In addition to the surf community work with children, Un Mar De Colores’ has a wonderful initiative, #RepresentationMatters, that focuses on highlighting ocean oriented BIPOC artists and changemakers to inspire the next generation of ocean stewards, surfers, and watermen/women. The collaborative Quick-Dry towel features the work of Mau Domingues, a Brazilian visual artist and animator. His work is highly influenced by both urban and coastal counter-culture movements.
We chatted with Un Mar De Colores' Co-founder and Executive Director, Mario Ordoñez to share more information about the non-profit organization and its initiatives.
Slowtide: Can you tell us about Un Mar De Colores and how it came about?
Mario: Un Mar De Colores means "an ocean of colors" in Spanish. The concept came to me when I noticed my Latino neighbors staring at me with curiosity while I'd load my surfboard up every morning. As I drove away, I began to wonder why I never saw this family and those boys at the beach despite living down the street from the coast. Recognizing the doors that surfing opened up for me, and the barriers of access that were closed to many, particularly to people who looked like me, I knew it was a privilege to be a surfer. So, I wanted to pay it forward by teaching the next generation of surfers with the hopes of having a ripple effect of positivity trickle through their lives. When talking to my partner, Kat Reynolds, we decided there was no better or more important time to build a community around solidarity and support for underrepresented demographics in this space. With Kat's background as a surf photographer, she knew the industry well and the importance of representation for people of color to feel welcome in the ocean. Together, we evolved a simple grassroots concept into a big dream and a significant theory of change.
Today, our org cultivates and inspires inclusivity and diversity through surf therapy, mentorship, and representation in media for children of color and underserved youth. We aim to bridge the socio-economic gap in the surfing community by providing accessibility and creating an inclusive space for personal exploration and expression so our youth can nurture confidence, build community, and cultivate a lifelong passion for ocean stewardship. Through purposeful play, we celebrate the ocean and diversity and emphasize the connection between the two. The ocean does not discriminate, which is why our organization's motto is: “One Ocean Touches All Shores”.
Photo by: @alxpalumbo
S: For you, what has been the most rewarding part of being involved with Un Mar De Colores so far?
M: The most rewarding part about running Un Mar is seeing the transformation of our youth as they get the “stoke” from surfing. When these kids arrive, they’re shy, quiet, a bit scared of what they’re getting into. But after they get out in the water and catch a wave for the first time the positive energy shift is palpable. You then see them talking, smiling, and playing with more confidence... That's what it’s all about for me.
It's equally as powerful to see our "Familia" Mentors get to see their influence and the power of individual action. They are creating a space they always wanted as kids -- there's something pretty inexplicable about that.
S: How can others get involved?
M: Anyone is welcome to apply to volunteer on our website, and of course, donations help us to continue to do the work. We’re a totally community-driven NGO and we pride ourselves on the sense of Familia we build for our supporters, donors, and volunteers. We encourage everyone to spread our vision of a more equitable future by paying it forward by creating a welcoming space in the ocean and in their own neighborhoods for the BIPOC community.
We are building a replicable model for people to take programs and run with it in their own communities, so if you've always dreamed about doing something like this, don't hesitate to reach out!
Photo by: @alxpalumbo
S: What's next for Un Mar de Colores?
M: Un Mar has a collaboration with Bing Surfboards coming July 17th! Buy your raffle ticket for a chance to win a 1970 Retro Bing Board. All proceeds will benefit our Surf Therapy Days. Also in the books for July is our Surf Fiesta July 24th! We’ll be having a beach day with surf lessons for 10 of our students!
We run a year-long program with our participants which includes our Surf Fiestas, Field Trips, and 1:1 mentorship. We also have Athletic and art scholarships, as well as our #RepresentationMatters media initiative. There's lots of ways to get involved, be sure to check out our website: www.mar-de-colores.org for more info
S: Any last words?
M: I think the lesson that rings true for me since 2020 and seeing the community response to Un Mar is that everyone has the power to make change within their community. I think if we start local, small, and intimate we have the ability to create a strong wave of change throughout the world.
Shop the Quick-Dry towel now by clicking here! Pre-order for this towel ends on 7/26 and it will ship in 4 to 6 weeks. To learn more information about Un Mar De Colors or to donate directly, visit them at https://mar-de-colores.org. To see more of Mau Domingues’ artwork, check out his portfolio and instagram @maudomingues.