My name is Risa. I am half black and half Chamorro. I grew up on an island called Guam and moved to San Diego when I was 13. I’ve loved the ocean and everything about it for as long as I can remember. I am really involved in my community and enjoy it.

I sit on the executive committee for Surfrider San Diego. In addition, I am the founder of a non-profit called Paddle for Peace, whose goal is to promote and foster an environment that is authentically diverse in the world of ocean conservation and activism. We also offer free surf lessons to the BIPOC community in hopes to diversify the surf lineup and make it more inclusive to people of color.

I am a mediocre surfer who loves to travel, eat plants and spend time at the beach. I am an experimentalist and a bit of a rebel. I balance some of my rebellion with lots of community work :)

Can you tell us a bit about your passions beyond “work”?

My passions are many. I am a creative, so creating things is something that I enjoy in my life daily, whether it’s food, literature, a business, an idea, or a simple Instagram post. Creating to inspire is important to me.

Like many, I love to travel. My passion for traveling encompasses so many things. I love to learn about and experience new cultures. I feel that every culture has something we can learn from and apply to our day-to-day lives. Trying different foods and practicing or learning about societal norms in different countries is very enriching also.

I love to surf. Surfing provides a nurturing environment for me to release my stressors of everyday life on land. Surfing also teaches me patience and reading beyond words. Surfing gives me an adrenaline rush and a sense of calm, all in the same token.

Another passion of mine which is teaching others directly ties into ocean conservation and social activism. I want to diversify the surf lineup and the activist world. I want to change the way these industries are seen by creating an inclusive environment that is more welcoming to and reflective of people of color.

There are so many people who come into the activist world voluntarily, so I don’t spend a lot of time preaching to the choir. I want to focus on converting the people who don’t give a shit and make them care by education and leading by example.

The BIPOC community is not really involved with or a part of the ocean conservation community, and for valid reasons. I have a non-profit called Paddle for Peace that is dedicated to changing that narrative.

Do you find that these passions blend, merge, or complement your work?

I think my passions complement my work because they all involve creating from an idea or fixing a problem. I’ve worked in the medical field for the last 12 years on the business and clinical side. It all points back to me helping people in and out of a medical setting.

What are your materials, and how do you think about them?

My materials are nature, travel, and people. I draw my inspiration from my experiences, and I also watch how others walk the earth and draw inspiration from them. My materials are ever-changing, as are my modalities of creating.

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

My heroes consist of normal everyday people who, despite their struggles or hardships, they wake up and choose to walk this earth helping others or trying their best to leave sprinkles of positivity wherever they go when they can.

A key ingredient to building a sustainable future?

A key ingredient is to have an open mind. Because with an open mind comes the willingness to learn, and when we learn, we make necessary changes.

A book that shaped your life?

The undefeated mind by Alex Lickerman

Most sublime moment in nature?

It’s hard to pinpoint one. The best moments for me are spent in nature, that is desolate and untouched. But, if I had to choose one more recent experience, it would be the moment I dove into a lake that was surrounded by volcanoes in Guatemala.

What have been your biggest challenges?

One of my biggest challenges has been trying to abide by the rules of others that I do not agree with. I normally march to the beat of my own drum, but sometimes it’s necessary to engage and play the rules of others to get things done even if I don’t agree with them.

What do you do when you get out and away from the office/lab/kitchen?

You can find me in the surf or at the beach for sure. I spend a lot of time near or in the water. It is a part of my everyday life.

What other brands do you love?

I love woman-owned brands and sustainable brands. Some of the brands I like and have purchased from are Arawayuu, Luna Volta, Empulse, and BeKindVibes.

What keeps you going?

My passions, friends, and family. My passions make life fun, which motivates me. But my friends and family are what nourishes my soul the most. They fill me back up when I am empty, and they lift me up when I fall. My life is abundant because of them.

A personal style?

My personal style varies because the way I express myself is constantly evolving.

My clothing style can be bohemian, edgy, trendy, or urban. My relaxation style can be surfing, reading a book under a tree, cooking, journaling, or walking along the beach. My style of speaking can be loud and confident or reserved and shy. The way I create can be quick and impulsive or slow and deliberate.

That is the beauty of my personal style; it’s so colorful and diverse. One thing I can say for certain is that my personal style is not to conform; it is to always be authentic and unapologetic.