RIP, Paul Walker. The Ocean Has Lost a Friend.
Most people mourning the death of Paul Walker know him best in his roles as an actor: The Fast and the Furious series, Varsity Blues, She’s All That and Pleasantville, among many.
We knew him better as an aspiring marine biologist and a lifelong friend of the ocean. And we miss him so much — because he was a true advocate for healthy oceans.
Growing up, Paul was inspired by Jacques Cousteau — his mentor and role model, as he is for many of our staff. He studied marine biology in college and planned to make that his career before he was drawn into acting.
But the ocean was never far from his life — or his concerns.
Mind-blowing ocean life
“The sea is just a big mystery,” he said in a video interview with fabela iMag to to promote Fast and Furious Five. “There are things that are more alien in the ocean than I think are alien in space. It seems like every other day, there’s a new discovery. You look at it and you’re like, ‘Really!’ … Things that are so bizarre … it’s mind blowing.”
An avid surfer (“a zen experience for me”) and scuba diver, he described himself in his Twitter profile as an “ocean addict”. And as he told Entertainment Weekly in an interview, though he became an actor, his work was not his life.
The ocean was always his first love.
Marine biology: “My first passion”
"The passion for marine biology is still there,” he said. “That was my first passion, so I still find other ways to fulfill that.”
One way: Inspire others to get involved in protecting the ocean.
Paul came to the aquarium in 2005 to help us celebrate the opening of our Ocean’s Edge galleries, and the connections each individual has to the health of ocean life. He talked that day with visitors about his personal commitment to ocean conservation, and urged them to step up their own involvement.
Paul was on the board of the Billfish Foundation, and took part in scientific tagging expeditions of great white sharks that were part of National Geographic’s “Expedition Great White”. When he described tagging great whites, it’s not as an actor but as a marine scientist.
"I’d walk away from (acting) to do this full time," he said.
He cared for people in need as well as the ocean. He founded Reach Out Worldwide to provide disaster assistance in places from Haiti to the Midwest to — most recently — the Philippines, in the wake of typhoon Haiyan. He died in a car crash just after making an appearance at a fundraising event for Haiyan relief work.
Above all, he cared about family and friends. As he told Flaunt magazine, “You know, all that really matters is that the people you love are happy and healthy. Everything else is just sprinkles on the sundae.”
We will miss his spirit, his caring, and his love of the ocean.
Photos ©Monterey Bay Aquarium/Randy Wilder