Meet our fellow ocean babe, Stephanie! Living in the beautiful clear waters of Maui, Hawaii, we find out just what life is like on this gorgeous island, crazy ocean stories and what sustainability issues are on her heart! Interviewed by our own designer, Gemma Lee.
How long have you lived in Maui for, and what has made you want to stay on such a beautiful island?
I've been on Maui since end of September last year, so approx. 8 - 9 months now. Ironically, I was in Australia before. My visa expired and I didn't know where to go. I was looking at charters in NZ and Hawaii and then somehow ended up on Maui. Not going to lie, it was a pretty spare of the moment - last minute decision, but probably not the worst ones I've made (haha)
Where are you originally from?
That's a hard one for me. I am half Austrian - half American (on paper), however I was raised in 5 different countries. When I turned 18 I moved to London for 5 years and then I spent the last 3 years in Australia and South East Asia. I like to consider myself as a 'transnational' :P because there isn't really one country or nationality that I feel I can fully identify with.
What does a regular day look like for you?
Early wakeup call...every day. When the sun's up, I'm up. First thing I need is coffee and a healthy brekkie to get me out of bed. I really like to take some time in my mornings to get creative and edit, while I sip my coffee. Time always flies and eventually, it’s time to go to work. I jump in my truck and jam out to my music, while I cruise over along the coast to west side of the island. If I can, I'll try to sneak in a cheeky surf. I work 3 to 4 different jobs. I work as a photographer on a boat and I crew on another. I also take photos for a local surf school and take family portraits at the resorts. I like to stay busy and active, even on my days off. If I'm not out for a sunset surf or photography session, I like to enjoy the sunset on our Lanai (deck) with a platter, a glass of wine and good crew.
You are a complete water baby, like us, what does your ultimate day out on the ocean look like?
I'm currently learning how to surf, so nothing beats a good sunrise / sunset sesh, especially with the West Maui's as a backdrop. Pretty spectacular. My ultimate water day would have to be out on a boat though. Whales, Dolphins, Manta Rays, Whale Sharks, give me any of these and I'll be the happiest little pumpkin. My ultimate day here on Maui would be taking the private charter boat I work on out for a fun day. Cruising over to Lanaii and finding some spinner dolphins & whales to play with and then seeing where the day takes us.
What is the most extraordinary thing you have seen out on the ocean?
One of my favorite days on the water was back in West Aus, on the NIngaloo. We took a mates tinny out for a fun day. Started our day with a very chill 3 meter grey nurse shark, when suddenly a 5 meter great hammerhead swam right beneath us. First one for all of us. I nearly cried (haha). Then we swam with 30 - 40 baby white and black tip reefies, a leopard shark and a manta mating chain. To top it off a pod of dolphin came and swam up to us and I jumped in with a tiger shark by myself for the first time. 6 different types of shark in one day, needless to say we were super stoked.
What is the most heart-breaking thing you have seen out in the ocean?
I worked on a Prawn trawler on the West Coast for like ...a week. Needless to say, that was an experience. Super random how I ended up on there too. It's a hard job. 20 hour shifts, it's rough. Either way, the amount of by catch in the nets was insane. We had everything in our nets, sharks, stingrays, snakes, you name it. It was crazy. I remember being told off for leaving the belt to save a string ray, who laid upside down on the side of the boat gasping for water with his little mouth. So sad. Crabs would be missing limbs and females had their babies ripped off. If they were lucky they would fall back into the ocean, either severally injured or traumatized. We'd pull in the nets every hour and at the end I had to stack the crabs away into boxes. These poor little things, half alive, reaching out with their claws, barley resisting at this point. They then ended up in the freezer, alive. Pretty sad. I felt like a mass murderer. I hardly eat sea food these days. I just can't do it. I'll never forget the taste of the chemical we dunked the prawns into before deep freezing them. If I catch it myself, I'll eat it, other than that, it's a no from me.
What sustainability issues drive you crazy?
Aww, so many! Especially here in the US. The amount of plastic still being used is ridiculous. I'm talking about single use plastic, super unnecessary. They don’t really recycle here on island either. There's also a big problem with drugs and homelessness and people just leave there rubbish everywhere, especially along the coast as most of them sleep on the beach. Cars get abandoned here all the time too. It's pretty bad. My personal pet peeve is the single use plastic bottles and cups they use on the charter boats here. Australia is certainly advanced in that regard (in my experience). Oh, and the chemical sunscreens people use, straight before jumping in the water, that really makes me angry.
If we had a day on Maui, what adventures and place would you take us to?
Just one day? Alright, here we go. We'd start the day watching the sunrise at Haleakala (the dormant Volcano and highest point on Maui, wrap up because it gets cold up 3000m above the sea level). Then we'd cruise down, grab some take away coffee's in Makowao (the cutest little cowboy, hippie town upcountry) on our way to the west side, where we'd take the boat out for a few hours, cruise over to lanai and play with the dolphins. Then we'd go cliff jumping or water falling and end the day surfing, watching the sun set over Lanaii, lighting up the West Maui"s in a purple & pink haze. Of course, we would have to follow up with a good dinner and some cheeky beers, it would be rude not to :P
What is your favourite sea creature, and why?
Aw, that's a hard one. I don't think I can pick and choose but after working the whale season here, I think I have to say Humpback Whales. They take my breath away and leave me in awe every time. I've had some absolutely magical interactions with them. It blows my mind how conscious they are. When you are in the water with them, they never take their eyes of you. I feel extremely humbled every time.
What is your favourite destination you have travelled to and why?
I'm sure you'll love this, I'm going to have to go with Australia. My absolute favourite country. I miss it every day. I'm hoping to come back for good in the next few years. There are so many things I love, for instance the culture, the people, the music, the space, the landscape, the beaches, the sea, and last but not least, the coffee. You guys have the best coffee. Other than that, Indo is a pretty sweet spot. One of my top ten dives has to be Komodo National Park. Such a colorful marine park, full of life. I quite liked Cambodia as well, Siem Reap's Temples will genuinely take your breath away.
Thank you, Stephanie, for taking time out to share all your incredible stories! Can we jump on a plane to Maui already!?
To follow more of Stephanie's adventures, catch her on @saltographyy on Instagram.
Love, Gemma Lee x