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Merman of the month September – Julian Schindler

As a child, Julian Schindler didn’t know anything about the ocean – his home in Germany was after all closer to the Alps than to the coast. Twelve years ago, Borøya at the southern coast of Norway, became his new home. Since then, Julian’s relation to the ocean has gone from being non-existent to being a part of almost every aspect of his life. Thanks to the southern summers, ocean activities, and his science teacher Nils Åge, the ocean has become his biggest passion. 


Who are you? 

Julian Schindler, 23 years old. I am originally from Germany, but after twelve years in Norway, I manage to fool most people with a neutralized southern dialect and an “islender” sweater. Even though a part of me still belongs to Germany, I feel like a Norwegian. When I am surrounded by the ocean and southern idyll on Borøya, an island outside of Tvedestrand, I am home. My mother has always been fascinated by nature, and that is probably partly why I have a passion for different species and animals. This passion is becoming more and more directed towards the creatures in the ocean. 


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What are you doing these days? 

At the moment I live in Kristiansand, where I am redoing subjects in order to improve my grades so I can study biology. I thought I wanted to become a graphic designer, but I realized that I had a bigger passion. Creativity, drawing and photography will stay a hobby. Even though the days pile up, it feels good to be back at school, one step closer to my goal. I will become a marine biologist.

“It is hard to understand how the ocean has become such a big part of me, when it is so foreign where I come from”

When did the ocean become important for you?

As a child, I didn’t know anything about the ocean. In comparison to most of the people I know, I didn’t grow up with going out on the sea by boat, bathing from the pier and fishing for crabs. The ocean was big and scary at that time. 

I remember especially well one of the first trips we went on in primary school. At that time, I didn’t speak Norwegian very well, I was the tallest in my class and I had a bowl cut. I wasn’t very comfortable, and it was more tempting to call in sick. This ended up being my first taste of the typical summer in southern Norway, where the ocean is in the center of most activities. 

Some years later I started secondary school. Suddenly, it was Asle from my parallel class that was the tallest one. I finally started to find my place, and things changed. I had a science teacher, Nils Åge, who took us out on different trips and introduced me for so many things I am grateful for today. We did seabed samples and submitted them for analysis to see the spread of antifouling and contamination on the seabed. My engagement at that time, resulted in Nils Åge being the first person to suggest marine biology as a good option for me. After having done my diver certificate, surfed both in Norway and abroad, and gotten to know our coast both in the north and the south, I am left with a huge admiration for the ocean. And it only grows bigger. ¨


What role does the ocean play in your life?

It is hard to understand how the ocean has become such a big part of me, when it is so foreign where I come from. It was a shorter distance to the Alps, than to the nearest coast. No one would have believed that I would become an ocean enthusiast, devoting so much of my life in that direction. I know how the ocean influences and enrich my life, and the lives of my loved ones. The ocean is huge, incomprehensible, powerful, terrifying, and at the same time very fragile, in a way similar to us humans. The ocean is like a safe haven where I can seek shelter and put things in perspective, find peace, strength and new energy when things get too much. 


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What do you do to take care of the ocean? What does tavaha mean to you?

I pick up trash, and I try to recycle as much as I can and remind my flat mates how important it is. And it is not really that hard! I also stopped eating meat soon a year ago, to reduce my carbon footprint. We can do just fine without it. Another thing that is nice to do is to use public transportation systems, or just bike or walk. For me, Tavaha is kind of a love declaration to the ocean, and a sign of unity and courage, something that gives me hope and a lot of motivation. 

 “The ocean is huge, incomprehensible, powerful, terrifying, and at the same time very fragile, in a way similar to us humans”

What do you think is the biggest challenge we have to solve in order to save the ocean? 

The biggest challenge is probably to wake up everybody, make us act and think of the future we want. Also, we should be a bit more grateful for what we have. Every day I see a growing engagement and focus on environmental protection, but there is still a lot left to do. We need to convince our politicians and we need stricter policies. Oceans and natural areas have to be protected, and searching for oil in new, fragile, conservation-needed areas has to be stopped. We often don’t see what we have until it is gone. It is also incredible amounts of things in nature and the ocean that we know nothing about. It is all about finding alternative solutions, use the ones that already exists, and travel as little as possible. All in all, do our parts! 


What are your #tavahatips to take care of the ocean?

  • Bring a net or tote bag to the store.
  • Pick up trash and recycle.
  • Say NO to single use articles.
  • Buy secondhand and fix what is broken.
  • Invest in quality.

“For me, tavaha is kind of a love declaration to the ocean, and a sign of unity and courage, something that gives me hope and a lot of motivation”

What is your happiest ocean memory?

That is very hard, if not impossible to choose. Being close to the ocean is always a good starting point for making good memories. 

If I have to choose one, it must be from when I went camping in Jæren for a week with my girlfriend Irene, at the beginning of the summer. The goal was to go surfing, and we really got to experience a different types of weather. Strong currents and wave chaos one day, made a calm evening with small waves the most memorable night. I was in the water for hours, and didn’t get up until the sun went down and Irene had to force me out. 

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Who are your everyday heroes?

There are many people out there that deserve a mention here, but especially the ones that do the small things and thing before they act. Those who spread joy, knowledge and motivate others. There are also incredible organizations and people on social media that work 24/7 to make the world a better place. And I can’t go without mentioning my girlfriend, who inspires and motivates both me and many other to make better decisions every day. 


And last, what do you want to thank the ocean for?

I would like to thank the ocean for the calm I feel when I see it. That it wakens adventurousness in me, and inspires the choices I make in life.