I grew up on Cape Cod and have spent all of my life in, on, or around the water. I came to Charleston in 2002 to attend the College of Charleston. Two factors played a role in my decision–Charleston’s waterways and the College’s astrophysics department. I taught sailing and raced during my time in school. I would eventually drop the “astro” and graduate in 2006 with a degree in physics. After college I spent nearly two months in Zimbabwe, working with an educational-based nonprofit organization. The experience opened my eyes to the inspiring social sector.
After my return to Charleston, as I taught sailing at a local sailing school, I began formulating a plan to combine my love for sailing, my background in physics, and my newfound fascination with social enterprise and community development.
Charleston Waterkeeper was born as an idea in 2008 after I read The Riverkeepers — a firsthand account of a community’s fight to protect and restore the Hudson River, and the birth of the Waterkeeper movement. The story lit a fire under my ass… My livelihood at the time was directly tied to the quality of Charleston’s waterways. Life in Charleston revolves around its waterways–it always has. I recognized a tremendous need for our community to establish a means by which we could protect this incredible natural resource and our fundamental right to clean water–swimmable, drinkable, fishable water.
Waterkeeper Alliance approved our proposal to establish a Waterkeeper program in Charleston in September 2008. We incorporated in 2009. And by 2011, we hired our first employee. The past two years have been most instrumental in our development–with an incredibly talented team, we’ve built programs that allow us to regularly monitor and protect the quality of Charleston’s waterways. Each of us involved with Charleston Waterkeeper is a user of the water–a sailor, a surfer, a swimmer… We each have an invested interest in protecting what we enjoy.
Now for the style part!
Style inspiration: Classic coastal New England, rugged outdoors and frontier, layers and timeless materials (wool/denim/flannel/cotton).
Jeans: J. Crew 484 Dark Denim
Shirts: Classic White TShirt (Fruit of the Loom) / Button-Down Collar Oxford Shirt (Mostly thrift-store finds in classic blues, plaid, or flannel–depending on the weather, of course!
Shorts: My Birdwell Beach Britches are some of the most comfortable items of clothing I’ve ever worn. If I had it my way, I would never take these off in the summertime. When I need a bit more utility, I reach for my 5″ Patagonia Stand Up Shorts.
Suits: My first and only *real* suit is a beautiful, black Dolce & Gabbana Martini Suit. It was a gift from a very good friend of mine, and it’s been with me, acting as my uniform, for some of the most memorable and special moments of my life. Despite my northern roots, I’ve become partial to the bow-tie… diamond-points as of late. I’ll usually have a white pocket square or something with classic and subtle blues.
Boots: My Ariat boots are the best piece of footwear I’ve ever owned. I’ve worn them through thick and thin and will always own a pair. There’s a tremendous element of comfort in the slip-on boot… Whether my Ariats when on dry-land or my rubber waders when I’m on the water. During Charleston’s rainy months and often times on the water, I’ll be wearing my 8″ Bean Boots. Keeping dry is key.
Shoes: My go-to shoe is my pair of Cole Haan double-buckle monk strap. For more formal occasions, I’ll wear my Johnston and Murphy Georgetowns (although the time I got to wear these was pretty great!). I’ve also been known to borrow a vintage pair of opera pumps from a buddy of mine when I’m really looking to class things up…
Accessories: When I’m on the water, I’m usually wearing a baseball hat–either a weathered Red Sox hat or one of my own (a little project I’m working on…)… My sunglasses of choice are my Persols, but due to a recent theft, I’ve defaulted to a pair of Maui Jim’s (they’re a bit better on the water, but nothing trumps Persol’s style).
My uncle’s Victorinox Swiss Army pocket knife is a treasure. He passed away last February, and not only is it a functional tool to have at-hand, but it’s empowering reminder of his kindness and loving spirit. When on the water, I’ll have my Leatherman multi-tool on me too.
Outerwear: Since Charleston’s so beautiful, my outerwear selection isn’t as robust as it likely would be if I were still in New England. When it’s a bit cooler, there’s nothing like a hoodie when you’re out on the water. That and my Patagonia Torrentshell Rain Jacket are like armor against the bitter wind, spray, and cold mornings.
When I’m not on the water, my default jacket for cooler months in Charleston is my Barbour Bedale wax jacket. It’s pretty much bullet proof, and it can take a beating. I love wool sweaters and usually accompany an oxford with a classic LL Bean or J. Crew sweater. On more formal occasions, I have a handful of vintage overcoats from Brooks Brothers and a handful of thrift-store Harris Tweed. On nasty days, I’ll don my foul weather gear on the water.
Favorite App: Waterkeeper SwimGuide App. Access up-to-date water quality data for the places you like to swim and enjoy the water. During our sampling season, Charleston Waterkeeper updates the app weekly with our most up-to-data water quality data from our water quality monitoring program.
Favorite piece of technology: It’s a love/hate relationship, but I’d have to say my iPhone. No two days are alike for me, so having a way to remain connected while on-the-go (whether posting photos from the field or reviewing documents on-the-go)… Remaining connected with my family is incredibly important to me, and it makes it that much easier… That said, I often feel too connected and am nearing a digital detox shortly… Either that or my French press… Pretty simple technology, but I don’t know where I’d be without it!
Next tech purchase: Despite having quick and easy access to the camera app on the iPhone, I’ve always wanted a nice SLR. There are so many beautiful stories and moments–people, places–that I’d like to capture with greater quality and care. My dad was a combat photographer in Vietnam, and he still shoots to this day. I’m always inspired by the stillness and tranquility of his work. Slowing down for a moment might do me good…
Photo courtesy of Olivia Rae James.