Meet Brianna Ortega, Surf Mermaid, Artist, Marine Conservation Educator, and Founder of Sea Together Mag

Uniting & rewriting women’s surfing through art, writing, and community.

Brianna Ortega carving it up for Ocean in a Drop California x Blue Mind

Brianna Ortega carving it up for Ocean in a Drop California x Blue Mind


Where were you born, and where do you live now?

I was born in Southern California, raised in California, Hawai’i, and Washington, and currently reside on the coast of the Pacific Northwest.

Where are your favourite waters?

I’m torn between tropical Hawai’i and 5mm adventures of the PNW. There are magical attributes to both places– in Hawai’i, the aloha spirit and the culture is so heart-filling, and in the Pacific Northwest, your adrenaline is the highest it’ll ever be and communicates with the wildness of the ocean and the rigid volcanic coastline.

Would you please share a favourite water memory or two?

I’d say one of my favorite memories is witnessing my stepdad (who taught me how to surf) have a stand-up barrel with dolphins surfing the wave with him. Sometimes, your favorite memories don’t have to necessarily be your own. Another favorite memory is swimming near the ocean shore in Central California, and a group of sea otters surrounding me. I also love to watch Pelicans surf, and obviously I love surfing myself as well.

Brianna Ortega dancing on a coldwater wave with ease and grace, for Ocean in a Drop California x Blue Mind

Brianna Ortega dancing on a coldwater wave with ease and grace, for Ocean in a Drop California x Blue Mind


How do you incorporate nature in your life, and the way you make a living?

I am an environmental interpreter, educating people everyday about environmental issues of the area, including what species of tidepool animals we have, and how the ocean is changing. I have a surf magazine called Sea Together, that I just started 6 months ago and I’ve been volunteering for it this entire time, which focuses on empowering and uniting women surfers through their celebration and personal relationships with the sea. The ocean is where I can feel the power and love of God in nature the most.

Living by the tides and sharing tidepool seacrets. Brianna Ortega for #OceaninaDropCalifornia x #BlueMind

Living by the tides and sharing tidepool seacrets. Brianna Ortega for #OceaninaDropCalifornia x #BlueMind

Why do you do what you do?

I wouldn’t have been able to volunteer on Sea Together 40 hours/week without the positive comments and messages that I’ve received from people around the world. It’s been truly incredible to see how people want this space to love and respect the ocean, surfing, and our varied identities within in. I’m so grateful for all the positive people in the world who form the environment for things like this to happen and I’m so thankful for everyone’s help and encouragement. I think that if you’re living out of a genuine place of love, then the world sees that and wants to come along for the ride and help you, collaborate with you, or support you.

Marine educator, writer, artist and grad student. Brianna Ortega for #OceaninaDropCalifornia x #BlueMind

Marine educator, writer, artist and grad student. Brianna Ortega for #OceaninaDropCalifornia x #BlueMind


What happens when you don’t have time for nature?

If I don’t make time for nature, I get depressed. Even if I go for a walk and look at plants, or a weed flower, and try to think of all of the things in nature around me that I’m grateful for, that makes me feel better. Nature also helps me with my Autoimmune Disease/Colitis and lessens my anxiety. The ocean is the cure-all.

Could you please share a time or experience where you felt lost in the crowd, like a tiny, insignificant drop?

I’ve been an outcast or a misfit for the majority of my life. I grew up moving, so I was always the new person. I still move, so I frequently go back to old places feeling like a new person or a bit of an oddball.

Another frequent situation is being either the only woman surfer at a surf spot or one of the few. This can be difficult when men may expect you to fail paddling into a wave if they haven’t seen you before and/or don’t remember you. Like, they’ll try to drop in on you, or paddle in front of you even though you were at the peak for longer than them, or if they are paddling back out, they won’t try to get out of your way when you’re on wave. This might be an issue for men too, but I just have noticed it more often here in a male-dominated lineup.
How did you turn that around, and how did you get back to feeling like you were a whole Ocean in a Drop?

 

Honestly, when I don’t have a sense of community with humans or when I feel detached from people, I go surfing. It is what reconnects me to joy and positivity and a grateful heart for the privilege of surfing and having health despite my Autoimmune Disease.

 

I remember the women surfers supporting me around the world and how women are uniting in support globally right now, and I tell myself to not be intimidated by any guy in the water; to not focus on them, but to focus on the ocean and my experience with the ocean.

Sometimes, people watch to see if you'd fall. Brianna Ortega proving them so wrong. For #OceaninaDropCalifornia x #BlueMind

Sometimes, people watch to see if you’d fall. Brianna Ortega proving them so wrong. For #OceaninaDropCalifornia x #BlueMind

Is there anything bothering you about the whole eco /green/conservation thing at the moment?

There are so many environmental issues and some of them that have personally affected my health have been air quality and water quality in the state of Oregon. Most people aren’t talking about logging practices, air quality, and groundwater. These are vital things that connect to the ocean.

I think we should also consider how we can limit our flying on planes and driving to save gas when we can instead of flying around the world with no purpose. Gas is plastic and I think a lot of surfers forget that, specifically when surfers fly around the world for photo shoots for brands every other week. I guess just kind of solidifying what things are most important to you in regards to the ways you can help the environment, as we all contribute negatively in our own way. But, if we are talking about plastics across Instagram, I think we should simultaneously be talking about gas too.

What do you find is working? And what change do you hope to see in this lifetime?

I think people talking about plastics on Instagram has really improved everyone’s knowledge of how we can damage the environment with plastic. I think social media is a great tool to spread awareness of environmental issues.

I’d like to see even a greater move towards fighting against toxic tap water that exists throughout the United States, along with toxic air pollutants like in Portland, Oregon (where I got Arsenic poisoning living there), along with nuclear waste dump sites like Hanford that has been leaking for decades and nobody is doing anything about it.

I also would like to see more talk about moving away from any paper that has not been recycled. Deforestation and clear cutting is both killing life and polluting our world and us.

Organizations like Surfrider Foundation in the United States have really helped change communities to know what is in their ocean water.

I also hope to see us moving towards answering questions like “how can we give back to our community” instead of always taking.

Is there anything you would love to tell the you from ten years ago?

It’s okay to be your weird, unique self. It’s okay to move a lot. Don’t wait to follow your dreams just because you think you can’t or you think that you’re not qualified enough. (Look at me–I started a magazine and still have no idea how to “make a magazine” according to society’s standards). Nobody is going to create opportunities for you to follow your dreams. You have to create those opportunities yourself.

Be aware of your thoughts and words as they guide the path of your life. Another important thing I’ve learned is do not be afraid to say no; if you always say yes to please others constantly, you’ll be living a life for other people. And if you do everything out of love and from your heart, you will never fail because love truly conquers all. Also, that community involves giving instead of always taking.

You can still have a disease and make a difference in the world through sharing your voice. And last but not least, you can be a small young looking woman and still create a magazine that goes around the world. Don’t worry about what you look like, and don’t worry about the people who don’t take you seriously and just get out there and do what you want to do.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Feel free to keep up to date on Sea Together and our next issue too. 🙂  And thanks to Candace for all her patience and kindness with me lagging on everything with this interview feature. And thanks to her so much for supporting Sea Together’s Kickstarter

Can I write who inspires me? 

My roommate Neek Mason for showing me that you can be a small person/woman who’s meek/humble, and still be successful at following your dreams and carving your own path as a strong woman.
Surfer Emi Koch really inspires me through her gentle spirit and her nonprofit she started called Beyond the Surface International.
Freediver Kimi Werner’s beautiful relationship with the ocean, sustainibilty, and her close connection with animals in the ocean.
Surfer Cher Pendarvis’ positive mindset and carrying love through all she does. Brittani Nicholl, a surfer from Australia who lives with Crohns Disease / IBD and inspires others through sharing her voice about living with chronic illness.
All my family and friends who have supported me through this journey, and thus, making it happen through supporting me.

Where can you find out more about Sea Together?

Instagram @sea.together.mag

www.seatogether.com

My personal Instagram is @briandthesea

Brianna Ortega Sea Together Mag Founder Artist Writer Environmentalist for #OceaninaDropCalifornia x #BlueMind

Brianna Ortega Sea Together Mag Founder Artist Writer Environmentalist for #OceaninaDropCalifornia x #BlueMind

28 May to 4 September 2018: #100DaysofBlue

Ocean in a Drop California x Blue Mind

Ocean in a Drop : A series of illustrations by Candace Loy, with each water drop shape filled with sea life and the life that water supports, of a country or state (e.g., California). The bigger vision is to use portions of profits from the sale of beautiful and unique merchandise, to contribute to local marine, freshwater education, research and conservation initiatives in the region depicted by the drop.

#BlueMind is a movement started by Dr Wallace J Nichols, who is also a successful turtle conservation researcher. He has done collaborations with many people including neuroscientists, to show the positive effects of being around water, on the brain.

Not only is there an increasing number of organizations supporting people in overcoming PTSD and other debilitating circumstances through water-based therapy like surfing and swimming; his message is to encourage as many people to reconnect and strengthen their bonds with water, and be inspired as a result to take care of waters across our blue planet.

Combining neuroscience, honouring emotions and using it to create more beneficial solutions for our planet and the life she supports. Here are some of his talks on neuroconservation.

Get a free copy of Ocean in a Drop California coloring sheet, share it with your students, colleagues, friends, and family. Be the one to add colour and creativity to their day 🙂

#OceaninaDrop + share your favourite water memory to inspire others, on Instagram and Facebook, and get featured xo