As Orca Scuba evolves into OrcaNation, Joanna Jones sat down with our Founder and Chief Orca, Jeroen van de Waal, to find out more about the new changes and about what drives him to move his business forward. Having reached the 50th “level” of his life in 2019 Jeroen shows no signs of slowing down and is busier than ever creating and expanding the ‘Orca Way’ of life. If you have ever been lucky enough to hear Jeroen speak then you’ll know how motivated he is about making the planet a better place – at OrcaNation he drives us all to make better decisions about the Oceans, Planet and Ourselves.

Jeroen, thank you for squeezing me in to your busy work day, let’s get straight down to the nitty gritty and find out why you have chosen to rebrand Orca Scuba into OrcaNation?

We wanted to make it extremely clear and easy for our customers, stakeholders and employees to comprehend exactly what OrcaNation is about. When Orca Scuba started nearly 3 years ago it was a “hobby” project; we focused mainly on certifying families living in Singapore to become PADI Open Water divers and this grew quickly into establishing our first PADI 5* Dive Centre on Pulau Rawa, Malaysia. As we grew, my personal purpose became much stronger and clearer because I want to do much more than to certify divers. With my team I want to drive changes in the world, to become educators with regards to sustainability and create a positive environment for future generations. The name OrcaNation resonates much more with our purpose and our vision. Our vision is, through the “Orca Way”, (and I will expand more fully on this later) to “Humanify” the future. This is about the way we live, the way we interact, the way we use resources, the way we look at the environment, the way we treat the animal and the human kingdom and the way that we enable our children to get inspired about what the future holds.
The Nation part in OrcaNation reflects the need to bring communities and countries together to work together as ‘One’ nation.

How will the change from Orca Scuba to OrcaNation change what you are currently offering to your customers?

In a nutshell, it won’t! Our loyal customer base is something we are very proud of having built up steadily over the last few years. All our dive students can be 100% assured that we will still offer fantastic, high quality diving around Asia and beyond! Since I started Orca Scuba I have spent a lot of my time explaining to our customers why we are not simply a pure scuba company, we are educators on many different levels. This is one of the motivations for the name. For instance, we organize and run school camps for many international schools in Asia, some of these camps are land based only (so no diving!). We are now engaging with multinational companies where we are being asked to guide them in their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). These companies are asking us to give them ideas on how they can better engage with customers in regards to the environment, we are planning to do workshops for both schools and multinational companies around the oceans and the planet and about what “we” as humans can do to help. We can achieve so much through education.

What do you think is the biggest environmental problem facing the world right now?

To be blunt, the lack of unity on this planet. From my perspective 99% of the problems that the world faces now are caused by racial, political or religious differences. I would hope that everyone could put aside their differences and focus on the fact that we are all human beings, we all need to live here on the earth and utilize the same space, the same oxygen, the same food supply. It is vitally important that everyone has mutual respect irrespective of race, religion or politics. Until we can put aside our differences and work together the world and its survival will always be in danger.

How is OrcaNation going to help make a difference?

To explain this I need to explain the “Orca Way” which is the cornerstone of our brand. The Orca Way is two-fold and combines my two great passions, Orcas (killer whales) and Judo. I have always loved Orcas and the more I learn, the more they fascinate me. The Orca species is one of the only mammals that has a brain bigger than humans, they use their own language, have their own culture and they are very powerful animals. They are playful but they also respect the society which they live in; but they will react when aggravated! I want our business to reflect the Orca style, thoughtful, peaceful and only aggressive when pushed to be. The Judo sport is “the gentle way”. It uses the negative energy of the opponent or environment and turns it into something positive, you neutralize the threat, but without destroying your opponent.
The strongest tool in this whole gentle approach is education – we are writing educational materials with academics all around the planet, we teach school children during our Orca camps about how to become more conscious of their environment, whether that means saying no to a plastic straw or choosing to have meat free days once a week. We hope that the children take this information back to their families and friends and spread the word that change is possible and that it starts with just one action!

Which of your newest ventures are you most excited about?

To make it clear, OrcaNation is going to be a commercial undertaking, we want to make profit so we don’t have to spend our time fundraising. I believe that we can combine capitalism with doing good. What excites me at the moment is that we are opening locations in Bali, Anambas and Komodo, these have some of the best dive sites in South East Asia if not beyond. However, these new dive and school camp locations also have a purpose beyond the commercial. At Pulau Rawa we have marine biology PHD students from Flinders University staying and diving for free in order to carry out research on the marine life of the area. We will then develop educational modules with the information they feedback that we can then share with the students in the schools we currently work with. We will also allow access of this material to students living in areas of limited education and resources in parts of Asia and South America; this will be free and accessed via an online platform.
We are also getting closer to launching our OrcaNation TV channel but you’ll need to stay tuned to find out more on this project – it’s going to be fantastic!

What drives you to keep going and pushing for change?

I guess to understand this, I need to explain what slows me down and that is pessimism. I cannot talk about problems for more than a few seconds without my mind firing off solutions to fix the issue. The energy I get comes from solutions that I can see on the planet, this is what inspires me to keep going! I love to work with young children and academics and respond and absorb the positive vibe that they give and this really helps to keep me going and keep on track.

How is OrcaNation making a difference already?

There are so many projects we are developing this year! For instance, we are working with Tijmen Sissing of Trashpackers (and if you haven’t heard of him please google him!) he’s one of our former PADI Open Water students who has started a huge worldwide campaign to clear the oceans. With the Trashpacker’s collaboration we aim to bring attention to the need to keep our oceans clean and to demonstrate how communities do make a difference. We will be awarding Tijmen’s highest and most motivated Trashpackers the chance to complete their PADI Open Water Certificates for free on Rawa Island as a reward for their efforts.
We have also joined forces with the Bawah Reserve and the Anambas Foundation to sponsor 5 local young adults, to complete all the PADI requirements taking them from a “zero” level entry level diver to a “hero” Dive Master. This will enable them to make a living for themselves in an industry which would normally be closed to them, all while learning the importance of protecting the oceans.

It’s hard for people to know how to start living a more sustainable existence. Can you offer some advice for those who need some inspiration?

I think it is very important that people understand that even as one individual we can still make a difference and the more people learn, understand and change their habits then the more impact we will make. Make small changes, tell your friends and get them to join you! Make it fun, make it matter!
In my own family we sat down together to work out what changes we could make. We reduced our carbon footprint by downsizing our apartment which decreased our electrical usage. We sold our two cars and now use public transport as much as possible. We try and pay attention to how we use our air conditioning which is hard when we live in a hot and humid climate such as Singapore, but it is possible!
One noticeable change I have personally made is around food choices. I love to Barbeque (the Orca Team can vouch for this!) and after living in Latin America for 15 years I developed a big love of red meat eating it nearly every day. However I learnt that meat is one of the biggest contributors to an individual’s carbon footprint! So, and it was painful to begin with, my family and I choose to eat red meat just once a month! But you know what, we enjoy it so much more now as it is such a treat. We now try to eat less meat in general and feel healthier for it too.

Lastly, what are you most proud of from the last 3 years of Orca Scuba?

I am very proud that I am still alive! But seriously, my family and I lived a very luxurious lifestyle as employees of big multinationals, this changed dramatically when we started Orca but I feel happier as a person as I am following my passion now.
The biggest achievement has been establishing a serious company that is already well known in Singapore and in South-East Asia, our brand continues to grow and I believe that we are the market leader in dive training and environmental education in Singapore and we are only just starting! I am very happy that we have many employees here that genuinely share my passion for change, we have started a movement and it is now gaining momentum. In a world where news is streamed 24 hours a day, bringing with it such negative and polarizing views, we are fighting to make a difference and I truly believe we will succeed!

Article was written by Joanna Jones – OrcaNation