Hi! My name is Rashid Clifton. I was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, but I have been calling Encinitas, California home for the past two years.

Tell me more about your relationship with public lands. What do they mean to you?

Public lands are, in my opinion, one of the most important resources that we have. Try to imagine NYC without Central Park… it would be pretty depressing. But now try to imagine a world without public lands and open spaces. That’s something I don’t even want to try to imagine.

I think humans need and crave public lands more than we know. Having access to the outdoors, away from the hustle & bustle of city life, helps restore that balance that we’re missing in our everyday lives.

How important is mitigating climate change to your life?

I feel like climate change drives a lot of the daily decisions that I make in life, such as the food that I eat, whether I drive or walk somewhere, or which route to take when I have multiple stops to make it more efficient.

I think it’s important that each person does what they can to minimize their footprint, so I try to do everything I can to make the least impact possible.

Do you find these passions tied to given environments or landscapes?

Absolutely! With whitewater kayaking, the river takes you to some of the most incredible landscapes you’ll ever see. You may be deep in a remote river gorge and come across some unique rock formations, waterfalls, tributaries, etc.

I think the coolest thing about it is that a lot of these places are only accessible by river, so only a few people have ever gotten to experience them.

How do you give back to your community or to the underserved?

I believe that teaching is one of the best ways to give back to the community. Someone taught me how to surf; someone taught me how to kayak. That introduction to those sports has opened so many doors for me, and I want to do the same for others.

Back in NC, I used to teach raft guides how to roll a kayak in exchange for dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant. And out here in CA, I volunteer with my friend Mario’s organization, Un Mar de Colores, as a surf instructor. Seeing the stoke on people’s faces when they roll up for the first time or catch their first wave is the best feeling in the world.

Is there a specific moment in life or a series of events that instilled in you a passion for your craft or passions?

My mom likes to enjoy telling the story of when we visited some family in LA when I was a kid. I was probably around 4 years old and we were catching the sunset on the beach under the Santa Monica Pier. I went down to the shore break and got knocked over by a wave, and ever since then you haven’t been able to get me out of the water!

Combine that love of water and desire for outdoor adventures, and naturally, I developed my passion for whitewater and surfing.

Do you have any “heroes’’ to speak of? How are you inspired?

My heroes are the people and communities that I surround myself with. I’m constantly inspired by my friends who excel at their craft or beginners that are willing to step out of their comfort zone to pick up a new craft.

And most of all, my family is a major source of inspiration for me. My parents have worked so hard to afford my sisters and I the opportunity to pursue our goals, so they’re always in my mind.

A key ingredient to building a sustainable future?

Spending time outside! The more time you spend communing with nature, the more you will want to do to preserve and protect it. It can be easy to hear about negative things like oil spills or microplastics in the ocean and feel removed from them as they’re out of sight. But as you spend more time in that environment, you’ll get fired up about everything from cigarette butts in the sand to nuclear waste being stored near the ocean.

Most sublime moment in nature?

Seeing the sequoia trees in person. I knew they were ancient giants, but seeing how colossal they are with my own eyes for the first time was mind-blowing! It’s hard to believe just how massive those trees are. I wonder about everything they have “seen” and experienced over the years.

Any big moments of Zen in the outdoors?

In spring 2018, I went on a two-week whitewater rafting/kayaking trip down the Grand Canyon. By the fourth day, I was in such a rhythm with the river and the landscape… It’s hard to describe, but it felt like I became a part of the environment. And being able to witness some of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever seen in my life was humbling.

Do you have a mantra?

This one is a little cliche, but I really resonate with the “leave a place better than how you found it” mantra. It’s a concept that I always try to abide by.