As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Depending on the day, when people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would answer that I wanted to be a world champion surfer or the President of the United States.
What was the most transformative course from your undergraduate education?
The most transformative course I took as an undergrad was a course on Embodiment Theory with Professor Sima Belmar. Professor Belmar supported the development of a powerful learning community that thought together and moved together. We explored theories and practices of embodiment through the lenses of critical phenomenology, queer studies, disability studies, and scholars such as Merleau-Ponty, Judith Butler, and José Esteban Muñoz.
You were previously a city councilmember on the Carlsbad City Council in California, after a remarkable career as a three-time world champion surfer. What inspired your professional shift from the career of an athlete to a career in public service?
Since 9/11, I had been asking myself how I might participate in the world in the service of social justice and peace. I was intensely curious about how social and environmental justice intersected locally and globally in surfing, which ultimately led to my interest in American public policy and politics.
When a local issue around the development of a mall adjacent to the Agua Hedionda Lagoon bubbled up at City Hall in Carlsbad, I joined my community in demanding greater accountability from local elected officials for under-addressed environmental concerns on the project. The community ultimately asked me to run for a position on the city council to ensure their voices were represented in the daily deliberations and decision-making of the Carlsbad municipal government. It was the honor of a lifetime to serve the people of Carlsbad during the time I was on council.
What advice would you give to current liberal arts & sciences students who are interested in careers in public service?
It is perhaps the work of our time to detoxify politics and to reinstill dignity and trust to public service. Those invested in careers in public service ought to lead with curiosity, center the public trust, and place the well-being and health of human and more-than-human relations at the forefront of policy-making.
What is the most memorable experience you had either as a city councilmember or when you worked with the California Assembly to develop and pass the “Equal Pay for Equal Play Act”?
The most memorable experience I had during my work with the California Assembly was testifying in support of the “Equal Pay for Equal Play Act” at the California State Capitol. I experienced the deep gender inequity of competitive sports beginning indirectly through my mother, who was a professional surfer, and later as a professional surfer myself. To put these intergenerational narratives and experiences of inequity and injustice to use in service to passing the “Equal Pay for Equal Play Act” was cathartic and healing. It remains a powerful lesson in my life regarding how gross inequities and injustices can serve greater social and political transformation. This is also an example of the potential of trauma-informed political approaches to social and political reform—that is, generative political practices that couple personal and community healing pathways with structural change for social good.
Phi Beta Kappa’s motto is “the love of learning is the guide of life,” and we are dedicated to life-long learning. What do you want to learn next?
What I am most interested in learning next is the history of the Acadians. During my final semester as an undergraduate, I began to dive into my ancestry using the genealogical research tools available through UC Berkeley. The research was for a class assignment that asked us to craft a Land Acknowledgement that was personal to each of us. While I knew I was descended from French-Canadians—my mother was the first in the family to be born in the United States—I was not aware of my heritage as Acadian until my research for the class. I am looking forward to researching Le Grand Dérangement and the Acadian diaspora.
Adjacent to research into Le Grand Dérangement, I am invested in learning more about epigenetic studies. I am especially curious about how intergenerational trauma is carried forward in cases of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
What was the best advice you were ever given and who gave it to you?
“Questions that proffer more questions are the finest questions indeed.” -Life
What book(s) are you reading right now? Are you listening to any podcasts or watching any shows? Anything you'd recommend?
Reading right now:
The Bathysphere Book: Effects of the Luminous Ocean Depths, Brad Fox
The Body in Pain, Elaine Scarry
The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse
Truth and Repair: How Trauma Survivors Envision Justice, Judith Herman, M.D.
Ologies with Alie Ward
Other People’s Problems with Hillary McBride, Ph.D.
Smarty Pants, The American Scholar Magazine with Stephanie Bastek
We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle, Abby Wambach, and Amanda Doyle
American Gods, Neil Gaiman
Aisthesis: Scenes from the Aesthetic Regime of Art, Jacques Rancière
The Critical Surf Studies Reader, eds. Dexter Zavalza Hough-Snee and Alexander Sotelo Eastman
Diving into the Wreck, Adrienne Rich
On Beauty and Being Just, Elaine Scarry
Published on June and 6, 2023.
Photo credit: Maria Cerda