard of, someone with a very official name: Dr. Wallace J. Nichols.
A simple concept that is so self-explanatory, most surfers and avid ocean-goers would probably think that it seemed almost silly that it needs to have a credible source — someone with a “Dr.” in front of their name — to back it up. It was almost suspiciously simple, but as I started to research the man behind the quote, I understood the very lofty goal behind his mission, and how important his work is.
The surf & marine conservation world is indeed a small one. It turned out that around the same time, Travis reached out to A.J. Schneller who, at that time, worked for WiLDCoast (turtle non-profit in Baja California) because he admired his work in marine conservation. They became fast friends, and A.J. even came down and stayed in the Bodhi Bungalow. One night over beers, Travis got to talking about our Ocean Guardian Pledge, and how Bodhi Surf School was looking for ways to make it more tangible than just an online pledge. A.J. offered to put Travis in contact with Wallace J. Nichols (who actually just goes by his middle initial) because they had worked together in the even smaller world of turtle conservation.
At this point we could not ignore that all signs were leading towards this J. character and his work. We set out to discover more about him and the phenomenon that is the Blue Mind movement.
Blue Mind, conceptualized
“Blue Mind — Your Brain on Water”, is the official name of the movement. The two main premises behind this idea are:
- We as humans need the ocean and other bodies of water, they heal us, calm us down, make us feel good. So good, that we
travel huge distances to just get to the beach, pay exorbitant amounts of money to live near bodies of water, or to recreate them in our own yards.
I’m always happy when I’m surrounded by water, I think I’m a mermaid or I was a mermaid. The ocean makes me feel really small and it makes me put my whole life into perspective… it humbles you and makes you feel almost like you’ve been baptized. I feel born again when I get out of the ocean. ~ Beyonce Knowles
- Once we recognize just how much we need these natural sources of peace, tranquility, and positivity, we will work harder to protect them.
People protect what they love. ~ Jacques Cousteau
With those two things in mind, J. has essentially launched a crusade to prove, beyond a scientific doubt, that premise #1 is indeed true, to share the findings, and as a result, to encourage premise #2.
He has a cult-like following of people: those interested in the growing field of Neuroscience, marine conservationists, and ocean-lovers alike. He has been involved in a number of conservation projects around the globe, has released all sorts of studies, articles, and reports; he has authored two books and has started an annual workshop that hosts specialists of different fields to further the awareness of what happens to our brains on water, and why this is so important for the conservation movement.
Why this matters at Bodhi Surf School
“Only a surfer knows the feeling” — you may have seen this quote in it’s most popular form — as a bumper sticker; it highlights the perceived exclusivity of the sport, and yet there is something to it. Surfers spend a lot of time in or near the ocean, and the rest of the time pining for the ocean and/or trying to find ways to be in or near the ocean. Most surfers can indeed attest that there is a feeling — and it’s not necessarily just about catching the waves, but just getting in the ocean and being present with it — that seems to be unparalleled.
Equal parts stimulating and relaxing, exciting and peaceful, it takes the edge off of the negative aspects of life and reminds us how fortunate and amazing it is to just be, in this moment.
To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh, to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of year, to see the running of the old eels and the young shad to the sea, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be. ~ Rachel Carson
For us at Bodhi Surf School, the Blue Mind concept fits so perfectly with what we are trying to achieve as a surf school, which is to use activities like surfing and yoga to reconnect individuals with nature, and inspire future stewards of positive change. During our surf lessons, we highlight these three facts:
- Surfers love, need, benefit from the ocean; the ocean is the surfer’s playground.
- As humans, we have been shown to be at the very least cavalier, if not downright unkind to the ocean.
- It follows, that in becoming a “true surfer”, it is just as important to become ocean spokespeople and activists as it is to learn to stand up on a surfboard and ride the waves.
For that reason, we have made it our goal to push our [not-so-secret] agenda of helping create “Future Ocean Guardians” by presenting it as a something that is a staple of surfer-hood. A type of “usage fee”; a way to give back to the ocean which gives us so much.
Blue Marbles Project
We understand that we see the best sides of people while they are here on vacation: happy, relaxed, open. We take advantage of this unique moment, when our guests are feeling so connected to the ocean to delve into the mind-ocean-conservation psychobabble (because we find it so exciting and valuable and love to share) and hope that it will take. We hope that when they get home they will remember the things they learned during their surf vacation in Costa Rica, and more importantly, how they felt.
We heard about J.’s “Blue Marbles Project”, another concept that is so simple yet so perfect. A way in which to commemorate our “fragile, delicate” Planet Earth, and those who work to protect it.
The Earth reminded us of a Christmas tree ornament hanging in the blackness of space.
As we got farther and farther away it diminished in size. Finally it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful marble you can imagine. That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart. Seeing this has to change a man… ~ James Irwin
The aim is that a blue marble (representation of our earth, which from outer space appears blue because it’s surface is 71% water) should pass through the hands of every person on earth. As a reminder of what we have, and what we have to lose.
For us, the Blue Marbles becomes a perfect parting gift and token of our appreciation to our guests. For coming to us, sharing their time, wisdom, opinions, stories, and “stoke”, and for listening to us share ours. The Blue Marble is a tangible reminder of their connection with the ocean, how it made them feel, and their commitment to care for it, so that when they go home they keep it at the forefront of their mind.
Between January and August, we gave out our first 100 Blue Marbles to vacation guests of Bodhi Surf School and to the students that we helped host in our community through Global Leadership Adventures summer programs. We hope that, after their time here, the Blue Marble helps solidify the experience in the lives of these people and encourages them to move forward being Ocean Guardians in their own homes and communities.
Some Bodhi reading material
This summer, J.’s highly anticipated book, Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do was released, and Bodhi Surf has acquired several copies to add to our collection of must-reads for those who stay with Bodhi Surf School.
So just as a note to future Bodhi Surf guests: we hope that you too will enjoy the work of an individual that has inspired incredibly. That his work, which has motivated so many to begin their own Ocean Guardian Journeys, or to further themselves on the journey to being ocean stewards, will animate you in the same way it has us. Because that’s what this journey is about: coming up with new ideas, sharing those ideas, making connections with like-minded individuals, helping motivate others. And above all, being inspired to take actions both large and small, knowing that the smallest actions spread among large groups of people are what change the world and make it into a place that we can be proud is under our safekeeping.