Coral reefs are often thought of as having borrowed time as a result of pollution, mismanagement, and climate change. Some estimate that over half of coral reefs around the planet may be lost by the year 2050. This may be the case, BUT only if we allow it to happen. We have the power to make positive changes for coral protection.

So, on this World Reef Awareness day, we’re announcing Dr. Cliff Kapono, the descendant and defender of Coral, as a REEF ambassador and our partner in using scientific innovation to preserve and protect coral reef ecosystems globally. Cliff is a scientist, surfer and activist, whose work focuses on developing innovative methods of monitoring reefs and interpreting the chemical and geophysical impacts affecting coral systems. We hope our work with Cliff advances global awareness and knowledge around the importance that coral reefs play on our planet and how we can work together to protect them.

“We see coral reefs as an integral part of REEF’s mission to protect our playground. Without a healthy coral reef the ocean’s ecosystem and our ability to enjoy it is at risk. This is obviously something we care deeply about and couldn’t be more proud to have Cliff on our team.” - Mike Jensen

Here are some ways we are getting to work with Cliff:

1: Through partnering with Cliff and The MEGA LAB (, we are mapping out specific reefs around Hawai’i. The MEGA LAB specializes in studying coral health, and has developed innovative ways to monitor the reef by creating 3D models of the benthic environments. These models then are used to interpret the chemical, and geophysical impacts that affect coral systems.

2: We’ll also be launching a 6 episode web series with Cliff that uncovers how a small surf spot in Hawai’i may have the secret to helping to save the world’s coral. A scientific breakthrough in helping to protect and preserve coral reef ecosystems globally. Look for more info on our blog on release dates this August!

“I’m beyond excited to begin this relationship with REEF. As a company, their commitment to ocean health is something that I find quite refreshing especially in the outdoor industry space. And although we still have a ways to go, it’s an honor to join such an incredible group of like minded individuals who get what it’s all about. When the values are aligned, the work becomes second nature.”   - Cliff Kapono

Ancestral is a short film, created by Cliff, that describes our human relationship to coral. Hawaiian tradition celebrates coral as our oldest ancestor. In the beginning of time, the coral was the first born. From the coral comes the land and humans are the stewards of this land. Our creation story, the Kumulipo was passed on ancestrally by chant until first written by King Kalākaua during his reign. It was then subsequently translated by Queen Liliuʻokalani into English. Ancestral uses the original text and translations by our Hawaiian royalty. Teachings of our relationship between land and humans were provided by the late Mary Kawena Pukui. This World Reef Awareness Day, we celebrate not only our coral reefs but also our ancestors.

Video produced and edited by descendant and defender of Coral & the REEF brands newest Global Ambassador, Dr. Cliff Kapono. (Additional footage provided by Perrin James, Sarah Lee and Joey Trisolini.) Cliff is a professional surfer, chemist and journalist. Born on the eastern shores of Hawai‘i, his life involves equal parts science as it does surf. Cliff’s work, based in Hilo, Hawai’i, is a place he explores coral health, focusing on innovative methods of monitoring reefs and interpreting the chemical and geophysical impacts affecting coral systems. A place where he impliments new technology being invented to better protect our oceans and reefs. While contributing several peer-reviewed publications to the fields of molecular bioscience, he has also produced a handful of award-winning films that discuss indigenous activism, ocean conservation, global food security and virtual reality. Cliff has recently been appointed professor of the school of social transformation and life sciences at Arizona State University where he continues to use his education and voice to educate the next generation.

“Cliff’s research is part of both his career and his identity, “Science is very powerful in that way to me, as an indigenous person, because it can help to communicate an idea that we have spent thousands of years trying to formulate...For me, the two spaces are completely connected, completely intertwined” -quoted in a recent TSJ interview.


1. Corals are tiny animals that grow together to make reefs

2. About 25% of the world’s fish depend on healthy coral reefs

3. Shallow water reefs have tiny algae living in their tissue that give them their color and some of their food through photosynthesis.

4. The economic value of coral reefs throughout the world is estimated at 10 of billions of dollars.

5. Corals have the ability to recover from coral bleaching if the right conditions are restored.

Source: NOAA Coral Reef Ecosystems education page


Allen Coral AtlasScience DirectSurfrider Foundation and Urban Surf 4 Kids.