Dr. Sylvia Earle plays many parts. Marine biologist. Mother. Environmentalist. Author. Scuba diver. Researcher. Lecturer. Pioneer. Former (and first female) Chief Scientist of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration – that’s NOAA to us. But, most expertly, she plays the role of explorer — so much so that she is one of National Geographic’s explorers-in-residence. At 78, she has gone on 100 expeditions and spent 7,000 hours underwater. She also held the solo sub dive record of 3,300 feet until director and fellow explorer James Cameron broke it. And her explorations continue, to this day, to lead her further and deeper than the eye can see, from where she returns with invaluable lessons to share with the rest of the world.
Her most recent effort to educate what she considers a largely undereducated and thereby underserved public is Mission Blue. Directed by respected filmmaker and avid scuba diver Fisher Stevens, the documentary chronicles Dr. Earle’s life-long pursuit to first learn about then save the oceans. Her travels have seen both astounding results, intangible and tangible, including a 20,000 plant specimen collection currently housed at the Smithsonian for research and conservation purposes. Time even once called her a Hero for the Planet.
To her, surfers ought to play the same part: “[We] see what others do not.” And similarly, the future depends on us. It is up to us to educate others, fellow surfers and non-surfers alike. The ocean needs an ally as much as we need the ocean.