Allow Things to Unfold and You Will Find Your Purpose in Life: Peggy Oki at TEDxQueenstown (Transcript)

Peggy Oki at TEDxQueenstown


(Video starts) Peggy Oki: Oh my God!

Captain Andy: It’s a whale (Video ends)

That was me in the background saying, “Oh my God!” while I was visiting with some humpback whale researchers in Alaska. The guy on the deck shouting, “It’s a whale!” that’s captain Andy, who happens to be a humpback whale researcher with quite some enthusiasm even after seeing hundreds of humpback whales.

And I’ve had a large number of encounters with dolphins and whales myself, and I still feel very excited when I see them. I’m just inspired by the graceful movement of a 100-to-150-ton whale, seeming to be moving so effortlessly through its fluid movement in the ocean. And I’d emulate that style – that’s just graceful, I love that graceful movement – in the things that I try to do in my surfing and skateboarding.

Over 40 years ago, I was the only female member of the famous Zephyr skateboard team, featured in Dogtown and Z-boys. We were known to live a little bit outside the box, be a bit rebellious. While lots of kids were trying to figure out how to stay out of school, we were getting into them to skate the banks, and getting in to skate the pools, which led to our surfing style that was our trademark: vertical skateboarding, that led to what you see in today’s X Games. And of course, I still love surfing that I’ve been doing for over 40 years.

The action of surfing waves; but also, I get a lot from just the thousands of hours I’ve spent sitting on my board waiting for waves in between that time, of just having the rhythms of the ocean beneath me, and encounters with sea life and seabirds coming around. At the time I was on the skateboard team, I was also studying field zoology and environmental biology.

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I had a real interest in animal behavior, especially in the social behavior of dolphins and whales. They are also known as Cetaceans, and I refer to them as Cetacean Nation. Orcas, the largest member of the dolphin family, stay together their entire lives.

Sperm whales — I’m a sperm whale groupie. They are the world’s largest toothed mammal. They possess the world’s largest brain. They can dive to depths of 2,000 meters and hold their breath for up to an hour. But what really touched me the most about them as I was learning about their behavior is that even in fatal conditions, where their lives are in danger, they will never abandon their injured or sick. As I was studying animal behavior, scientists were coming out and saying that play is a sign of intelligence.

And here we are with dolphins surfing. Another connection that I feel to these beings as a surfer myself and seeing dolphins as I’m surfing and they are surfing waves too. Whales also surf. Imagine a school bus dropping in on a wave at Pipeline. It’s happened. If that’s not enough to impress you about Cetaceans, there are many stories of dolphins encountering humans.

And this is one from Whangarei in New Zealand 12 years ago, a lifeguard, a father of three, had his three daughters out swimming for practice off of ocean beach, 100 meters out, when seven dolphins approached them, slapping their flukes, circling these swimmers, almost as if they were hurting them. They weren’t afraid of dolphins, so they just kept swimming and thought, yeah, this is pretty cool.

But a lifeguard from the shore saw what was going on, he thought it was really odd too and decided to go check it out. He got on his little boat, went to just outside of where the dolphins were and into the water, and what did he see? A three-meter long shark, a great white shark. What a great day to have dolphins swimming around you!

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