Episode 34: Meet Tara Ruttenberg, Writer, Yoga Teacher, Consultant, Coach and Surfer

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on print
Share on pinterest

Listen to the episode here

Episode Summary

Tara Ruttenberg is a writer by trade and a yoga teacher. She also works as a coach around compassionate communication and consultant for sustainable surf tourism. Recently, she began to launch her PhD project called SUSPIRO where she works with the community towards sustainable developments in surfing tourism.

Episode Notes

Tara grew up on the beaches in Southern California. She loved the ocean very much. Often, it would be a real struggle to get her out of the water at sunset. Even when she moved to Costa Rica for a study abroad from her university, Tara’s longing for the ocean was like a fire she couldn’t put off. Every so often, she finds herself sitting with and listening to her surf instructor friends. However, surfing seems to be off her options. Then, she decided to just go for it and eventually, formed a lasting bond with the waves.

Tara shares more of her story and how her supposedly, four months of study turned into 14 years of journey towards sustainable surf tourism. She also shares her motivation behind this project and provides a wider perspective around the impact of tourism on the environment and the local community. Tara also created a safe space for individuals to share their stories at Tarantula Surf, which is a platform designed to cater to freedom, authenticity and diversity. As the proverbs say, “We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” This conversation is indeed, an evidence that everything we do creates an impact and it’s up to us to decide what kind of impact that might be.

Episode Highlights

  • 02:56 The White Water Warrior

  • 06:51 When Surfing Gets Everything In Place

  • 10:10 Tourism: The Hitch for Locals

  • 15:20 SUSPIRO: Resisting an Unseen Invader

  • 19:50 A Sustainable Tourism Model

  • 23:40 Sustainable Practices

  • 27:24 Support SUSPIRO

  • 29:09 Tara’s Sustainability Consulting and Empathic Coaching

This week we’re taking off for Playa Hermosa in the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica. My guest Tara Ruttenberg, moved from the US to Costa Rica for university course many, many years ago and never came back. Tara is a consultant in sustainable tourism. She’s also a writer, a yoga teacher, a life coach, a bad ass surfer, and a PhD candidate.

“You can think a little bit more outside the box and not just care about what kind of waves you’re going to be scoring on that trip, but also about what your impact is.” –Tara Ruttenberg

In our conversation, we get to know more about Tara’s story, and are introduced to her latest project called SUSPIRO, which is also her PhD. SUSPIRO is a project whose goal is to find a method to create sustainable economic models for locals in surf destinations. It’s a really stimulating conversation where we talk about the effects of surf tourism in countries such as Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, and Mexico, where a lot of expats have moved there and are unconsciously responsible for marginalizing that local populations, both economically and socially.

Connect with Tara

Resources Links


Related Episodes

Episode 22: Meet Tom Wegener, PhD, Master Shaper and Surfing Legend

It was the middle of the afternoon in Queensland when I got hold of Tom. In his pink t-shirt, trimmed grey beard, his contagious smile and the sunshine pouring through the window, Tom was an incarnation of the Noosa vibes!
For the few unfamiliar among us, Tom Wegener is a surfer, filmmaker, actor, author, master shaper and an academic. In fact, he has collected so much wisdom on surfing and shaping over the years, he was recently awarded with a PhD on the Sustainability of the Surfboard Industry.

Read More »

Episode 21: Meet Shell Cleave, founder of Sea Hugger and Former Freelance Technical Writer

This week, I got to meet up with Shell Cleave in Half Moon Bay, California. I had a lovely conversation with Shell about the NGO she founded a year ago, called Sea Hugger.
In this conversation, we discuss the reasons that lead Shell to leave working as a freelance Technical Writer for Silicon Valley giants, and to start a non profit from scratch. Shell has an amazing personality and it’s incredible how much she and her fellow volunteers have achieved in such little time.

Read More »


23:51 “I don't think we need to sugarcoat the fact that international tourism is a huge problem- environmentally and socially. But the reality is also that some communities can be supported at least kind of on an income level through the ways that tourism and surf tourism is happening.”

25:57 “You can think a little bit more outside the box and not just care about what kind of waves you're going to be scoring on that trip, but also about what your impact is.”

25:57 “You can think a little bit more outside the box and not just care about what kind of waves you're going to be scoring on that trip, but also about what your impact is.”

26:20 “I think people are talking about it (sustainable tourism) and there's some awareness there. But in terms of how it's being done, we're all responsible.”

29:53 “Once we're able to identify the needs that are attached to some of those difficult emotions that we're experiencing in our lives, we can work towards strategies that help satisfy our needs. And in that way, live a more fulfilled life related to the things that we care about, into our purpose and bring more meaning into our life.”

31:18 “I wish that every surf tourism destination can live more sustainably for the future.”

Episode Transcript

Imi Barneaud: Hi everybody and welcome to The Oceanriders Podcast, conversations with creatives, entrepreneurs, thinkers and dreamers who also happen to be surfers. My name’s Imi Barneaud, I’m a surfer, I’m an entrepreneur and I am your host. This week we’re taking off at Playa Hermosa in the Nicoya peninsula of Costa Rica. My guest Tara Ruttenberg, moved from the US to Costa Rica for university course many, many years ago and never came back. Tara is a consultant in sustainable tourism. She’s also a writer, a yoga teacher, a life coach, a bad ass surfer, and a PhD candidate. In our conversation, we get to know more about Tara’s story, and introduced to her latest project called SUSPIRO, which is also her PhD. SUSPIRO is a project whose goal is to find a method to create sustainable economic models for locals in surf destinations. It’s a really stimulating conversation where we talk about the effects of surf tourism in countries such as Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, and Mexico, where a lot of expats have moved there and are unconsciously responsible for marginalizing that local populations, both economically and socially. So without further ado, please welcome Tara Ruttenberg. Hi Tara, and welcome to The Oceanriders Podcast. How are you today?

Tara Ruttenberg: I’m doing well, thanks and you?

Imi Barneaud: I’m fine, I’m fine. I’m really, really excited to meet you and to talk about your project. So before we start, I wondered if you could introduce yourself to the listeners.

Tara Ruttenberg: Sure. So I’m Tara, I’m speaking to you today from my home in Playa Hermosa, north of Santa Teresa in Costa Rica. So I work as a consultant on sustainable tourism, specifically related to surfing and I’m currently working on my PhD in development studies at Wagon University in the Netherlands, and I’ve just launched a project called SUSPIRO: Sustainable Surf Tourism Solutions for Coastal Communities.

Imi Barneaud: Fantastic. I guess before we jump into as a SUSPIRO, maybe we can go back in time and discover what kind of a childhood, environment you grew up in. Are you from a family of surfers?

Tara Ruttenberg: No, I’m actually not. I’m the first person in my family, and the only person in my family actually to be a surfer. But I did grow up on the beaches in Southern California. So my childhood memories are all about being at the beaches in Malibu. I grew up outside Los Angeles, California. And so yeah, we spent all of our time in the summers at the beach and I would spend hours on hours on hours in the ocean, body surfing or boogie boarding with my sister. And it was always tough to get me out of the water comes on set. So I was definitely, it jumped right into the ocean life and really embraced it from a really young age.

Imi Barneaud: All right, right. And how did you actually get introduced to surfing in particular?

Tara Ruttenberg: So I moved to Costa Rica when I was 19, I did my study abroad year here. And what was supposed to be four months in Costa Rica has now turned into 14 years. And on my weekends, I would go down to Jacó, which is kind of one of the main surf Meccas here in Costa Rica. And I had some friends there who were surf instructors, so I would kind of just watch them, giving their surf lessons, at first I wasn’t that interested in trying. I dunno, I just didn’t feel like I had it in me. I didn’t necessarily want to be learning something new at the ripe old age of 19 but then, you know, I decided I was going to be staying in Costa Rica at least for the next semester. I decided to stay another semester for my study abroad year, and decided that I would just buy a board and I would commit to going every single day. And I would take the tips and lessons that I’ve learned from my surf instructor friends that I’d seen them giving their lessons on the beach, and just kind of teach myself and give it a go.

Imi Barneaud: Excellent.

Tara Ruttenberg: So, I bought my first little funboard, it was a 7′ 4”, and I’ll never forget it. It was like blue and yellow, had some kind of awful paint job going on, but it was perfect, it was perfect. And so I, yeah, I just committed to going every single day and becoming the whitewater warrior until I could figure it out a little bit better. And then just kind of receiving tips here and there from people in the water who were helping me out, you know, so that’s how we did it.

Imi Barneaud: Brilliant, brilliant. And now you’re sort of supercharger, I’ve seen photos of your online, like it’s amazing that you’re in a double overhead waves and all sorts of things, that’s amazing.

Tara Ruttenberg: Oh, thank you.

Imi Barneaud: So yeah, so you also said you studied for a year abroad in Costa Rica. What awesome university sends you to? And what awesome course did you take to get sent to Costa Rica for a year?

Tara Ruttenberg: So I was in my undergrad at Georgetown University, and it was really common for students, they’re third year, junior year to go abroad. So there are few different programs that I could choose from. And I had always studied Spanish, so I knew I wanted to be in a Spanish speaking country. And then, yeah, Georgetown had some sort of links with Kansas University actually. So it was through them, through Kansas that there was this really nice program for study abroad students from the US to come down and study here at the university of Costa Rica, which is in San Jose.

Imi Barneaud: Okay, okay. So how did you manage trips to Jacó every, so often? Cause that’s quite a long drive.

Tara Ruttenberg: Yeah, it was. And then I definitely didn’t have a car or anything, so I was always on the bus, but I somehow was able to actually get my five classes that I took each semester. I was able to put them onto two days during the week, Monday and Tuesday. So I only had class, I had class all day, Monday and Tuesdays and then come Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, I was on a bus out to the beach. So I was mostly living at the beach and living that lifestyle, and then coming back to study when I had to.

Imi Barneaud: Brilliant. So right now you’re a candidate for PhD, and now I’m just wondering, how did your academic research pair with your current activities?

Tara Ruttenberg: Well, it’s actually one in the same. So first before I started my PhD program, I was studying here also in Costa Rica for a master’s program in international peace studies. And then I started teaching at the university in their program that’s called Responsible Management and Sustainable Economic Development. So I started getting really interested in kind of the links between how communities, and countries, and nations have this link between development and peace. And then with my passion for surfing, it started all kinds of falling into place around that time where I was looking at surfing tourism, and how that impacts places in very similar ways all around the world? And how that was kind of a development and conservation conundrum, right? So all these questions and kind of teaching around critical perspectives on sustainable development specifically, it all started falling into place. And then I started work on my PhD around this concept of Decolonizing Sustainable Surf Tourism, so it’s a bit of a critical perspective. And then my research that I’m taking on now is the project that I’ve created through SUSPIRO.

Imi Barneaud: Okay.

Tara Ruttenberg: So yeah, it’s a bit of a, so it’s research, it’s participatory research. So it’s working here with the local community. It’s not necessarily just about interviewing people and then writing your dissertation. It’s more about creating a community project, kind of test these different methodologies, working with the community towards alternatives to development in surfing tourism.

Imi Barneaud: Okay, okay. So what’s really interesting, just sort of a little parenthesis here, but your teaching Anthropology of surfing, do you think you could elaborate on what that is? Cause I just have no idea of what that’s about.

Tara Ruttenberg: What does that even mean? So yeah, I work as a program assistant, so I work alongside a Professor named Dr. Pete Brosius, so he’s an environmental anthropologist. So he created this program eight years ago. So now we’re in our eighth and counting, and it’s actually two courses combined that create this program. The first one is The Anthropology of Surfing, which is focus on the culture of surfing and of lifestyle, you know, all of the different cultural elements of what it means to be a surfer in different places around the world. And then the other course is called Communities, Conservation and Development in Costa Rica. So that second one, kind of looks at more of the overlaps between the impacts of surf tourism on the different communities that we visit here in Costa Rica. So we take students all across the Pacific Coast, starting from the South all the way up North. They spend a month here in the country. It’s pretty much your dream trip if you’re a surfer, if you want to learn to surf, and they’re studying. Yeah, definitely all those intersections between surf, tourism, conservation development, and the culture, and lifestyle of surfing.

Imi Barneaud: Because Costa Rica is renowned for, you know, it’s a remarkable practice in sustainability and green tourism. And despite that, do you find that there’s a big gap between the standard of living of the locals and the businesses that are owned by foreigners?

Tara Ruttenberg: Definitely. So that’s one of the primary challenges related to the surfing tourism phenomenon here in Costa Rica and literally everywhere else that happens around the world. Here in Costa Rica, definitely internationally, the country is seen as this leader in conservation. From an academic perspective, there are a lot of people kind of challenging that designation. And looking a little bit deeper into the everyday on the ground realities, and surfing and surf tourism is kind of an interesting lens to focus on these issues because you see how quickly these places transform. Literally in 5 to 10 years, you have a completely different town simply because there’s a really good surfing wave there, right? So it starts out as kind of this surf secret and then, you know, a wave gets discovered. This happens everywhere around the world, right? Costa Rica’s not the same–

Imi Barneaud: Yeah.

Tara Ruttenberg: –not the only instance. And then more and more people come because,right? Surfing has a bit of that cool factor. So now with upwards of what, 35 or 40 million surfers worldwide, and if you think about everyone who’s going on a vacation to learn how to surf as well, take a surf lesson, surf tourism is this huge phenomenon and it’s transforming places literally overnight. So yeah, what goes along with that is a lot of social inequality. What we see in Costa Rica is that you start with these kind of small fishing villages, or kind of rural towns that are a bit off the beaten path, and then within five to 10 years, most of the land that was originally owned by the locals has now been sold mostly to foreigners who have put up their hotel businesses, restaurants, shops, everything. Then you have, kind of like, these strips along the coastline that have started building up in a way that kind of development happening around the world.

Imi Barneaud: Ehm.

Tara Ruttenberg: If it’s unregulated, and then yeah, the locals end up getting pushed out, their cultures become marginalized, and then you get a bit of this kind of homogenization of the surf towns, meaning that they’d all start to look and feel the same, right? You can be somewhere like Santa Teresa in Costa Rica. You can go to Bali and be in Changzhou, and feel like you’re in a very similar place because it’s attracting similar tourists, similar types of restaurants, and businesses, and hotels, and it’s catering to a tourist experience. But it’s definitely edging out local people because they can’t afford to live there anymore with so much upward pressure on prices that comes from so much inequality, and foreign ownership of businesses, and foreign tourism.

Imi Barneaud: Wow. Yeah, of course. And so how do you propose to sort of combat that gentrification that doesn’t benefit the local populations?

Tara Ruttenberg: Right. So gentrification is an interesting word and that it definitely has a bit of a racial component as well. And internationally, kind of, when you’re looking at tourism scenarios, a lot of people use the word actually neo-colonialism or Neocolonialism cause it’s kind of a similar concept of an outside culture or outside society even coming in, and you can look at it as an invasion, right?

Imi Barneaud: Yeah.

Tara Ruttenberg: But it’s done under the guise of kind of economic development, foreign investment, so it’s not necessarily seen like that. So the project that I’ve put together is an experiment. I’ll say experiment in possibilities of strengthening community economies as a means of creating alternatives to development in surfing tourism. So what that looks like on the ground is working with a methodology that’s really oriented towards facilitating conversations among members of the community toward talking about some of these things that we’re talking about. So there can be a conversation about potentially regulating surf tourism in a way that’s beneficial to the community. There could be a conversation about strengthening the local economy in ways that aren’t necessarily about setting up businesses, but rather about strengthening the social fabric of the existing skills and assets that already exist in a place. So you don’t necessarily have to be so dependent on tourism as a source of income or as a means of even a sort of poverty alleviation, right? So there’s a lot of things that could come out of these conversations among the community. And the thing that’s different about my approach is that it doesn’t have this kind of blueprint idea of what surfing tourism should look like in every different place. But rather, it’s really flexible, it’s something that can be applied in different places. Because it’s more of a methodological framework rather than a blueprint kind of top down approach, right? So my role as a researcher or as the project leader for a SUSPIRO would be to kind of start convening people, first in small groups to talk about some of these things. And then with kind of this leadership team here locally, they would then be able to interact with the wider community and talk about these issues and come up with projects together.

Imi Barneaud: And what kind of projects would you see emerging from SUSPIRO?

Tara Ruttenberg: So for example, the way that the work I do is framed, is that it’s around assets based, alternatives to development. So what that means is that,one of the first projects that will undertake is a mapping process of all of the different community assets. So that means the skills and capacities of the local people, that means local institutions like schools or clinics, that means the built infrastructure of the place, the natural environment. What are all of the things that make this community what it is. So it would be a bit of a physical map, but also kind of an ideas map. And then there would also be a bit of a mapping of the diverse economy. So what people are already doing here to get their economic and social needs met. So it’s a transformation of what we understand as economy rather than just thinking about, you know, a business who pays salaries and then people exchanging money for their needs, and goods, and services. But rather, how are people taking care of each other. So how does someone get a need met, not even necessarily through the exchange of money. Can it be something like trade? Can it be, you’re watching my kids tomorrow so I can go surf, or you know, things like that. So it’s really kind of a broad opening of what we understand by the word economy. And that’s based on some work that’s done by people in the community, economies collective, and the community economies research network, of which I’m a part. So my work is really affiliated with the work that they’re doing, but it’s the first time that it’s being applied in a tourism scenario, particularly in a surfing tourism scenario. So once people start kind of talking about the social fabric that makes this community so special, there can be a number of projects that come out of this.

Imi Barneaud: Okay.

Tara Ruttenberg: So one potential project would be for the community apply in Playa Hermosa, is that this kind of crossroads at the Northern end of where all of this new development is happening, that people could start putting their heads together about reframing this zoning plan in a way that’s more supportive of conservation and alternatives to development rather than just kind of sell all the land and local people have nowhere to be.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah. I noticed when I was in Bali, and it’s really happening, it’s sort of exponentially happening, is that a lot of people are selling or renting out their land for a certain amount of time to get some easy cash, and now they’re kind of regretting that their rice paddies disappearing and everything. Is a lot of property in Costa Rica owned privately, or was it public land that sold to the newcomers? To the foreigners?

Tara Ruttenberg: So the majority of land here that’s being sold in a lot of the surf towns is private land, and there is a lot of public land, but most of it is designated as national park area. So Costa Rica is actually a wonderful example of conservation of the coast lands and public use of the coastline. So you can’t have any private property owned on a beach in Costa Rica up to between 150 and 200 meters from the high tide line. So they call it like this maritime zone that is both a conservation area and public land for access for all Costa Ricans and all people.

Imi Barneaud: Right.

Tara Ruttenberg: But beyond that high tide line and outside of the public conservation areas and the national park system, the majority is private land that’s being sold now to foreigners. And a lot of it has already been bought by foreigners and it has split and resold, exactly. Yeah, so the land grab is real in Costa Rica.

Imi Barneaud: Wow, wow, so let’s sort of recap. SUSPIRO is, so that we can understand the whole scope of the project because it’s a really impactful project. So can you recap what SUSPIRO is? Is it a nonprofit, or is it just a project? What is the legal structure? And how is that pan out?

Tara Ruttenberg: Right, okay. So since we’re just in our beginning stages right now, we’re beginning our pilot project here in Playa Hermosa, Santa Teresa. And from there it will evolve based on the work that we’re doing here into a nonprofit that will be a bit of a consulting firm and also a project management firm that can support these sorts of tourism alternatives and sustainable solutions in coastal communities in surfing destinations around the world.

Imi Barneaud: Wow. And so how do you see that spreading to other tourist destinations?

Tara Ruttenberg: Well, like I mentioned before, it doesn’t come, like, with this blueprint model of this is how alternatives to development should exist around the world, but what does make it scalable and applicable to so many places is the flexibility of the methods that will be used to facilitate conversations among communities. So this could work potentially everywhere that surf tourism is a phenomenon in places where people go surfing. So it could be me working with communities as the person who’s facilitating these processes, or ideally it would be me training people in these methodologies. So then within the communities themselves, they can adapt these methods in ways that are useful for their communities themselves.

Imi Barneaud: Okay, okay. And have you found any exceptions to this sort of devastating tourism practices in other countries? Or is it really kind of the whole that the general scheme where you find a wave and it gets discovered on Instagram, or shared, or whatever and everybody starts piling in and buying land? Are there any exceptions, or any countries that have made an exception to that?

Tara Ruttenberg: There are, I’m actually very inspired by a couple of models that are taking place in Mexico. There is a community there in Oaxaca, Southern Oaxaca, where the local community, the majority of whom are indigenous people have created a surf tourism management project that’s actually funding and fueling their community organizations. So for example, surfers who go there and need to pay a really minimal fee to access the wave every time they go down to surf.,I believe it’s around a dollar, a dollar 50. So they pay that, there’s a bit of like a gate, someone taking the money at the gate, you go down, you have your day of surf. There’s also a community cooperative restaurant that’s run on the beach and that’s one of the few, the only few businesses that are allowed to be on the beach there. And so the money that is collected through charging surfers at the entrance and then the funds that are received through the community collective cooperative, the community cooperative restaurant, all of that goes into a fund. And that is then decided how it will be spent and redistributed among the community through the local community association, which I actually interviewed some of the directors of that association now and got a bit of the scoop on how it functions, but they’re able to use the funds that they receive from surfing tourism to support things like the local health clinic, the schools that are there in town, payment for people if they need to go to a clinic or a hospital if they’re sick or injured, people’s pensions after they’re of age to be working. And then they’re also really focused on the conservation of the area. So no foreigners can buy land there, no one can build on the beach. So it’s a beautiful example of local people becoming organized and creating these sort of autonomous surfing zones. They have their own kind of local governance model as well, where the federal government doesn’t really intervene very much and they’re still, you know, they’re able to function in that way and it’s wonderful to see. To me, it’s really, really inspiring of how local communities can kind of steward the ways that surfing tourism is happening in their places.

Imi Barneaud: And it’s a win win situation because the surfers that go there, there’ll be surfing less crowded waves and there’ll be less sort of trouble in the water and less pollution. And you know, the whole sort of consequences of mass tourism that are going to disappear, so that’s really interesting. And how could we as tourists dreaming of going to surf destinations like Costa Rica, or Mexico, or Bali, or Sri Lanka or whatever, how can we be more mindful as a tourist?

Tara Ruttenberg: Right. So I always say that sustainable tourism is an oxymoron, but I liked that as a good starting page, right? Because I don’t think we need to sugarcoat the fact that international tourism is a huge problem environmentally and socially. But the reality is also that some communities can be supported at least on an income level through the ways that tourism and surf tourism is happening. So what I always tell people when I give kind of workshops on sustainable travel, or talk about sustainable tourism is to look at yourself and think of yourself as being a guest in somebody else’s grandmother’s home, right? So the idea that you’re a guest there, you’re a visitor, you’re not going to show up overnight and try to just change everything, tell people that they need to be recycling and stopped burning their trash, and you know, kind of importing your kind of Western mindset as a traveler and criticizing what people are doing in the places that they live, right? You’re a guest, you might sit down and listen to a few stories before you try to start telling people how it is. But I’m more of a practical level things we can do our research a bit about the sustainability practices of the places where you’re staying. You can also make sure you’re staying locally, eating locally, supporting locally owned businesses. To the extent that’s possible because in that way you’re contributing to more of an equalization of income among locals and foreigners. And then of course, you know, your plastic impact, right? When you’re traveling, bring your own bottle. There’s some places that it’s hard to drink the water if there aren’t bottles present. But yeah, doing your best to minimize your actual plastic imprint and your waste while you’re in places, and more and more there’s beautiful surfers that are popping up around the world that are focused on permaculture principles that are growing their own food, that are using, you know, human waste in productive ways. You don’t necessarily need to just be staying at these big fancy resorts when you traveled to surf, but you can think a little bit more outside the box, and you know, not just care about what kind of waves you’re going to be scoring on that trip, but also about what your impact is. You know, and I think that surfers, there are many environmentally aware surfers, but it hasn’t necessarily translated into environmentally and socially aware travel practices. And I think that’s the next step, right? I think people are talking about it and there’s some awareness there. But in terms of how it’s being done, we’re all responsible. We’re all responsible for how we’re behaving, and how we’re being either harmonious or wasteful in the places that we’re traveling to visit, and you know, some people think that just by taking a flight and checking the little box that says I’m supporting a carbon offset by paying $3 extra, you know that, what are you funding, right? In a lot of places, even those carbon offset programs are creating havoc for indigenous communities that now have to deal with a wind farm on their land that they don’t even necessarily want. But since the government is involved in this kind of carbon offset program, they have to now be resisting that as another form of encroachment and colonization on their lands, right? So that’s happening in a lot of places. And not that many people are talking about it because it’s easier to just say, Oh no, I offset my carbon and therefore I’m able to go on my fancy surf trip to this year.

Imi Barneaud: Hmm, yeah, yeah. That’s really interesting. And so how can we support to SUSPIRO?

Tara Ruttenberg: So we have a GoFundMe campaign. So the website is gofundme.com/SUSPIRO-sustainable-surf-tourism. I believe you can find it. Maybe you’ll include a link or something.

Imi Barneaud: The GoFundMe page will be on the show notes of the episode. So yes, that’ll be all included. And also can we talk a bit about Tarantula Surf?

Tara Ruttenberg: Yeah, definitely. So I created Tarantula Surf, I think it’s going on eight or nine years ago now. At first it was simply a story sharing website. So I am a writer by trade and I write a lot of creative nonfiction. So I share personal stories from my life as a surfer and in other aspects related to life and some of the academic work that I also write for more of a popular audience as well. So I create a Tarantula Surf as a space to share some of those stories and support greater kind of authenticity and difference through people sharing their stories, particularly women. So I have a bit of a portfolio, a lot of my writing from over the years. They’re on my website and then slowly has evolved and now includes also the different retreats that I’m offering every year. And then my partner is a surf instructor, so we have a page for his surf school as well. And also a bit about my coaching and consulting business as well. So it’s a place that encompasses a lot of the different work that I do in the world.

Imi Barneaud: So what’s your consulting business and coaching business about?

Tara Ruttenberg: So the consulting is around sustainability, and sustainable tourism, and sustainable surf tourism. So I work with different clients often on a one on one capacity, or I support organizations that are doing work related to sustainable tourism, or sustainable surf tourism. And then my coaching work is called empathy coaching,or empathic coaching. So it’s similar to life coaching where I work with clients one on one, or in a workshop setting if it’s a retreat, and it’s related to the teachings of nonviolent communication or compassionate communication, that the different feelings or experiences that we’re having are linked to important needs that we all have as humans. And once we’re able to identify the needs that are attached to some of those difficult emotions that we’re experiencing in our lives, that then we can work towards strategies that help satisfy our needs and in that way, live a more fulfilled life related to the things that we care about into our purpose and bring more meaning into our life. So yeah, it’s a beautiful practice for people who are interested in personal growth and making significant changes in their lives. People who are kind of at a moment where they’re thinking, you know, I don’t necessarily love my job right now. I have a bigger dream and a vision, and I enjoy supporting women particularly who are moving towards that in their life.

Imi Barneaud: Wow. So can we find out all about that in Tarantula Surf?

Tara Ruttenberg: Yup, exactly tarantulasurf.com.

Imi Barneaud: Okay, okay. Well I guess we’re getting to the end of this interview, which is really, really fascinating. Talk about sustainability, and sustainable tourism, and everything. And I just wondered if you could answer the four questions that I’d like to ask my guests at the end of it, it’s basically sentences to finish. So the first one is I love.

Tara Ruttenberg: Surfing.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah, I miss.

Tara Ruttenberg: Hmm. That’s a good one. I miss my niece and nephews who live far away in Connecticut in the States.

Imi Barneaud: I wish.

Tara Ruttenberg: I wish that every surf tourism destination can live more sustainably for the future.

Imi Barneaud: Fantastic. And I want.

Tara Ruttenberg: I want SUSPIRO to be fully funded so we can have a very successful pilot project and bring this work to other places around the world.

Imi Barneaud: Fantastic. Regarding SUSPIRO, are you taking volunteers, or interns, or is there a way to kind of help? Actually physically.

Tara Ruttenberg: So right now, I am actually working with an intern. She joins us from a sustainable tourism program at a university in Germany, and she reached out to me a few months ago because through her program she needed to do an internship and she liked the kind of critical approach and the different work we are doing through surfing tourism. So she is here now, she’ll be here for the duration of this pilot project through February, March. And then after that, yeah there could be potential for another intern. So people are interested in supporting this project in multiple ways, right? There can be kind of in kind donations, that people’s volunteer time even, you know, just an expression of energy, or if you live in a surf tourism community, and this sounds like something that you want for the place that you live, need some support in getting it started. Those are the people that I would love to attract and I’m happy to support in whatever way I can.

Imi Barneaud: Okay, fantastic. So can we recap how we can actually get in touch with you?

Tara Ruttenberg: Sure. So the best would be through the website. There’s a contact form, otherwise people can email me directly to tarantulasurf@gmail.com, and then my Instagram is tarantula surf as well, and I also have a Facebook page, facebook.com/tarantulasurf.

Imi Barneaud: Excellent, excellent. So, I guess we’ve made it, how do you feel?

Tara Ruttenberg: Good. I think I was a little bit nervous.

Imi Barneaud: Oh, that’s all right. No, you sounded great. So you really did.

Tara Ruttenberg: I was eloquent.

Imi Barneaud: Listen, Tara, thank you ever so much for being my guest today and I wish you all the best with your project and funding of the projects, and I really hope that you can make a difference for the lives of people in Costa Rica and in Playa Hermosa.

Tara Ruttenberg: Thank you.

Imi Barneaud: Thank you for being my guest.

Tara Ruttenberg: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Imi Barneaud: You’re welcome. See you. That was a fascinating conversation. I was quite shocked to realize how big an impact to our passion for surfing can have on look populations, not to mention the environment. In fact, in Episode 9, I had a discussion with Dr. Javier Leon, a professor of surfonomics at the University of the Sunshine Coast about the gentrification of surf spots. And in fact with her projects, SUSPIRO, Tara and her team are actually finding ways to create economical and social models that will benefit everybody, which is super encouraging. So skipped their GoFundMe page to find out more and help them build a team. Links to everything mentioned in this episode are on your show notes on the weekly article I publish on medium.com and also on theoceanriderspodcast.com, The Oceanriders Podcast is a passion project and if you like it, you can support it in a number of ways. Number one, you can head over to iTunes to give it a few stars or a review. In fact, better still you could subscribe. Anything in this direction increases my ranking and lets more people hear about my fascinating guests. Number two, comment, join the conversation on the social media. You’ll find links to my social media accounts on theoceanriderspodcast.com, and you can also connect with me on Instagram at The Oceanriders Podcast instagram, on Facebook, at The Oceanriders Podcast facebook, and on Twitter at Imipodcast. Number three, join me for an episode or sponsor my podcast. Just send an email to hello@theoceanriderspodcost.com, and I’ll take care of the rest. That’s the housekeeping’s as the way. And I would like to thank Tara for being such an inspiring guest and for showing us that academics and surfing are in fact compatible. And I would like to thank you guys for listening. Until next week, take care, have fun and enjoy the waves. Ciao.


Enjoy listening to my podcast? Consider making a donation!

Donations will be used to pay for equipment, podcast editor and promotion of the podcast on social networks.  The Oceanriders Podcast is a member of One Percent for The Planet, 1% of your proceeds will be donated to Surfrider Europe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to top