Part 3 of our Surf Careers Series and we talk to Candace Loy.
Candace is a Marine Science Phd student and entrepreneur, working hard to set up a women focused surf and art community. Read more about her journey towards her Phd and how she combines it with a love for the ocean and surfing.
When did you start surfing?
When I was 29. I learnt to drive so that I could go surfing. There were many things going on before that which prevented me from getting a start, so I had to keep that dream alive in my head and believe it could happen while I sorted other stuff out. At the time it felt like it could never happen. And now it feels natural, freeing and like home when I step into the sea with my board beside me.
Are you still studying or working?
I’m doing both, and have been for forever.
I’ve worked anything from cleaning campground toilets to hospitality jobs, I’ve even worn a bean costume (big red kidney bean). Helping out with surf lessons, snorkel guiding and marine education. I’m currently working as a marine educator at our marine discovery centre.
I did my Bachelors in neuroscience and biophysics in Australia. I wasn’t great at it, had a lot of difficulty in school, but I have always enjoyed learning. So I learnt to differentiate between my interests. I am currently at the last stages of my PhD in marine science, focussing on exploring native marine species in New Zealand, which might be suitable for sustainable sea farming, in a way that recycles nutrients and waste materials.
Did you choose marine science to combine it with surfing?
It became clearer and clearer to me that I needed to be as close to the sea as possible, and I combined that need with knowing that I enjoy research (sometimes). I found a field which was interesting, and I could potentially contribute to, and rolled with it. It hasn’t been easy at all, and I actually didn’t know I was going to end up in New Zealand. I wonder what is going to happen next.
Was there anything your particularly loved or disliked about your studies?
Like many people, I have been terrible at maths. However, you have to use statistics in research, and it was a very uphill climb for me, but instead of giving up, which I wanted to, I had to accept that people were questioning my abilities, ignore them (not easy) and believe in myself to keep going. In this process, I found out that I learn well visually, and happened to find resources that taught it in a way I understood. When I started to grasp some things and worked with my data, it began to feel rewarding and I enjoyed it more. I still don’t know a lot of it, but I know I can learn.
"It is the greatest blessing to be surrounded by an incredible tribe of strong, smart, talented and kind women. It’s very important for me."
What does your typical working day look like?
At the moment I’m at the write-up phase, so I am in the student office writing my thesis, and on other days I am working in the marine discovery centre next door. I’ve been training myself to have a schedule and wake up early, and it is surprisingly quite nice. I feel less hurried, and like there is more time, when I start my day before 8. I spend a lot of time at the computer, because I am also building my own brand (art, marine education, lifestyle and storytelling), and have been learning, working on it for a few years, it’s another big project.
I make sure I incorporate yoga, yin yoga and lots of water time when it’s possible. Snorkelling, surfing, stand up paddling. My friends and I try to get together at least once a week to do some yoga, eat / have a few wines, and hangout. It is the greatest blessing to be surrounded by an incredible tribe of strong, smart, talented and kind women. It’s very important for me.
Is the actual work what you expected it would be when you studied marine science?
With what I’m doing, the general expectation is that a ‘proper’ job is available when I finish. My current part-time gig as a marine educator is fun and rewarding, as it feels good to be able to share cool information about what we are learning about the ocean. At the moment I do not know what my ‘grown up’ job is going to be. Although I know I am in the right field. I am open to creating something of my own, which combines what I enjoy, and this may not fall into the traditional academic route.
"Focus on staying on your wave. Ever noticed when you catch a sweet wave nothing else matters during the ride?"
Who would you recommend Marine Science to?
If you are always curious and want to know more of the world, I recommend exploring research. It can be in any area though, every field has research going on in it, not just science. It is very different from showing up at a job and following orders. It can be intimidating, especially because you know that the more you learn, the more you don’t know.
Photo by Andy Mann
Any other advice for people who are looking to combine watersports passion with work?
I can see that there would be more and more opportunities to be able to be near water and work around water for a living. Coasts, estuaries and open waters need researching, protecting, conserving, education, and sustainable development. What’s available will change and evolve. If you can’t find it, create it.
"If you can’t find it, create it."
Anything else you’d like to add?
Scientists never pretend to be completely sure about most things. Or they will state a lot of caveats and assumptions. We all want to just have simple, definite answers, but there is not much in life that is like that. I find that pretty exciting because it means there is so much more to discover. Apply that to other parts of your life too.
It is common and easy to then assume it’s just a lot of bad, unknown stuff, but take some time to look around and actually notice how many people are trying to solve problems. We are wired to pay attention to bad news, as knowing more about it might help us to survive, and so the news and media cash in on that intrinsic wiring we have. But you can train yourself to notice what is working too, and find ways to make it possible for yourself.
Life is too short to sit around and comment over and over and over again, on what is not working and what others are doing that is failing. You don’t know where they’re headed. Behind every success that even makes it in front of your eyeballs, there are countless little stories of struggle and triumph. Focus on staying on your wave. Ever notice that when you catch a sweet wave nothing else matters during the ride? That’s what it feels like when you learn to focus on your own stuff. You can create your own stoke on land too (not the same as a wave though.)
Come say hello on IG: @iloveprettyfish,
or check out my mini quiz for mermaids like you
Love to read about inspirational women that combine studies or work with a love for the water? Go check out our other Surf Careers posts:
Part 2: Heather Alice, The Surfing Nurse.
Part 1: Dani, flight attendant and Flyingsurf creator.