“One Of The Strangest Scholars I Have Ever Seen” - Stab Mag

“One Of The Strangest Scholars I Have Ever Seen”

Cliff Kapono PhD is equally skilled threading pipes and pipetting.

news // Apr 24, 2022
Words by Ethan Davis
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Believe it or not, surfers can actually, like, be clever. 

Cliff Kapono is one of that kind, an apparent outlier from the stereotype of the – unemployed bum falling out of the VW combi to a fog of sizzled devil’s lettuce/stealing pineapples from Pupukea etc etc. Those who know surfing well have long known the trope was ill-conceived (thanks Hollywood), and that folks among the ranks surreptitiously putting their higher-order faculties to work on important albeit complex issues of interest since the dawn of Olos, but it’s taken peeps like Cliff to help with the uncoupling.

Cliff, who holds a doctorate in Ocean Chemistry from UCSD, devotes his time to preserving Hawaii’s coral reefs while destroying the waveforms which break upon them with a quiver of unconventional craft. He is one of a handful of bona fide pro surfer-scholars who can claim to have domain expertise in getting coned at heaving Backdoor and inoculating a petri dish with a swab of marine-borne e. coli. 

Yesterday, FYI, was Earth Day, “a reminder to protect the environment, restore damaged ecosystems, and to live a more sustainable life” per the org website. And how did you celebrate? While Earth Day was marked by (mostly) token gestures for people/brands to flex (mostly) greenwashed product lines, Cliff decided it was a timely date to launch the MEGA lab, a thoroughly non-tokenistic project he has been working on in secret for years, “where the weirdos of science can feel comfortable in their own skin”. 

The Multiscale Environmental Graphical Analysis (MEGA) Lab is a team of scientists, athletes and artists working to develop new tech to protect our planet’s critical marine ecosystem. As you can probably tell from the above vid, MEGA has an unusual quirk about it that makes science look fun as well as important – which it is.

“I’m not selling anything, I just want people to see a different side of what science looks like,” writes Cliff, who is urging anyone with an interest in marine science to join their community and get involved. “We believe that you don’t have to have a PhD to care about the planet and even if you didn’t do well in school that doesn’t mean you aren’t a scientist,” he adds.

You can find out all about the good/fun/important stuff they’re doing here.


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