Cliff Kapono – How We Are Physically and Emotionally Connected to the Ocean


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Cliff’s Wild Idea: To discover what is happening biologically when we are out in nature. And how outdoor enthusiasts are connected to their environment scientifically.

Cliff Kapono is a surfer and scientist from Hawaii. After discovering his love of the ocean at a young age, he later connected it to biology and chemistry, earning a graduate degree in biotechnology from University of Hawaii and working toward a PhD in chemistry from UCSD that he will finish next year.

Cliff’s work is all about using science to relate to nature: what happens in our bodies when we spend time outside, and what is biologically happening when we get that feeling of being connected to nature. His current project, The Surfer Biome Project, looks at how surfers relate to each other and to the ocean.

Hearing Cliff talk about his work, his love of science, and his passion for his native Hawaiian culture is inspiring. We talk about his recent work connecting with and swabbing surfers, his favorite boards, how to be a citizen scientist, and why being an academic can in fact lead to an awesome lifestyle.

Listen to this Episode if

  • You want to save the ocean.
  • You’re interested in science.
  • You’re a surfer.
  • You love Hawaii.
  • You feel connected to the environment.

Key Takeaways

  • 5:00 – Where Cliff fell in love with surfing.
  • 6:30 – Why Cliff didn’t really compete in surfing growing up.
  • 8:10 – How Cliff combined science with his love of surfing.
  • 10:45 – What you can do to protect the oceans.
  • 12:00 – What the Surfer Biome project is.
  • 13:40 – How Cliff connects to surfers for research.
  • 15:20 – How you can help the world with citizen science.
  • 17:00 – Why he’s studying the gut health of surfers.
  • 19:30 – Cliff’s scientific drive comes from his native Hawaiian upbringing.
  • 22:35 – How Hawaiians had ice cream 200 years ago.
  • 24:45 – Cliff’s education in Hawaii.
  • 27:35 – What GMOs are, plus their pros and cons.
  • 33:10 – What’s next in Cliff’s studies.
  • 34:00 – How to learn more about science — from GMOs to gut health.
  • 35:45 – Brands are now connecting with people that aren’t athletes.
  • 38:50 – What makes an eco-friendly surfboard.
  • 42:00 – Just go outside.

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