A self-professed thalassophile, Gracie Teo’s flair for watersports is as boundless as her desire to protect the sea.

“I’m a watersports instructor at Ola Beach Club. It’s Hawaiian-themed, so you can take off your shoes, feel the sand in your toes and soak in the sun while doing some fun watersports. As night falls, you can order an ice-cold drink and enjoy a stunning view of the sunset.

Favourite aspect of the job? I get to wear a bikini all day. If you’re feeling hot, sweaty or dirty, you just jump into the water. Dealing with the ocean on a daily basis is also very humbling because Mother Nature always wins, so you have to respect it in the highest manner.

Of all the fun activities that we offer here, I do stand up paddling the most. It’s the most accessible. You just grab your board, strap on your leash and head out to the water with your paddle in hand. It’s the least complicated of the watersports, and I really enjoy it.

What paddle boarding does is slow down the process of exploration. When you stand on the paddle board, you see more things because your range of visibility is wider. And because it’s not a motorised sport, it’s quiet, so you get to be close to nature.

I’ve seen so much marine life and so many magical things while exploring the Southern Islands on my paddleboard. Dolphins; sea turtles; squids; crabs; seahorses; baby reef sharks; sting rays jumping out of the water, and jellyfish as wide as my outstretched arms.

When I started paddleboarding back in 2014, I remember seeing lots of trash floating on the water. One day, I decided to bring a trash bag with me and started picking up trash. People thought I was crazy for collecting rubbish out at sea on my paddleboard.

Most of the trash I picked up were single-use plastics; regular things you and I would use in our daily lives. Back then, issues like global warming and environmental conversation were not talked about much, so I went on my own journey of cultivating eco-friendly habits.

I started becoming more aware of how much I consumed and started reducing my waste and re-using as much as possible. I’m now that crazy lady who washes soiled plastic bags and uses them multiple times until they’re all tattered and torn before throwing them away.

To share my love of the ocean and raise awareness about the environment, I started The Wild Swells. It’s an initiative where I organise eco-paddling trips and bring people on a journey of learning as we explore the Southern Islands and pick up trash together.

We won’t be saving the world by doing this, but raising awareness of what’s happening out there is a good place to start. When you bombard people with information about global warming and what have you, it becomes overwhelming, so this is a gentler way to educate.

It’s a cycle. Whatever we consume and throw away will always come back to us or the people we love through the environment. I love marine life, and the ocean is my playground, so I want people to be aware of the impact of their actions.” – Gracie Teo

Interview by: Arman Shah