THE ULTIMATE WATERMAN
Once a month, we’ll be featuring a #ParleyAIR Pledger who inspires us. First up: Zane Schweitzer. A waterman since birth, Zane holds 15 Word Champion titles and is a two-time Ultimate Waterman. He travels the world competing, teaching surf clinics to adults and children, spreading Aloha and sharing his story.
Influenced by the leaders of eco-activism, including those he’s met through Parley Ocean School, Zane focuses his speaking and event activities on promoting the health of our planet, especially the oceans. His mantra, “innovate and inspire” is at the center of everything he sets out to do — as he makes clear in his first book, “Beneath the Surface.”
In this interview Zane shares what inspires him to protect the world’s greatest playground.
“Just as a waterman is always taking on the challenge to adapt with the ever-changing conditions of the ocean, humankind must do the same.”
– Zane Schweitzer
What’s your earliest memory of the oceans?
Some of the more impactful early memories of the ocean I remember would include winning my first competition at 3 years old and being awarded with my very own longboard. I remember chasing my older brother, Matty, and his friends into the ocean in big surf when lifeguards would prefer me not to be in the water at my young age. Even learning lessons of surrender and going with the flow by body surfing strong waves with my father at Slaughterhouse at a young age, I must have been under 5 years old…
When did you first realize the oceans were under threat?
As a child, the first time I can remember being aware of the health of our oceans I was maybe 8 years old. For years my cousins, brother, sister and I would jump off the rock wall into the sand in front of my grandparents’ house in Kahana on Maui. Before we knew it the jump was getting bigger and bigger, till the point at which it was just too high for us to jump. I remember wondering, “where did our beach go?” This may very well be a natural event of accelerated longshore drift, but it was most definitely enough of a concern for me to become aware of the ocean in another way.
As a young adult in my early teens, traveling to countries like Peru, Brazil, Mexico and Thailand, I remember feeling a strong sense of gratitude for the ocean and beaches I knew back home in Maui. I didn't want my choices to contribute to this problem of plastic pollution, threats to coral reef and marine life that I saw more and more of as I traveled.
As a surfer, how do you view your role in marine conservation?
I believe that it is our responsibility as surfers to be guardians and ambassadors of the ocean. Personally, as a waterman and surfer I see my role in marine conservation being multi-faceted. Innovating the sports I practice in the ocean and inspiring the next generation of ocean stewards are immensely important to me. Growing up in Maui, I remember being influenced by ocean-people before I was influenced and enlightened by the ocean. So throughout my travels, I not only focus on innovating the sports in which I’m most passionate and being the best I can be, but also making sure to be a positive influence within the communities I visit and the kids I meet.
Rather than just breezing through a community or locale and enjoying their ocean and beaches, I act to make a positive difference and to learn from them. One way I do this is by hosting my not-for-profit kids clinics, "InZane Super Groms,” where we introduce and teach the local kids safe ocean practice with activities such as swimming, surfing, stand up paddling or windsurfing. Since 2005 I have introduced over 3,000 children to ocean sport all around the world and am always stoked to pass on and share the joy and love for the ocean!
What inspired you to write and publish Beneath the Surface? What's your message to your readers?
My biggest inspiration in creating Beneath the surface was the gift of a journal from my grandmother. With over 15 years of experiences with the world and its people packed into my journals, my grandmother made me promise her on her deathbed that I would share these stories and experiences with the world. Through the story my message stays consistent. It’s about embracing the attitude of gratitude and the relentless pursuit of your dreams through the experiences of my life. Most people who know me as a waterman and athlete are unaware of the passions and commitment that lie “beneath the surface.” In the book I share my hidden motivations along with the most valued tools that have allowed me to create my wave of success.
My goal for this book is not only for the readers to feel inspired to goal-set for their own personal success, but also to goal-set for the benefit of their loved ones and the environment surrounding them.
What other book(s) top your list of required ocean reading?
Maybe not quite themed around the ocean, but one of my favorite books is, "The Alchemist.” The ocean needs the world and its people to embrace a mind shift. I feel this book did that for me in many ways and was also an inspiration for the way I wrote my book. Another very influential book for me is “The Waterman- The life and times of Duke Kahanamoku” by David Davis. This book was another amazing gift from my grandmother and it inspired me with the life story and endeavors of one of my life long idols and legendary Hawaiian Waterman.
Who, or what, inspires you to take action?
The current devastating condition of the ocean may be my biggest call to action. Old ways, current life choices that people have become used to are not sustainable. Just as a waterman is always taking on the challenge to adapt with the ever-changing conditions of the ocean, humankind must do the same.
Innovation and inspiration are the cornerstones of my everyday actions. That is why I ask myself each day, "how can I Innovate and Inspire throughout my day?" The desire to innovate the areas in which I'm most passionate about and the need to find and share inspiration is what motivates me into action.
If you could have a conversation with any Ocean Legend, who would it be?
Duke Kahanamoku or Eddie Aikau. Duke Kahanamoku inspired me by being a role model for the world and for Hawaiians. I look up to Duke for his passion for sports and for sharing aloha. He inspired much joy by sharing surfing to people all around the world. He took his talent as an athlete and used it in many ways to make the world a better place.
What’s one plastic item you've eliminated from your life?
Utensils! I ALWAYS have a lunchbox on hand with my Parley bamboo utensil kit, re-usable water bottle and a plethora of Blue Life Tools for Blue Life Choices!
Are you an optimist when it comes to the future of our oceans?
I have to be. The ocean is so much more than just a place to practice sport and enjoy recreation. Ever since I could remember the ocean has been a playground, a place of refuge, a learning and growing environment and in many ways my church. It has always served as a place to connect with nature get grounded.
What gives you hope?
Sharing the love for the ocean with the kids and seeing how they put their accumulated passions and skills to use gives me hope for the future. I feel so much pride in the InZane SUPer Groms. I am grateful to have the opportunity to inspire and coach young people, especially when seeing these same kids helping out one another and taking on the responsibility to respect the beaches and ocean with Blue Life Choices. One example of that action is our Pocket Of Plastic Challenge!
One way people can make an immediate impact?
There is only one thing we have power over, and that is personal choice. The next time you have the power to choose, I challenge you to make a Blue Life Choice- Choose to not contribute to the problem and face the challenge to adapt your power of choice.
Favorite sea creature/spirit animal?
Dolphins are my favorite sea creatures because they seem to be so connected with one another and their environment- and they also seem to always be having a good time!! The Hawaiian green sea turtle has always seemed to a positive omen for me in the ocean, and for that I believe the Hawaiian "Honu" or green sea turtle to be my, "aumakua", or spirit animal.