Interview by Rebecca Parsons

Like many athletes, Donica Shouse draws joy from competition, but above all else she paddles for the planet. A self-proclaimed "eco-athlete," Shouse rides solely for eco-conscious companies, adheres to a plant-based diet, and runs a sustainably minded company alongside her husband, Abraham. Here, Shouse shares how she first caught the green bug and simple ways paddlers can help keep our oceans clean. –RP

You identify yourself as an eco-athlete. What does that mean to you?

An eco-athlete is a lot like a peaceful warrior—someone who is willing to push for what's right but to do it with peace and love. It's as simple as being rooted in gratitude while promoting choices that benefit us as a whole. Ecology is the relationship of living organisms to one another and their physical surroundings. As an eco-athlete I want to draw attention to the importance of connecting to and protecting our environment. We are the land and the sea.

Tell us about your background.

I grew up dancing a lot, doing extreme Pogo Ball and riding a dirt bike in the mountains of Oregon. We had a beach cabin just south of Newport and that's where I learned to surf. By college I was active in Surfrider and elected surf club president at Oregon State where I got my first taste of environmentalism and the effects of our choices. I graduated with a B.S in Natural Resource Education and minor in Environmental Science. All my favorite things growing up fit perfectly into my love of surfing and protecting the ocean. I came to visit Hawaii in 2003 and never left.

Shouse and her husband Abraham are the power couple of SUP foil surfing in Hawaii. They also own a SUP shop called Paddle Hawaii that partners with organizations like Sustainable Hawaii for environmental paddling initiatives. Photo: Abraham Shouse

What are some things you do personally to promote sustainable practices?

I've been a vegetarian since I was a teenager and vegan most of that time. Preparing my own food and eating mostly local produce cuts down on plastic packaging waste. Just being a plant strong eater minimizes my environmental footprint significantly. Animal agriculture is a major source of water consumption and pollution. Every bite and every dollar spent is a vote to support companies that share similar values.

Tell us about your company, Paddle Hawaii.

Paddle Hawaii started really small in our backyard. My husband now has a wood shop in Kona. He recently partnered with Sustainable Surf to certify each piece as part of the eco board project. We hand harvest bamboo shafts and then Abraham crafts them into functional art—paddles, surfboards, skateboards and more. PH has become an umbrella that also includes our photo/ video business, Star Shot Media. We have a ton of fun capturing peoples' special moments, be that in love, adventure, or both.

Photo: Abraham Shouse

When you're not on the water, what do you like to do?

I'm always searching out new recipes. Food and surfing take up the bulk of my day, but I like to make time for gardening, various artistic projects, and hot buddhi yoga.

What are some simple ways paddlers can help the environment?

The Starboard's Pocket of Plastic Challenge is easy enough to do every day and the 'stop sucking' campaign to abolish single use straws is brilliant. Bring your own bag/ to-go containers/ cutlery. Our daily habits have a huge impact. Eat more plants, compost, garden, share showers, support local organic farmers, etc.

If you could offer a few words of wisdom to the younger generation of paddlers what would you say?

Stay curious. Stretch often.

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