What’s Cooking: Why Professional Freesurfer Hank Gaskell Makes Sustainable Food Choices

Hank Gaskell Patagonia
Courtesy of Hank Gaskell

Hank Gaskell was destined for a life centered around the sea. Born and raised on Maui, Gaskell regularly watched his dad surf at local breaks and eventually took up the sport himself.

Dayanidhi Des

Growing up in Hana, a small remote town on the east side of Maui, the ocean and jungle were Gaskell’s playgrounds as well as his food sources. The Gaskell family grew their own food and speared fish from the sea. As Gaskell grew older, he realized just how severe an impact humans have on the planet, and wanted to set an example through his lifestyle of how to live more harmoniously with the Earth.

Malia Lauer

Now, at age 33, Gaskell travels the world as a professional freesurfer for Patagonia. While he realizes the carbon emissions burned through travel aren’t doing the planet any favors, he hopes to shed some light on the major environmental issues our population is facing, as well as inspire others to make a difference.

Despite his world travels, he prefers the simple life of Hana, and cultivating and harvesting his own food. We caught up with him between sessions to learn what sparked his passion for the environment and how he incorporates sustainability into his diet and daily life.

What sparked your passion for the environment?

I was raised semi-hippie style: to live simply and not waste or consume more than I needed to. In Hana we basically grew up in the wild jungle and ocean that was and still is our backyard. We were instilled with a deep appreciation for the natural world around us.

Hank Gaskell Coconut Milk
Courtesy of Hank Gaskell

My family, friends, and I have fished, foraged, and grown our own food for as long as I can remember. Growing up and learning all the intricate ways that people are destroying the Earth has fueled my passion for trying to save it.

How do you incorporate sustainability into your diet?

I try to eat as much as I can off the land and out of the ocean. I’m lucky to live in a place rich in natural resources, so it’s pretty easy to do.

Hank Gaskell Food
Courtesy of Hank Gaskell

How do you source your own food?

I love spearfishing, farming, bee keeping, hunting, foraging, etc. At the end of the day, I get to cook up and share what I’ve grown or caught with my friends. The whole process is fun to me.

I think it’s embedded deep in human nature, and it’s kind of sad that that sense of self-sustainability and community has dissolved out of so many people’s lives.

You travel a lot. How do you make sustainable choices while abroad?

It is very difficult at times to be sustainable while traveling, and I don’t always do a good job at it. I’m sure the oil burned transporting me all over the world greatly offsets the sustainable choices I make in my home life. However, I hope that I can spread a positive message while on the road that will encourage people to live a simpler, more responsible life.

What are some steps people can take to make their diet a more sustainable one?

We have limited resources on this planet that will one day run out if humankind as a whole can’t make vast improvements in the future.

We should grow more food. Buy groceries from local farmers markets instead of from big chains that ship from all corners of the earth. Waste less – 40% of food in the US is wasted. I think that is unacceptable.

Kaua Woessner

What are some ways you spread environmental awareness in your daily living?

Living by example is first and foremost to me. If you live a good life, implemented with sustainable practices, then you will be a good role model and people will aspire to do the things you are doing.

Hank Gaskell Malia Lauer
Courtesy of Hank Gaskell

Could you share a favorite sustainable recipe with us?

I don’t do any specific recipes! My favorite way of cooking is to throw a bunch of fresh vegetables into a big cast iron pot with some homemade coconut milk and fish or meat caught or raised by my friends or myself. I simmer it with salt and all kinds of spices: curry, cumin, ginger, garlic, cardamom, star anise, chili powder, etc. Taste it, and keep adding until it is just right.

Hank Gaskell Food
Courtesy of Hank Gaskell

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