Q & A - Riley Hathaway - AA Directions Magazine October 25 2014


Q & A - Riley Hathaway

Thirteen-year-old Riley Hathaway is fast becoming New Zealand’s own eco-star. Along with her father Steve, an underwater filmographer, she makes and presents a show called Young Ocean Explorers.

Can you tell me what Young Ocean Explorers is?

Riley: It’s a series of little films that I present. I go out on adventures with my dad in the ocean and show kids how exciting New Zealand’s underwater world is. I tell them lots but they don’t really realise they’re learning. It’s really fun.

Steve: We call it entertaining education.

What gave you the idea for the series?

Riley: I had to do a project for school and wanted to do something about turtles and plastic because I’d seen something on the news. I said: ’Dad, could I interview your friend Dan Godoy?’. He is New Zealand’s top turtle expert. Dad rang him and we got him around.

We filmed me asking him questions I thought my audience, which was my 10-year-old brother’s class, would like to hear and Dad put that together with footage of turtles and we made a video.

I showed it to my brother’s class and they loved it! No one was talking during it, they were all like ‘wow’. They all had something to say afterwards.

Steve: I didn’t expect that incredible response. It wasn’t a cleverly cut video. It had beautiful underwater footage but it was roughly thrown together. But watching the engagement with the kids and how they were just totally fixated on it, I realised that it was powerful. When you’ve got a kid doing the interviewing, other kids want to hear. And seeing beautiful images and hearing cool facts; it’s all very compelling.

What first attracted you to the ocean, Riley?

Riley: Dad’s been doing stuff in the ocean, filming, spear fishing and taking us out on the boat, for as long as I can remember. I’ve just grown up with it. But recently, doing that project for school, finding out about all that stuff I hadn’t really looked into, like the turtles eating plastic and the shark finning and all that horrible stuff that goes on, it really opened my eyes. I want to help protect these beautiful creatures and the ocean.

The abundance of plastic in the ocean and shark finning are heavy topics.

Steve: They’re heavy topics but we’ve intentionally done stories that are fun. We’ve done it in such a way that it’s a celebration of what’s incredible. We want to get kids engaged and emotionally attached so that they want to look after the ocean.

We're not telling them the world’s stuffed, the ocean’s stuffed and they have to go and pick up plastic. We don’t need to say that. In the episode about the turtles, they see a turtle in a necropsy with 500 pieces of plastic taken from its stomach: that’s life changing stuff. Then they also learn some amazing facts and see how beautiful the ocean is.

What do you want to achieve with the series?

Riley: I want to let people know about what’s underneath the water. It’s so incredible. Ninety-three percent of New Zealand is underwater. That’s… that’s… quite big! I still can’t get over it. Most people don’t get to go and see what’s under there. I want to let them know about it and show them not to be scared about it, as well.

Steve: We’re not trying to make out that Riley is some rock star kid. She’s got some very real fears. In one episode Riley swam with a shark.

Riley: I was a bit scared at first.

Steve: And that’s cool. We want people to see Riley is a normal kid and to inspire other kids to think, ‘far out, that looks amazing I want to give it a go’. We don’t want them to live through Riley’s eyes. I’m really hoping kids will nag their parents and go, ‘that looks awesome! I want to go to snorkelling.’ That’s my aim. I want to make diving and snorkelling cool again.