Go back

Spotlight: Ocean Defenders

Published by Eve Palmer,

It's World Ocean's Week and to celebrate, we're highlighting inspiring individuals who are doing their part to defend our beautiful oceans.

Meet kitesurfer, entrepreneur, and ocean defender Sensi Graves

Sensi Graves looking calm with the caption "Ocean Defender"

1) Where is your favorite place in the world to kiteboard?

My favorite place in the world to kiteboard is Hood River, Oregon. It's funny because Hood River is now my hometown and I kite here multiple times per week. But it has yet to lose its allure! Or perhaps I enjoy kiting here so much because it is home! That familiarity and comfort just feels good. Besides that, Hood River boasts epic conditions. We have a variety of spots to kite and therefore I enjoy getting on the river on a variety of watercraft; from foil boards to surfboards to hitting features in our floating park, I can always mix it up to avoid boredom on the water. Finally, the epic and towering face of Mt. Hood is visible from the water and makes for an incredible backdrop. The mountain's awe-inspiring nature never ceases to amaze me.

2) What makes your bikinis sustainable?

My swimwear brand, Sensi Graves Bikinis is made entirely in the United States from recycled plastic bottles and reclaimed fishing nets. We use recycled hangtags, all certified backyard compostable polybags, and compostable shipping bags. We donate 1% of our sales to environmental groups and offset all of the carbon that we produce as a brand. Each year, we evaluate a part of the production process to see where we can use less, reduce waste or improve our process.

Are we truly sustainable? No. Our suits still shed micro-fibers, we throw away the offcuts from our fabric (the leftovers from when we cut out the suits) and we use bra cups made from synthetic materials (oil). The truest definition of sustainable is “capable of being sustained”, and right now, we utilize virgin materials and don’t have an end of life cycle game plan for our swimwear (they go into landfills). And yet we are committed to transparency and increasing our sustainability year over year. We’re committed to becoming better, every single day. It’s our job and our responsibility to make sure that happens. I’ll be working on it.

3) When it's safe to travel again, where is the first place you want to go?

So many places! I'm thankful to have the ability to travel and the privilege that I have in my life does not go unchecked. I'm grateful every day for all the places I've been and yet the world is an immense place and there are many more locations I hope to venture to. On the top of the list right now is a surf trip...I've been chasing kiteboarding locales for so long that surfing destinations have started to surpass kiteboarding spots as my destination of choice. That feeling of riding a wave is like no other...

Meet underwater photographer Terry Flanagan

Terry Flanagan in a wetsuit on a boat, eating Akua Jerky. Captioned "Ocean Defender"

1) OK, what's the obsession with cow tipping?!

First off, I never tipped a cow so just want to get that out of the way! I grew up in a small city called Columbia, Pennsylvania. We have a lot of cows around and I like to joke around so I thought of the name and it was kind of catchy. I joined the military and got stationed in Germany before getting moved to Hawaii so I made my Instagram name that and just stuck with it. 

2) What tips do you have for others who want to get into underwater ocean photography? 

My first tip for aspiring underwater photographers would be to take a Scuba course or free diving course before getting into the photography portion. I am a PADI Divermaster and Fii level 1 free diver. These courses not only teach you fundamentals of diving but also safety. Safety should always be your number one priority in the water as the ocean is not forgiving sometimes and you are dealing with wild animals often in their environment. Accidents can happen so it's best to be prepared to handle them and these courses are amazing at getting you ready.

After you take the courses though, I recommend doing a lot of research on gear and maybe starting with a GoPro or Aquatech Axis Go. Underwater housings can be expensive and if you're not going to use it often it may not be the best investment. I highly recommend doing research.

I got lucky to have an amazing friend who got me squared away right the first time and Reef Photo is full of experts who guided me on getting the right gear that would work together. Underwater photography is vastly different than land photography so do your research.

After you find out you like it then invest in a better setup. The most expensive housing and camera doesn't mean the best photos. I have friends who shoot on cheaper Sony cameras that get better photos than me often. I would highly recommend a wide lens to start with unless you're going for macro.

Lighting is also important. You can use ambient light and get good results but I prefer to use my Light and Motion Sola 15000's on dives. They are an awesome company and you don't need the 15000s to get good shots but lighting is huge underwater as you go deeper especially since colors disappear. There is a ton more to underwater photography so do your research or reach out and if I got time I don't mind helping!

3) Spirit animal? 

Hawaiian Monk Seal chilling on a beach

Spirit animal for the ocean would have to be a toss up between the Tiger Shark and Hawaiian Monk Seal. I have a passion for both. The tiger shark is so big and powerful but they are very cautious in how they move. They are not mindless killers like they are made out to be. I've only seen a few but wow, just amazing animals. I also love the Hawaiian Monk Seals. There are less than 1,400 left in the world and they are just so awesome to see in the water. They move so fast and they can get curious and angry quickly. They are so graceful to watch play and very loud. I love doing hikes on Oahu and seeing them on the beach resting. They are a protected animal in Hawaii and if you are ever blessed to see one don't get super close. Observe them from a distance and be happy you got to see an animal that may not be around much longer.

Meet Wildlife Conservationist and Filmmaker Stephanie Arne

Stephanie Arne staring off to sea, eating Akua jerky. Captioned "Ocean Defender"

1) We love your pilot for “State of the Earth"! What is your favorite story of nature's resilience in light of the global lockdown?

Out of all of the stories we shared on State of the Earth, I would say hearing that people could physically see and smell the difference in air quality when humans cut back on using fossil fuels. This provides people with a shared experience of visual proof to grab ahold of when fighting for cleaner air for the benefit of all living things both at a local and global level.

2) What is @curiositystream and what does it mean to be an ambassador for them?

CuriosityStream is a streaming platform full of fun and engaging nonfiction science shows and films enjoyed by people of all ages. As the Wildlife and Conservation Ambassador, I share important stories about wildlife to the world through my lens as a professional conservationist, as well as represent CuriosityStream online and at live events around the globe.

3) Spirit animal?

My spirit animal would have to be a California sea lion. Not only are they social, adaptable, and playful which makes them quite relatable to me but they also forage for a diverse and delicious diet of fish, bivalves, and cephalopods. Who doesn't love a buffet of snacks at your flipper-tips? I mostly envy their flexibility and speed in the ocean. As a human scuba diver, I am limited in my underwater movements but while diving with a raft of sea lions, I can do flips and turns with them but I can only dream of the ability to weave between giant kelp then porpoise out of the water with ease like a sea lion.

Meet Scuba Diver and Fish Fanatic Caitlin McCall

Caitlin McCall eating Akua jerky on a beach with the caption "Ocean Defender"

1) Where is your favorite place in the world to scuba dive?

My favorite place so far hands down was the Great Barrier Reef. I had the pleasure of experiencing it with my parents while living in Australia and it's something I'll cherish forever. I have a video of my Dad and I dancing underwater with a Hawksbill Turtle and it's pretty much my favorite thing ever.

2) Tell us what makes @stream2sea better than other reef-safe sunscreens like @rawelements?

In a nutshell, Stream2Sea is the ONLY mineral based sunscreen that's been tested and proven safe for freshwater fish, saltwater fish, and coral larvae, AND has passed the stringent HEL Labs Protect Land + Sea certification. No other sunscreens can boast this much testing, and Stream2Sea paid out of pocket for it to ensure that it's safe for the environment because that's what S2S is passionate about.

3) Spirit animal?

Hmm... I'd probably say a dolphin. I LOVE how they play in the waves and show off with flips in the wake of boats when they know everyone is watching. They're also emotional and intelligent... and so stinkin' cute! :)

Know an ocean defender who would like to do an interview and get free Kelp Jerky? Let us know!


never miss new kelp based products and promotions