Dolphin Dashing

Time travel. We are going to time travel through my stories. I’m sitting in Grand Junction, Colorado at Tope Elementary school next to my best friend Jamie Newton. Our second-grade teacher, Mrs. Washington calls on Jamie and I to present our story. Jamie and I wrote about an adventure swimming with dolphins. We were so original. Little girls who want to be in the ocean with a wonderful mammal. Hey, kids can dream! 

Two years in the future in Lewes, Delaware, fourth-grade me turns in a story about being a dolphin trainer in Hawaii. The plot was that everything was fantastic until the volcano erupted. How’s that for a climax? I decided to free the dolphins and ride my favorite one across the ocean to California, saving myself from a fiery demise.  That same year we went on a field trip to the Baltimore aquarium, watched the dolphin show, and it was on, I was going to figure out what I had to do to become a dolphin trainer. Still waving the originality flag.

See, most people drop the dream but I kept holding onto it. Part of my motivation early on for swimming was that if I could swim well, I could train dolphins. I hoarded my parents’ Nat Geo magazines with any ocean photos–whatever it took to keep the dream alive. Fast forward to 2007 when I’m applying for college (back in Colorado) with another dream added to the mix. I wanted to be a photographer too. I couldn’t decide between Photojournalism and Marine Science, I wanted both. My Mom told me to go for science first, then do photography. 

Turn dial to 2011. As I’m moving through my bachelor’s degree, in Connecticut at the Coast Guard Academy,  I noticed a severe shortage of dolphins. I was interested in the rest of the ocean but I still had that little second grader inside wanting to be around them. What I also came to realize was that I enjoyed the data collection side of the major, not the computer analysis. How was this all going to manifest?

Hop back into the Time Machine and turn on the switch for Millenium Falcon light-speed. 2012, stationed in Hawaii with the Coast Guard, 2013 started water photography, 2014 met photographers who had shot dolphins and then…DOLPHINS!

The first time I encountered them, I swam out with Kiana Poki and my friend Kim Molina.  Kiana gave us simple instructions, be respectful and don’t chase them. We watched and waited for them to come by. Hold up – my second-grade, fourth-grade, National Geographic fan-girl, and algal-bloom-analyzing college self, they are all doing excited spaz dances. Dolphins aren’t even near us yet but I’m fully ricocheting off-the-walls-excited on the inside. Then, with their natural grace, they came over to check us out and stayed for a while and I shot all the photos. The entire time, it was full body chills (it took a while for me to come down). 

Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to swim with the dolphins a handful of times. Sometimes you show up and they aren’t there while other times they deliver in spades. That inconsistency keeps me insanely grateful for any time I am able to see them in action.

If you dream it you can Funk it!

Dear Reader, that catchy closing line is under construction as some dreams shouldn’t be Funk-ed or it may endure the test of time, stay tuned, dun dun dun!

Emilia Perry

Jianca Lazarus

Emilia Perry