Kelly Slater... The Pod is a collection of boards Kevin Ancell and myself collaborated on. After watching the movie #Blackfish, I was so moved and perturbed with the wild captures and captive breeding of the Orcas that I felt compelled to paint my boards to mimic their markings. Kevin and I had been thinking about something we could do together for a couple of years and we happened to be on a trip together just as the idea occurred. So the first board we did was painted in Kevin’s word art to say “BLACKFISH”. Kevin initially saw it as my project but asked if he could start adding some of his color into the messaging and the second board was painted in the “DFW” tag. Soon after these two boards were made I contacted Gabrielle Cowperthwaite, the writer and director of Blackfish, to get her blessings on the informal project. We spoke about the subject matter and ongoing story of the Orcas with regards to Seaworld and other marine mammal parks’ use (imprisonment?) of the animals and their captive breeding programs. Shortly after this conversation and a post on Instagram about the boards, I was contacted by Mark Simmons (works with Ocean Embassy) who previously worked with marine mammals for 14 years and has a further 17 years rescuing and rehabilitating them in the wild. He was interviewed, he says misleadingly, for the film. He had this to say... “The whales at Seaworld in particular are not suffering in any way, shape or form.There is peer-reviewed science that shows their population of whales out lasts two of the most studied wild populations (Southern and Northern Residents - Pacific Northwest) and is on par with the Alaska populations in terms of lifespan, longevity, infant mortality and average age of death.” They say you have to choose your battles wisely in life and this actually becomes a complex battle which dives heavily into money, personal emotions and belief, animal regulations, etc. I’m pretty clear where I stand on it after hearing two sides... the majority of these mammals were originally kidnapped from the wild or captive-bred, both things I simply believe are wrong. They spend their whole lives in small pools only a few times longer than their bodies. These are majestic creatures born to travel great distances and are, in my eyes, a symbol of freedom and individuality. They shouldn’t be on display for tourists to buy tickets to and make money for these parks. I don’t believe the people coming to these parks are the ones who need educating on these animals and there have been no studies linking that knowledge to any protective measures having been taken by that audience of people in the wild. When I asked Kevin Ancell what he thought about the topic he just said, “Free the fucking whales.” He also said he’d dance for you, too, if you ‘brought him the only food he had a chance to eat’ and he ‘was stuck in jail’. So we took that idea about freedom and applied it to our friends who have passed on that had an influence on our lives and have used the boards as plaques to honor those people...some legends, some surfers, some just friends we knew at home.They’ve drowned or disappeared at sea or died of disease or old age. One was even senselessly and mysteriously murdered in my hometown. I don’t have any tattoos so these are my markings. Our old friends are free now. We’re hoping the new ones can have a better future and be freed again or for the very first time one day.