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Above And Beyond A Surf Shop

Jul 4, 2008
When you hear the name O'Neill you immediately think of surfer dude's with their surfer's hair, bronzed bodies and wetsuits. The name has come to be synonymous with surf clothing after Jack O'Neill set up the original surf shop in the Sixties. Up until that point, all surf shops had stocked surf boards but it was O'Neill that was supplying the only surf clothing. In fact, it is believed he was responsible for the first wet suit designs.

However, Jack O'Neill is also responsible for disadvantaged children learning about the environment and marine life on his O'Neill Sea Odyssey Programme. This aims to teach children all about the environment and the effects people have on it. Producing children that are much more aware of the impact they have on their surroundings and how they can help or hinder it can oly be a good thing.

This course, in Santa Cruz, California takes place on the Team O'Neill 65' catamaran over three hours. There is also on-line education tools that schools can use in conjunction with the course and, although it is relatively short, it gives these kids a good grounding in the understanding of ecology, navigation and marine biology.

So, what is the point of it? Well, the kids learn that while sports people are often hailed as heroes, everyone still needs to be responsible for their place in the world and the impact they have on it. They will learn about marine biology. This is the study of living organisms that occupy our waterways, from fish to corals. They will learn how the forces of nature change the marine habitat and the effects that mankind also have on it.

Marine biology is a science that can take many years of study to get to grips with. Even then, ideas are constantly changing, as is the environment. Marine habitat and the relationship between oceans and the environment are touched on during O'Neill's short course and this will be enough to tell these children whether or not they are interested in it enough to take up a similar course on leaving school.

Also studied on the Sea Odyssey Programme is Ecology. This is a very important subject for today's youngsters to understand. There is much in the press about mankind's effects on the world around us and to see it with the clarity that a short burst of information can provide, it will probably have a more far-reaching impact. Ecology is a science all its own studying the distribution of organisms and the interactions between them and their environment, including the effects of climate and geology.

The navigation part of the course involves learning how to plan, read and control the movements of those who are moving around the sea's, particularly while they are studying the ecology. There is no point in understanding our impact on the environment if we have no way of controlling it while we study it.

This course, as I said earlier, is predominantly for disadvantaged young people. For those who get this opportunity, many would otherwise have never known about the possibilities and options open to them to study their environment and to be able to give something back. It means that this is just one more opening to get their minds active and show them that, whatever their background, they can make a difference. Just as O'Neill has done when he could so easily have made a comfortable living simply from selling surf clothing.
About the Author
Environmental expert Catherine Harvey llooks at how a shop for surf clothing led to an ongoing education programme.
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