Coral Reef Researcher/Surfer

Photo courtesy of Clinton Edwards

The Inertia

Over the years, surfing has drawn us to the beauty, power, and romance of waves such as Pipeline, Teahupoʻo, Cloudbreak, Padang Padang, and P Pass. But have you ever wondered what the reef looks like at these incredible locations? Imagine not only being able to find out what the reef looks like, but being able to also know if it is healthy or not. Is the reef more alive at Cloudbreak than P pass? Can we find the next cures to disease at second reef Pipe? Why do we put lime on our reef rash in Tahiti? These are the types questions that we are hoping to find answers to by mapping the underwater world at the worldʻs most exciting reefs.

Our project “Through the Surface” has consistently been ranking on the top of National Geographicʻs $50k expedition competition. The project has been selected as one of ten finalists out of over 700 proposed ideas to see which one is most important to the public. National Geographic has given the power to the people, who will ultimately choose which of the ten projects will become the next great expedition. The project with the most votes on September 29th will win the funding.

As avid surfers and enthusiastic scientists, Cliff Kapono and I have been working hard at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and University of California San Diego to develop the necessary tools needed to undertake such an ambitious project. My lab has become a world leader in coral reef high resolution imagery acquisition while Kapono has been working with his lab at the UCSD School of Pharmacy to see what types of bacteria and molecules are found on coral surfaces. Together, we’re providing a method of coral reef health interpretation that has yet to be seen.

“The global surfing and non-surfing community deserve to know what is happening in our oceans.” says Kapono. “We depend so much on the ocean and it is a shame that at the most famous pieces of reef, we know very little.”  Through the Surface will use a digestible online platform to provide the public with easy access to reef health. We want to be able to leverage the annual exposure that these breaks have to help educate the broader surfing community about the state of our ocean. We can’t begin to save our reefs if we don’t know what is going on right now. Let’s not waste the attention and shift it more towards understanding our ocean.

To vote, go to the NatGeo Website voting link, and to find out more, follow them on Instagram@thruthesurface, and like them on Facebook/ThrutheSurface


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