May 11, 2013

“Passion and Adventure – All in a day’s work”

Two of the most critical components of a meaningful life for me are passion and adventure.

How often does each of us get to experience both in our daily lives?

This week marks seven years ago since I moved from NYC to take the Executive Director position at Save Our Shores.  Many have asked me why I left everyone and everything I had known my whole life to come to Santa Cruz – a town I knew nothing about and where I knew no one.  The answer was my passion.  I had always been passionate about the environment and since I was a little girl growing up right by the beach on Long Island, I had a particular love of the ocean.  The job at SOS was a chance to run an organization that was all about protecting the ocean.  I jumped at the opportunity because for too long I had been in jobs that weren’t making enough of a difference and weren’t directly helping to improve our environment.

While it was passion that drove me to make the decision to come to a place where the ocean was on “the other side”, it was my love of adventure that literally drove me out here.  I packed up my red Chevy S-10 pickup truck and drove across the country, stopping at every national park that was reasonably close to my route.  I had no idea what I was in for when I would arrive in Santa Cruz and when I did the adventure didn’t stop there.  On my first day of work, I quickly found out it had really only just begun.

There were no staff to run programs and maybe that was because there weren’t really many programs running and maybe that was because SOS had very little funding.  But I loved Santa Cruz from the minute I arrived and I had come such a long way.  I was determined to do all I could to build the organization back to the strong leading non-profit it had been in this community.  This translated to working constantly;   late nights in the office until I would pass out from exhaustion, leading all of our beach cleanups and tabling events every weekend and attending every meeting I could to make connections and raise money.  If it weren’t for my passion to protect the ocean I don’t know that I would have been able to put in all of those hours.  So while I spent the past seven years working hard behind a computer in my office or in meetings in conference rooms, I never found enough time to be as connected to what I’m protecting as I wanted to be.  Until now, that is…….

On Wednesday I took a journey across the Monterey Bay in a small (17.5 foot) boat with Matt McFadyen and Cameron Webb of Peak Teams.  I had this rare opportunity to row and sail because Matt and Cam are taking their boat, “Fairmont’s Passion”, on an expedition through the Northwest Passage to the Arctic Circle this summer and they wanted to do this 25 mile training run.  I asked if I could come along so I could see first-hand the amazing beauty of our Sanctuary and the wildlife in it.  Because the expedition, “Beyond the Circle”, is a 2,000 mile journey where they hope to raise awareness about ocean protection and raise money for SOS, they thought it was a great idea to include me since we were already partners.  I thought it was a great idea too, three months ago, but in the days leading up to it last week, I thought I was out of my mind.

I had been out for the Wednesday night sailboat races and kayaked a few times in Santa Cruz but two hours on the ocean is usually the amount of time I’m comfortable with.  This would be six hours at least on the water in a very tiny boat.  Would I be cold, would I get seasick, would I get bored?  All of my fears seemed to fill my head the day before the trip.  Cam has said, “One way to make something big happen in your life that you’re not sure you can do, is to tell everyone you’re going to do it and then you’ve got to do it.”  Well that’s what I had done.  The press release already had gone out so there was no getting out of it.  I just hoped I would survive without being too miserable.

And miraculously, the absolute opposite of what I expected, happened.  I enjoyed myself so much that it felt like the best day of work ever!  Just being out on an adventure, doing something I wasn’t sure I could do left me with such a feeling of accomplishment – my words here can’t describe it.  Now it’s not like I was rowing the boat the whole way.  These two guys are the real adventurers.  They rowed for hours in perfect rhythm, making the task appear easy.  I was given the responsibility of steering the boat and using the compass – not so easy since I was hoping to concentrate on finding whales.  I did prove Cam’s theory that humans only have a nine second attention span.  I would be steering us straight and then a few seconds later I’d be leaning the tiller off to the right as my eyes drifted from my Monterey landmark in my search for whales (which I never found).  I did get a chance to row for a while (maybe because they wanted someone else to steer so we would actually arrive in Monterey at some point) and it was definitely not as easy as these guys made it seem.  I had to really focus so as not to continue to jam my hands between the oars which I did three times.  All I could think of was, this is just one day of rowing and these guys are going for 90 days of this to make their 2,000 mile voyage?!

Many would think they were crazy, as I may have thought as well prior to this day with them.  But I think now I get it.  Matt says there are three main reasons to do this trip:  1.)  To go where not many people have gone.  For me, I’m not sure how many other people have made the journey I did to be one with what they protect.  2.)  To get away from the hecticness of what daily life has become – the cell phones, the constant emails, etc.  And I must say for those seven hours I felt completely at peace, my mind was clear and I felt at one with nature.  3.)  To be able to come back and tell their story to others who haven’t made the journey.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to tell you here what my experience was.  It was a wonderful journey for me, witnessing first-hand the beauty of the Sanctuary, finding only two pieces of trash (a balloon and a potato chip bag), and seeing sea otters, seals, sea lions, cormorants and baby dolphins all swimming by us.  Watching the animals so seemingly happy in this Sanctuary, I felt like they were trying to say thanks to SOS because they were all doing so well.  That alone was enough to make me feel like all that work in the past seven years was worth it.

May 8, 2013

Save Our Shores Executive Director Sails Across the Monterey Bay for Ocean Conservation TODAY!

Save Our Shores Executive Director Laura Kasa is making the journey across the Monterey Bay from Santa Cruz to Monterey harbor in a 17 foot boat on Wed, May 8th.  Laura will be taking this long trek to document the wildlife and the beauty of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.  Laura hopes to increase the stewardship of the Bay by engaging more people in its protection.

Many people enjoy the Sanctuary by swimming, surfing, diving, boating, kayaking, or simply enjoying a peaceful walk along the beach.  Because we have a Monterey Bay Sanctuary we may see whales, but we will never see oil rigs.  We may not realize how fortunate we are.  Some even may take it for granted that we have this ocean in our backyard.  But now our ocean needs our help if we are going to continue to recreate in it, make a living from it, or simply enjoy peace of mind when walking on a pristine beach.

How do you Save Our Shores?

Laura is travelling across the Sanctuary in this small boat because she accepted an invitation from Matt McFadyen and Cameron Webb of Peak Teams for a training sail.  Matt and Cam are training to paddle in this 17 foot boat 2,000 miles through the Northwest Passage to the Arctic Circle this summer.  They are taking this treacherous journey through rough conditions for three months.  Throughout the trip they will be raising awareness about the ocean and raising money to support Save Our Shores and the Coastal Watershed Council, two local non-profits working to protect our watersheds here in Santa Cruz.

Cam and Matt are going to great lengths to demonstrate how they Save Our Shores.  But you don’t have to paddle 2,000 miles in the Arctic to show your love of your ocean.  There are many ways that you can give back to protect this ocean.  You can reduce your use of disposable items, volunteer at a local beach cleanup, support local bans on single-use plastics or learn more at
In this spirit of innovation and vitality, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts is proud to be the primary sponsor of Cam and Matt’s trip:  Beyond the Circle.  Fairmont recognizes the importance of having passions and creating memorable experiences.  Adventure comes in many forms and what heightens the senses and excites the mind, body or spirit varies considerably.  Fairmont Hotels & Resorts hopes this incredible journey will inspire others to take action in ocean conservation.

Come and welcome Laura, Matt and Cam after their sail!  They will be landing in the Monterey Harbor around 2pm.

May 6, 2013

Not-So-Secret Society

We wanted to share something special with you this week, the thoughts of one of our recent graduates of the Sanctuary Steward docent class of 2013, Ray Hocking:

       A couple dozen people sit in a dimly lit room.  Their eyes are fixed on an individual at the front.  The speaker delivers a powerful and passion driven address.  At times, grim images appear on the larger screen behind the orator, but the onlookers are not fearful.  On the contrary, the assemblage seems ignited to a restless stir, appearing ready to burst forth from their seats and through the doors.  These men and women, adults and children, gather together united in a purpose.  It is the apex of a revolution and they seek to sway the tides with sheer tenacity and power of will.  They will win by attrition and usurp the evil powers that stand against their noble cause...

A look back on history shows us that the fate of the world has often been altered in rooms such as this, by ardent individuals who seek to create a better living environment for themselves and those around them.  The primary difference between this group and many of the historical examples is that this is no secret society.  The challenge of this clutch is, in fact, to become more known by spreading a message to all.  Save Our Shores is more than just an organization, the words resonate as a call to rally our forces.  The name or phrase is rather well known in the Santa Cruz area and many locals have even attended one or more of their beach cleanups or other functions.  What is perhaps less known by the general public is how deep and true Save Our Shores really runs.  The Stewardship Program is an excellent way for anyone to get a better idea of this.

Most of us are aware that the current state of affairs on planet earth is not good.  Some of us are even cognizant of just how bad it really is.  While knowing the full extent of the problem is an unfortunate part of solving anything, the meetings of the Stewardship Program are focused on taking action and giving everyone who is willing to listen, the tools to making their actions more effective.  It is no exaggeration to call this movement a revolution.  A single-use, disposable economy is running rampant worldwide and needs to be stopped.  It has degraded our living situation to a critical level and it is time we take back our beaches! Take back our oceans! And above all, take back our precious planet!  As always, politicians and governments are slow to act and the power has always lain in the hands of the people.  We need not wait for policies and agendas.  In a united effort we can have a beautiful utopia of our own accord.

       We will stage our revolution in meeting spaces and on beaches!  We proclaim our message and advocate on behalf of a planet who has given us everything.  Mother Nature is putting out a call to everyone.  It’s not a call to arms, but a call to hearts.  Through the Save Our Shores Stewardship Program, people from all professions, cultures and viewpoints come together on a common topic.  People often find they have strengths that can help that they never knew existed or applied to saving the world.  Political views, societal views and everything else take a back seat for the members of this revolution except the resounding importance of saving our oceans.  All differences aside, we all stand to pay the same consequences if we do not act now.  Through local action, Save Our Shores has set benchmarks and precedents for others attempting to do the same across the continent.  These echoes are the sounds of sparks attempting to ignite.  It will be through continued efforts and increasing support if we hope to salvage our listing paradise.

       I implore you all to take this subject to heart and find any and every way you can to make a difference.  It may seem like a daunting task at first glance, and it can be difficult to figure out where to start, but fear not.  Save Our Shores has taken the guess work out of this part.  With the help of the S.O.S. crew, it becomes very evident how easily we can make a very positive difference.

-Ray Hocking, S.O.S. Steward Class 2013