Kippen to become O’Neill Sea Odyssey’s second director next month as longtime leader Haifley retires
SANTA CRUZ — Rachel Kippen has come a long way from her days racing outrigger canoes off the shores of Oahu. But in some ways, her recent appointment to helm O’Neill Sea Odyssey is a reconnection to those early ocean roots.
Kippen, 34, was tapped to serve as executive director of the nonprofit O’Neill Sea Odyssey after its first — and only — director, Dan Haifley, retires March 20. Founded by wetsuit pioneer Jack O’Neill in 1996, O’Neill Sea Odyssey takes thousands of students out to explore and learn about the ocean each year, aboard the 65-foot O’Neill Team catamaran.
Last summer, the nonprofit marked a major milestone as it brought its 100,000th youth out to sea. Most students come from low-income families, and for more than half of those students, the O’Neill Sea Odyssey experience is their first encounter with the ocean, according to organizational stats.
In a recent interview, Kippen reflected on a career that has led her from Hawaii to the salt-marshes of New Jersey to the shores of Santa Cruz.
Formerly programs director at Santa Cruz-based nonprofit Save Our Shores, which works closely with O’Neill Sea Odyssey, Kippen most recently oversaw environmental projects at the city of Watsonville.