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Frank Stasio's Fondest Shows: Meet Surf Philosopher And Educator Maia Dery

A woman smiles at the camera, with an out-of-focus background that looks like a beach.
Courtesy of Nicole Zelniker
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Maia Dery is a surfer, educator and philosopher. She is the founder of 'Waves To Wisdom' a surf trip and coaching program.

For Maia Dery, sitting still has never been much of an option. Her teacher had her sit out in the halls to not disturb other students, and as soon as she had her precious drivers license, Dery routinely skipped school to escape to Duke Forest.

As Dery says, she never did well in boxes. Her awe for the natural world led her to a career as a photographer and later as a award-winning professor at Guilford College where she subverted the education system by forcing students to learn outside – sometimes in wind, rain, or snow. She developed the Cape Fear River Basin Studies Program at Guilford College, a curriculum that helped students understand how North Carolina waterways are inextricably linked to race, class, and broader economic systems.

At 40, Dery’s life started anew when she took on a lifelong dream. She hopped on a surfboard, paddled out, and with her first waves discovered a new kind of connection to nature. Dery’s love of water and her unrelenting commitment to connect education to tactile natural spaces drove her to found "Waves to Wisdom," a program that combines surfing with deeper critical and philosophical thought.

Dery spoke with host Frank Stasio in 2018 about her upbringing, her podcast that captures probing conversations about surf culture, and about the transformative effects of plunging your feet in the water. Frank chose this as one of his most memorable conversations.

View the complete list of Frank's fondest conversations airing December 2020.

Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.