We had the good fortune of connecting with Stacie Vanags and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Stacie, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking.
For me, taking risks has been a lifetime of unlearning, and also one of my greatest joys because I’m in a constant state of uncomfortable motion. Fear very clearly stems from my childhood; my mother is a worrywart at heart. She doesn’t know how to swim, for example, so is petrified of the water, a fear many people actually share. She cringes when I travel to mystical places in search of surfing waves and new culture and just waits for me to “get home safe.” I have had to very consciously practice not leading with fear because quite honestly, it’s easy to do between the news / media and things we are taught in childhood. One of the most significant risks I’ve taken in my life was learning to surf at age 32. I thought I was ‘too old’ to learn a sport like surfing, and while it hasn’t been easy, I can’t imagine my life without my connection to the ocean. It has inspired me to be an ocean activist, use less plastic, make better consumer choices, volunteer with Surfrider Foundation, and my travel itinerary has changed entirely. Risk taking also meant starting a podcast when I thought my voice was the most annoying thing in the world (still do), and I’ve had the great pleasure of now interviewing over 60 incredible waterwomen from all over the world! I’ve shared their stories from the corners of France, Spain, India, South Africa, Columbia, The Maldives, Canada, and Australia to name a few. My most recent risk is a fixer upper investment my husband and I bought in Ventura. I’ve never done a home improvement project in my life, and now we are rehabbing our entire home and land ourselves to create what we envision to be a community and safe place for surfers passing through, sharing stories of adventure, good spirits and inspiring us to take the next big risk! Thank you for sharing my story! Stacie
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’ve actually worked in mental health / substance abuse for the past 17 years. When people hear this they immediately ask if I’m a therapist, which I am not. I realized very early on that I am too sensitive of a person and being a therapist would not be a healthy career choice for me, (basically because I want to save the world and all animals and people) so instead of the clinical route I focused on the business route. I’ve been working with employers and large corporations over the years to educate them on how to use their mental health benefits, breaking down stigma behind our programs, sharing data and reporting and just finding new ways to talk about this important topic.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love this question! First up, I’d take them to the ocean and toss them on a surfboard (ask my bff from MN, I actually did this to her, poor thing!) I would take her to a spot called Mondos which is a really cruisy wave with a nice vibe of people. She’d be exhausted after her first surf lesson, so deserving of some local tacos. We’d also spend a day in Ojai hiking a desert trail, and for sure get a heaping scoop of ice cream when we’re done because it’s about 20 degrees hotter there than Ventura. There are endless herbal and mystical shops in Ojai so we’d spend the day timewarping through Ojai and chatting with the local business owners to hear their stories. Now that I have a house, I’m so excited about finally entertaining, so I would probably make my famous jack fruit tacos with a spicy margarita one evening and sit out on my porch that I call the ‘wine bar’ that has beautiful grapes growing around it! We also have orange, lemon, avocado, plum and apricot trees on our 1/2 acre, so we’d likely spend some time just walking around the yard and enjoying our newfound space, plants and trees. I’d take her to the local farmers market on Saturday to get fresh veggies, and likely bike downtown Ventura to show her the lively shops and restaurants. Liquid State makes the BEST slices of pizza so we’d definitely have to swing through there. Lastly, apparently there is a great music scene but due to COVID we haven’t ventured out there yet, but that would make the list as well!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Surfrider Foundation, Los Angeles, hands down. I started volunteering with them a few years back and ended up stepping into the Chapter Chair role for two years. It was with the Surfrider community that I found my confidence and voice with activism. I learn new things and am inspired each and every day by these ocean activists!