In our next installment of the Bolinas Boot Field Report, we’re highlighting our conversation with Mario and Kat, Founders of Un Mar De Colores.
Mario and Kat both share a deep passion for the outdoors, creative storytelling, and social justice work. Mario is a first generation Mayan-American and Navy Veteran who’s love for surfing and self-supported adventures drove him to want to share the power that wild & open spaces have to heal and inspire. With Kat’s extensive experience in the surf world as a water photographer, and her drive to bridge barriers of access, they came together to bring the idea of Un Mar De Colores to life.
Together, they work to bridge the socio-economic gap in the surf space for the future generation of historically marginalized youth, fostering the next generation of BIPOC surfers, watermen/women, and ocean-stewards through education, mentorship, & media representation.
Read our full conversation with Mario and Kat below.
What are your passions and what led you to Un Mar De Colores?
Mario wasn’t introduced to the ocean until later in life, and once he finally started surfing regularly, he noticed his neighbors, two Guatemalan boys, watching him load up his surfboard every day with curiosity. He saw his own reflection in these boys and recognized even though these boys lived no more than 1 mile away from the beach, that sometimes you have to be invited “because in many parts of the US,” he notes, “the ocean feels like it’s not for you as a brown man” – he wanted to change that.
Kat had been working in the non-profit sector for a long time, focusing on creating access and food security for underserved communities, “it’s integral that we look at the world through an intersectional lens, acknowledging that marginalized communities are disproportionately affected in climate injustices – creating more equity and opportunities in the outdoor space lifts us up as a collective” she says. “When Mario told me his idea about Un Mar de Colores, we immediately hit the ground running and the momentum hasn’t stopped since”
Mario adds: “when there’s this much passion behind an idea, it flows so easily and effortlessly, it’s been a really cool thing to watch evolve and make it a reality and see how much natural gravity it carries – it just shows us how much it was needed in the community and that’s been so empowering for us to do something that creates impact in our own backyard.”
What was the journey like of taking the idea of Un Mar De Colores and making it a real thing?
Mario and Kat look at each other and giggle “Starting in the middle of the Pandemic wasn’t the easiest feat, but it actually ended up being such a blessing in disguise,” Kat says. “This was a time in the world where everyone paused their life and asked themselves what was essential to them and what really mattered, for us, we just wanted to know what kind of direct action we could make within our own community to help make the world a little better”.
Being a grassroots non-profit, they started reaching out and recruiting participants at local elementary schools and community centers “we started with families that were on food subsidy programs to make sure we were offering this opportunity to those who might not otherwise have to tools or resources or support to do so on their own” Ordoñez notes. They borrowed boards from their friends and other non-profits to bring everything to life. “It was a real community effort” Kat adds “it takes a village, and our community really brought it to life.” Mario and Kat are both overwhelmed with gratitude for the support they’ve received in this passion project. “We were just the people who brought an idea to the table but the volunteers, friends, supporters, and families are the ones who gave Un Mar the breath of life” Mario stated.
"Our lives are so versatile and we are always in search of products that meet all of our needs: functional, fashionable, and sustainable – these little boots check all the boxes and we wear them all the time now"
What does a day, a week or a summer look like at Un Mar De Colores?
The program is 2 years long with a summer Surf Fiesta program, 1:1 mentorship, eco field trips, and so much more. “COVID inspired us to go really deep with a small group of kids and create a long-term familia – the goal was to build a sense of community and safety– providing all the tools, education and resources needed for our participants and their families to continue to enjoy the ocean long after their time with us” Reynolds notes.
For the Summer Surf Fiestas, Un Mar volunteers and mentors gather on the beach with all the kids and their families and the goal is to make the experience “as fun as humanly possible” says Kat, “we want the kids to have a great first experience in the ocean, which can be so intimidating, so we focus on purposeful play – we believe that from play, comes passion. We hope that we can spark interest to keep exploring and learning, not just to surf, but maybe to learn about marine life, or protecting the ocean. Whatever the kids naturally gravitate towards is what we want to support them in through the 1:1 mentorship program and eco-field trips throughout the rest of the year to help foster the paths that they designate for themselves and just build whatever bridges we can for them to follow their dreams.”
One or a few favorite lessons you’ve learned from the youth you work with?
Resilience, the power of looking at the world with child-like wonder, and the power of play. Kat and Mario continue to light up as they talk about how the kids inspire them. “For me, I think one of the most moving moments was to realize that many of our mentors who came to support the kids and offer this experience also found healing in themselves – one of our ‘Familia’ members came up to me with tears in their eyes and said “this is something I always dreamed of as a kid, seeing other people that look like me in the water, and now I’m getting it” — I’ll never forget that” says Mario. “Smiles are truly contagious when you’re amongst kids filled with the joy of learning a new sport and exploring the ocean” added Kat.
"I don’t think there’s anything more casual than having a goal to be the best person you can be, every day, and starting there."
One of our brand mottos is “Keep it Casual”. What does “Keep it Casual” mean to you in your own life?
“Often, when people think about making a difference in the world, they think they have to do something elaborate and momentous, or make change on the other side of the world, of course that’s needed, but it’s the little things that add up over time, it’s the efforts you make within your own community that reverberate outward. Something as simple as being a kind person to those around you has a ripple effect. We encourage people to start where they are with what they have. I don’t think there’s anything more casual than having a goal to be the best person you can be, every day, and starting there.” Reynolds says.
What is it about the Offshore boot that serves your day to day needs while out and about working in the community?
“This is the perfect boot to move from shoreline to city sidewalk. We can wear them after an event and tromp around in the sand, wash them off, toes and socks still dry, and then head to a meeting” Mario says. “Our lives are so versatile and we are always in search of products that meet all of our needs: functional, fashionable, and sustainable – these little boots check all the boxes and we wear them all the time now” Kat adds.
Do you have any plans or projects that you are looking forward to in the future?
Our children’s programs are pretty dialed so we have been focusing on bringing what we offer to other communities and building chapters. We are currently building a community surf locker that we will drive up and down the coast with and provide no-cost gear to our members and Familia so we can start to build a global community and just keep sharing the stoke wherever we go.
We are also working on a couple of storytelling projects to help highlight more representation for people of color in the surfing and water communities around the world as a part of our #RepresentationMatters initiative. Eventually we want to make a long film eventually, but to start, they will be episodic, focusing on individual stories.
What’s one piece of advice, encouragement, or challenge you’d love to leave our readers with?
I think we can just come back to the idea of starting where you are with what you have. We all have the power and opportunity to create change and impact within our own communities. Don’t be afraid to start. There will always be roadblocks, but when you’re driven by passion and purpose, you will find a way to move around them, or sometimes, they magically move for you. Just keep following your heart (as cheesy as that sounds – there’s a reason why it’s a cliche!).
Anything else you’d like to share or add?
“If you’re inspired by our mission, give Un Mar de Colores a follow, like, and share” Kat winks, “and of course donations help us to continue the work we are doing and make our little world go round – if you’re really inspired by what we are doing, we are looking for folx who can help us lead chapters as we start to open those up!”
Overall, just a huge Thanks to Rachel, DJ, and the entire Seavees crew. We’re stoked and grateful a portion of the Offshore boot proceeds will be donated to our program!
- IG: @un.mar.de.colores
- Web: www.Mar-de-colores.org
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org