BIG SKY WIRE: Peggy Oki
The girl from the influential Team Zephyr (Dogtown and Z Boys) talks to Coastalwatch about surfing, and campaigning for the rights of sea creatures. Awesomeness!
By Michele Lockwood
As a skateboarder, Peggy Oki broke the gender barrier as the lone female Zephyr team rider. Her iconic style mirrored her fellow Dogtown Z-Boys. As an avid surfer, she has travelled the world in search of warm uncrowded waves. As a passionate environmentalist, Peggy Oki has headed numerous campaigns voicing concerns for the health and safety of sea creatures throughout the world’s oceans. Her full-time commitment to these causes has inspired action in people all over the globe. For many years now, Peggy has been a personal inspiration to me on so many of levels. She truly brings higher meaning to the word ‘radical.’
CW: You grew up skateboarding in Santa Monica in the 70’s and in the very alpha male world of the Dogtown Z-Boys crew, you were the only girl. Firstly, what attracted you to skating, especially in a time when few females were stepping out of the gender barriers surrounding extreme sport? And secondly, in terms of entering into the boys club that was the Zephyr team, did you get involved by being bold, naive or simply oblivious?
PO: I was skating before my teens, then got into other activities such as bicycling, and motocross. When my brother made a skateboard for me with polyurethane Cadillac Wheels, it was “safe” to skate again. Soon after I began to surf, gave up the motorcycle (it was fun, but not in alignment with my caring about the environment), and was skating more to hone my surf moves.
I was invited to be on the team, and didn’t feel that I had to do anything to be accepted other than just skating. Getting out there with Z-Boys was a very memorable fun time in my life.
You have travelled all over the world in pursuit of idyllic surf locations. Can you tell me a little about one of the most memorable spots you’ve surfed and why?
If I tell all of the most memorable spots, they’ll get more crowded, right? (laughs) The beauty of surfing is that the ocean is different everyday and it offers experiences and beauty wherever you go. I also enjoy the enrichment of learning about other cultures when traveling for surf. Some of my memorable surfs have been where the water is warm: Hawaii, Indonesia, French Polynesia, Central America.
Anyone who knows anything about you, knows of your unwavering passion for the rights and protection of animals, with a focus on cetaceans. You have been a relentless force in creating awareness and action towards the problems faced by sea creatures. Does this work ever get you down? How do you stay positive in the face of so much cruelty?
It’s hard work sometimes and seeing the cruelty inflicted on so many sentient Beings on this Earth can really get us down indeed. Acts of cetacean slaughter, such as whaling and the killing of dolphins around the world (Japan, Faroe Islands, Solomon Islands, the list goes on) are unnecessary and not regulated by the IWC or any governments.
I stay positive in knowing that more than ever, through important documentary films such as “The Cove”, “Earthlings”, “Green”… people are becoming aware. And thanks to networking via the internet, people who care are uniting to take action.
In 2009 serving as Cove Captain of “The Cove” screenings in Santa Barbara, I saw how many people were blown away to finally learn what I have known has been going on for decades. Very few people were informed about these issues. Until watching “The Cove” people didn’t know who long-time activists Ric O’Barry, Hardy Jones, Captain Paul Watson were and that they are fully dedicating their lives to saving cetaceans. Their perseverance and knowing that at last many more people are now standing up for our fellow cetaceans has helped me to remain positive.
Can you tell me a bit about the Origami Whales Project? And also about your efforts to save the last remaining Hector’s and Maui’s Dolphins.
Since 2004, the Origami Whales Project (OWP) has worked to raise awareness concerning threats to cetaceans through its stunning and memorable "Curtain of 36,000 Origami Whales." Created by thousands of concerned citizens across the globe and exhibited throughout the world. This large-scale public art project serves as a powerful visual statement and memorial for the thousands of individual whales killed since the 1986 ban on commercial whaling. As urgent need for cetacean rights activities arise, the Origami Whales Project has expanded with additional outreach and education programs, creating "Curtains" of origami dolphins and whales in United States, Japan, Dominica, and New Zealand.
Considering the numerous anthropogenic (human-caused) threats to cetaceans and their ocean worlds, I decided to create a 5 day workshop, the Whales & Dolphins Ambassador Program. This has been the third year of educating youth as stewards while empowering them through various art activities including art action letters. It’s been fulfilling and encouraging to do this, and I offer the course wherever possible.
I began learning about the critically endangered Maui's and Hector's Dolphins of New Zealand about 7 years ago when I volunteered to help with art activities at Maui’s Dolphin Day in Raglan. Since then, I’ve organized some sort of art for cetaceans at the event. In 2009, I was shocked to become aware that there were only 111 Maui’s (a subspecies of the Hector’s) Dolphins left. So I created a “Curtain of 1,111 Origami Maui’s Dolphins.” One of my friends, a local school teacher got her students involved, and through WWF NZ were offered an opportunity to present the curtain to Prime Minister John Key. He declined to meet us so then the curtain went on public display first at the TePapa Museum (national museum in Wellington, NZ), then to the Waikato Museum.
The main cause of their death is by drowning in particular gillnets, used by commercial fishing trawlers. Unfortunately, the PM and New Zealand government have not taken adequate measures to protect the Maui’s and Hector’s Dolphins.
This year, I created the "Let's Face It" Visual Petition campaign, collecting photographs of people with images of Maui’s/Hector’s Dolphins. This idea came from my previous involvement in the Visual Petition initiated in 2008 by Surfers For Cetaceans.
Since then, it was announced that 55 Maui’s Dolphins, with less than 20 breeding females, at a maximum of 79 remain. In early April, one thousand "Let's Face It" Visual Petitions were printed, sets of these were hand delivered to the New Zealand government. A couple of combined campaigns presented over 65,000 online petition signatures to the NZ government in May of this year. The government’s interim response measures failed to reflect these requests to fully protect these and the Hector’s Dolphins.
So I decided to continue with my campaign. We now have over 3,400 "Let's Face It" Visual Petitions, with a goal of 5,500 by the end of September. With enough people getting involved, we can reach this goal. I invite everyone to have a look, see how easy and fun it can be to be a voice for these dolphins at such a pivotal time to their survival. The New Zealand government will be announcing their Threat Management Plan in November. I ask everyone to tell them the Maui’s and Hector’s Dolphins are running out of time. “Let’s Face It,” Extinction is Forever!!
What are a few simple things we can do to give something back to the Mother Ocean playground that unites us as surfers and gives us so much joy?
- Please be mindful of the impacts we create on this planet: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
-Pick up rubbish every time you walk up the beach
-Say NO to plastic bags
-Support your local organic farmers and use truly sustainable household products.
-Be mindful about the use of resources including fossil fuel consumption by consolidating the use of automobile errands, ride a bike or walk whenever you have the option, besides it’s healthier for you.
-Ask yourself what cause you are most passionate about, and then give one hour or more each week to support that cause. Imagine what can be accomplished when more people become involved.
Here’s one of my favorite quotes that I’d like to add:
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has!"
And may our numbers grow ever larger and stronger!
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