Photos by Shannon Hansen
I like to say I was raised with the water. Where the fine grains of sand meet deep, foamy hues of blue — the ocean has always been the place I’ve felt most at home. The sea holds a sweet and delicate piece of my heart that nothing can quite compare with. Before I could even walk, I was out on the water, riding waves off California’s coast with sea spray and family all around me. Before I could even comprehend that there was an ocean before me, it became a part of me.
I think my past with the ocean is why I’m so passionate about protecting it; it’s why I care so deeply about the animals that find their home beneath the surface; the deepness of the current below that is oftentimes forgotten by even those lucky enough to call its coastal reserve their backyard.
With roots that run to the depths of the sea, I’ve seen firsthand the joy that comes with a life on the water. My family business is a fishing and whale watching company, built from the ground up by my grandfather and now run by my father and my aunt with my older brother working alongside them as a boat captain.
My grandfather’s passion for the ocean drove his purpose for Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching — his drive to grow the community’s appreciation for the sea and the animals that reside within the ever-changing currents. As a young boy who used to roll his little red wagon to the end of the San Clemente Pier and offer to carry fishermen’s catch to their cars, his passion for fishing and dedication to his community ran deep in his soul.
Now at age 83, he’s spent more than 50 years as a captain, working toward the conservation of our oceans, our fisheries and all sea life that reside off the coast of California and beyond.
From a very young age, I experienced the beauty and splendor of the ocean and learned the importance of taking care of it. I learned just how easily litter and plastic on the streets can have grave impacts on the ecosystems that lie in deep waters. I watched as changes along the California coast created new limits and regulations for fishing; how whale migrations worked and what seasons each precious creature was going to be off our coast. I worked alongside my family at our business and learned the ins and outs of the sea and sea life, developing my passion deeper the more I surrounded myself with those whose appreciation for the ocean spanned decades.
My best childhood memories always go back to that little coastal town of Dana Point — spending countless days with the tides, swimming in the shallow water, fishing off the bobbing boats and working in the little old office that smelled of salt and brine in the charming little harbor I still call home today. The harbor where the currents lap against the old wooden planks of the docks, where boats drift back and forth in their slots, where sea lions bark and seagulls caw as they glide through the sky.
My heart lies in the depths of the sea and my soul tethers there. From that little seaside town that shaped me, to Malibu two hours north, my passion for the sea flourishes as my knowledge of the world expands. Experiencing the beauty and magnificence of the ocean first-hand pushes my desire to save and protect the grandeur of the sea for generations to come. With each majestic breach of humpbacks, spy hops of grays, and flukes of mighty blues — my appreciation for the sea and the animals that call it home grows deeper and deeper.
The brilliance of it all is unmatched to anything I’ve ever seen and the responsibility to take care of it and keep its beauty alive falls on our shoulders. We were all put here on this planet for a reason, one of which surely is to care for earth’s most beautiful and valuable natural resource.
Follow Shannon Hansen on Twitter: @shannnonhansen