Interview with REEF Ambassador, Dr. Cliff Kapono

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Dr. Cliff Kapono has joined surf brand REEF as an ambassador with an impressive lineup of skills. Not only is he a professional surfer, but he is an ASU University professor, on the Board of Directors for the Surfrider Foundation, a Saves the Wave Coalition Ambassador, Guinness Book World Record holder and more! He is the world’s only professional surfer with a PhD, which makes molecular bioscience and ocean conservation equal parts of his life.

REEF will be working closely with Dr. Cliff this year for different initiatives to help educate and promote saving the coral reef.

We connected with Dr. Cliff to find out about work, life and waves.

Hey Dr. Cliff, hope all is well with you. Congratulations on becoming a REEF ambassador. What excites you about the collaboration?

Mahalo! In addition to joining such an incredible team of ambassadors, I am equally as excited to work closely with individuals within the company itself. I know finding solutions that marginalize our environmental impact won’t be easy, but seeing REEF’s willingness to explore creative solutions is pretty incredible. 

What does a day in the life of Dr. Cliff look like? Do you have a consistent routine or is each day different?

Every day is kind of a new adventure. I would say swell, tide and wind dictate a lot of my daily operations, but for the most part I try my best to incorporate some sort of science into whatever I’m doing. Right now the waves are pretty flat so it is a perfect time to do some coral surveys at my homebreak. The reef is doing really well here coming out of winter/spring so it will be interesting to see how they respond to a little less wave action as we head into summer.

You have a unique position in the surfing landscape – pro surfer who understands the importance of ocean conservation. What are three things surfers can do to reduce their footprint or have a positive impact?

Even to this day, I am still learning how to be a better environmental steward. Like many I’m sure, I am constantly questioning the decisions I make whether it’s about transportation, energy use, or waste management. One thing that has helped me over the years to stay grounded is the understanding that I am not perfect. Once I accepted my flaws, I began searching for creative ways to address them. Even if it is as simple as supporting a local non-profit, donating old surf gear to charity or learning the history of your homebreak, being creative is probably the coolest way to join in on the cause. 

Who / what inspires you?

I find a lot of inspiration in the old stories. Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian alike. Our ancestors, no matter who they were, have a long history of adapting to the ever-changing world. I get super jazzed when I’m with a group of people and we start vibing on how the past can help promote a better future.

Connect with Dr Cliff Kapono


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