"The O'Neill Sea Odyssey program is an extension of who I am, what this tight knit ocean community is all about, and is my way of giving back for all I have received."
We’ve asked Nikki Brooks, one of O’Neill Sea Odyssey’s long-time instructors, to share her thoughts about her unique connection to, and teaching experience with, the OSO program. Here’s what she had to say…
I have worked as an O'Neill Sea Odyssey instructor for 15 years and have seen thousands of children participate and benefit from this educational and adventurous program. The excitement, wonder, and pure joy that the kids exude is sincere and our community and the Central Coast is so fortunate to have such a resource. It is rewarding to share a passion of mine, ocean conservation and learning about marine life, with these students. The program leaves an everlasting impression on them, a wake resulting in ocean stewards.
I first boarded the Team O’Neill catamaran for a sailing adventure as a Capitola Junior Lifeguard in the 90’s. After receiving my BS in Biology from UC San Diego, I worked as crew on a boat in Lahaina, Maui, as part of a humpback whale photo identification project, and upon returning to Santa Cruz in 2002, I became an instructor for O’Neill Sea Odyssey. I was able to apply my studies as a marine biologist and my love for the ocean in a part time, seasonal position. For a brief time between 2005 and 2007, I resigned from instructing to enjoy time with my baby daughters, but I knew I would always return to the program. For me, being a part of the O’Neill Sea Odyssey family has enabled me to pursue a lifestyle of being in rhythm with the ocean. As a 3rd generation Santa Cruz surfer (my daughters are 4th generation surfers), I have spent the past 15 seasons alternating between surf photography, surfing and working on the O’Cat. I feel very fortunate to work for Jack O’Neill’s passion project, as Captain O’Neill is someone I deeply respect for his pursuit to live a life surrounded by the ocean and making it his mission to give back. The O’Neill Sea Odyssey program is an extension of who I am, what this tight knit ocean community is all about, and is my way of giving back for all I have received.
Just as the path of the fish is not planar, nor does our life path need be. We may not live in a fluid environment, but our lives are in constant flux. If we choose to follow our passions and interests, we will come across other like-minded people. Collaboration between people fueled by a common thread creates a web. The web is a community that can accomplish many great things. I think of my connection to the OSO program as a part of a web, and we all have a role to fill to support our community by conserving our resources and protecting our ocean ecosystem. Strengthening this web by educating our youth about ocean conservation fuels a passion and a love in them for the ocean, ultimately creating stewards that will protect and care for the ocean for generations to come. It is a symbiotic relationship we have with the sea, for as much as she gives us, we need to give back. O'Neill Sea Odyssey is as excellent forum to achieve this and it is my pleasure to be a part of this organization.
What does the ocean mean to you?
The ocean is the source of my inspiration as a photographer, its mysteries and ever changing beauty entice me. The ocean is rejuvenating for my body and soul and cleansing for my mind and provides us with vital nutrients and oxygen. The ocean is an outlet for my energy and where I seek my thrills as a surfer/swimmer/paddler/sailor. The ocean has bonded me to my surfing family both immediate and worldwide. As ocean stewards, we must be willing to make sacrifices on nature’s behalf since we cannot thrive if our ocean is not cared for.
Thank you, Nikki, for your dedication over the last decade and a half, and for being a role model to OSO's Ocean Stewards and our greater ocean community. We are grateful for your continued mentorship, photography, and support.