Part four of an eight-part series that examines how Bodhi Surf School ranks as an ecotourism destination, read part three here
Throughout this blog series, we have been analyzing how Bodhi Surf School has ranked in terms of ecotourism, using the template of Martha Honey’s seven essential qualities of ecotourism from her book, “Ecotourism and Sustainable Development: Who Owns Paradise?” Authentic ecotourism, Honey claims, involves building environmental awareness. Education can be quite an elusive quality to measure… who is it reaching? How does it translate to action? So… what is Bodhi Surf School actually doing to build environmental awareness within their community and beyond? Most importantly, how can we measure this impact?
Becoming a conscientious surfer
Bodhi Surf utilizes a special and unique teaching methodology during their surf lessons. Bodhi’s surf instructors include Travis, Gibran, and Adrianne, who employ a holistic design during their lessons — based upon the aptly-named “Circle of Courage” which is a teaching model designed for at-risk youth. The Bodhi Surf methodology is holistic in the sense that it addresses many different facets of what it means to become a surfer. Instructors analyze the conditions, show wave diagrams and pictures of the Marino Ballena National Park, talk surf history and culture, and initiate discussions about common fears and anxieties, to name a few. Ultimately, the goal is that students learn through experience; however, this way of easing slowly into the ocean allows students to feel more confident and prepared.
The four phases of this model include:
- Belonging / Attachment: Guests learn about surfing equipment, history, culture, etiquette, and the marine national park where they are surfing.
- Mastery / Achievement: The most time-intensive phase, students are taught to practice skills during which they receive thorough feedback. An increased awareness for the environment is fostered.
- Independence / Autonomy: The phase during which students practice surfing safely and successfully on their own.
- Generosity / Altruism: Considered the most important phase by the Bodhi team, it emphasizes using one’s position as a surfer as a way to direct our collective focus toward the health of the ocean. The Bodhi team aims to make their Ocean Guardian Pledge an offshoot of this final phase, which also permeates all the other phases.
Environmental awareness through community projects
The Bodhi Surf team is active in several ongoing educational projects within the community of Bahia Ballena – Uvita. During their monthly Service and Surf Saturday program, Bodhi staff team up with other community members, including Forjando Alas and Geoporter, to organize and execute a beach clean-up at Marino Ballena National Park. Following the clean-up, Bodhi owners give a free surf lesson to the young people who participated. During this event, pertinent information is shared with locals and foreigners alike regarding the current state of the park and why its wellbeing is important (i.e. the reason the clean-up is necessary in the first place).
Semilla de Ballena is an ongoing educational reforestation project that Bodhi Surf is involved in within the Bahia Ballena – Uvita community. One thousand trees were planted within the first year of Semilla de Ballena, from seeds collected from three types of trees native to the community: Soto Caballo, Manglillo, and Cedro Maria. Local organization, Geoporter maps the location and health of these trees in order to monitor their growth over time. Geoporter employees work with the children of Forjando Alas to raise awareness of the reforestation project.
Bodhi Surf has also worked with Geoporter on the Clean Streets, Clean Waters program since 2012. Beginning with organized trash clean-ups around town, awareness was raised of the trash problem in Bahia Ballena – Uvita. Geoporter has worked with other community members to map trash using GIS and create a map of trash “hot spots”. This information was used to install trash bins where these “hot spots” existed, which previously had no means of trash collection. The owners of Bodhi Surf have also worked with the children of Forjando Alas to create and post colorful signs around town that increase the realization of these issues, such as, “Yo no tiro basura” (“I don’t litter”).
Spreading awareness and resources for conservation
The OG Pledge, as mentioned above, is a way to spread awareness about our human responsibility to care for the ocean. Bodhi takes the pledge a step further with the recent launch of the “Ocean Guardian Digest”, a monthly Ocean Guardian newsletter, which provides individuals with tips and actions that they can easily take at home, as well as additional resources on current environmental issues and policy. The OG Digest is both forward and thought-provoking for those who are interested in reducing their impact, as it includes several surveys that inquire whether individuals are actually taking action. The OG Digest is delivered via email each month for twelve months.
Furthermore, the responses to these surveys are part of an official study conducted by Dr. Carter A. Hunt of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management at Penn State University to gain data regarding the long-term effects of visits to ecotourism destinations (namely, Bodhi Surf School) and pro-environmental behavior. The OG Digest is distinctive because it involves these follow-up surveys and study to measure whether taking a pledge translates to reducing one’s impact.
The impacts of awareness
Whether they are building signs, cleaning up trash, teaching surfing, or sharing crucial information through the OG Digest, Bodhi Surf strives to raise awareness. Environmental education is a slow process involving planting seeds within fertile minds, hoping they will grow to tangible effects. In some areas, these efforts are already visible, such as the hundreds of small trees that are now growing near Marino Ballena National Park. With the launch of the OG Digest and the accompanying study, time and attention will possibly tell how these awareness efforts have made an impact on the local community, its visitors, and the health of the world.
Read part five of the series here
Written by Sam Rose