Senior Editor

The Inertia

Cliff Kapono is a very interesting person. He’s a professional surfer, yes, but he’s a scientist too. He works to find climate solutions that might help surfing’s future.

He, along with fellow scientist John Burns, works in a lab called The Multiscale Environmental Graphical Analysis Lab, or “MEGA” Lab. Based in Hilo, it’s unlike any other science lab in the world. Its focus is on ocean conservation and studying coral reefs, climate change, and how humans are connected to the ocean. Inside MEGA’s walls, researchers attempt to figure out the best ways to develop technology that will provide solutions to the many problems we’ve created.

“Unlike other labs, it’s not just one school or one institution,” Kapono told Avery Schuyler Nunn for The Inertia. “MEGA Lab was created as a safe space for anyone to be a part of. We have artists, divers, builders, sailors, filmmakers, skaters, surfers. There’s no weird hierarchy. You don’t have to have all As or even go to college to have a place there. It’s really about people’s passion for the environment and drive to contribute to society on an impactful level.”

Growing up just outside of Hilo, Hawaii, Kapono loved to surf. He also loved science, and he felt slightly torn.

“It didn’t feel like there was space to be both an intellectual and a surfer,” he explained. “You needed to develop one or the other. Competition was the only way you could become valuable within the surf industry, and any other choice wasn’t necessarily supported.”

But like I said, Kapono is also a surfer, and a very good one at that. He’s a believer that different waves demand different surfboards — much the same as how one wouldn’t drive off the tee with a putter — and his recent film, Open Rhythms, celebrates that. “Filmed on location in Hawaii, the South Pacific, and West Africa,” Kapono wrote. “Not all waves are created equally, but they are all equally loved. Hope you enjoy it.”


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