Rachel Kippen, Assistant Executive Director
Rachel is a coastal environmental advocate and artist with a background in public program development and nonprofit management in Santa Cruz, CA. She joins O’Neill Sea Odyssey with a local understanding of environmental education priorities and stormwater program design based on her experience as Director of Programs at Save Our Shores and recently through her tenure coordinating environmental initiatives at the City of Watsonville.
She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from University of Redlands and a Certificate in Strategic Leadership and Nonprofit Management from San Francisco State University, and focused her graduate research in Environmental Justice Education through place and arts-based curriculum development in primarily agricultural and immigrant communities. Of mixed cultural heritage including Hawaiian, Rachel endeavors to create inclusive educational opportunities for youth that incorporate diverse perspectives and are representative of the dynamic community she serves. In her free time, Rachel enjoys creating artwork from plastic pollution and spending time on the water with friends and loved ones.
Tim O’Neill, Skipper
Tim has been a surfer and sailor for most of his life, learning to surf and sail at age five. Tim graduated from Soquel High School, and worked at the O’Neill surf shop both during and after his years at Soquel High. Tim started running the Team O’Neill catamaran when it was launched in 1983 and received his 100 ton skipper’s license in 1992. Tim also serves as President of Team O’Neill, is the Board President of O’Neill Sea Odyssey, and oversees the Team O’Neill fleet of ocean-going vessels. He lives in Santa Cruz with his wife Lisa O’Neill, and his sons Riley and Connor and daughter Bridget.
Mike Egan, Skipper
Born and raised in Fresno, California, Mike’s connection to the ocean began while spending time at his family's summer home in Santa Cruz. He has lived on the Central Coas since 1982. Mike attended Bullard High in Fresno, and Orange Coast College near Newport Beach, California, where he raced sailboats. Mike worked for O’Neill Yacht Center for five years, holds a 100 ton skippers license, and has been skipper of the Team O'Neill Catamaran for 27 years. He is married to wife Jill and has two grown children, Ashley and Zachary. An avid fitness enthusiast, Mike runs marathons and participates in Spartan races in his free time.
Laura Walker, Program Manager/Instructor
Laura grew up in Santa Barbara where she became interested in the marine environment through diving, sailing, and exploring tidepools. Having been raised in a seagoing family, Laura has worked in harbors for most of her professional life. While attending San Francisco State University she supported herself with various maritime jobs such as sail making, spinnaker repair and event coordination for the San Francisco Maritime Museum Association on Hyde Street Pier. After graduating with a B.A. in Humanities from San Francisco State University, Laura’s fondness for travel led her to Alaska and Canada where she worked as a wilderness guide and as a naturalist for a charter boat on Prince William Sound. Laura is also a yoga teacher, certified by the National Yoga Alliance, and enjoys leading instructors in yoga poses on the picnic tables in front of the O’Neill Sea Odyssey Shoreside Education Center while waiting for school groups to arrive. Laura joined the O’Neill Sea Odyssey crew in 1999. In her spare time she enjoys dance, yoga, music, and hiking in the Santa Cruz mountains with her husband Sean and Gary the Wonderdog.
Patrice Riley, Accounting Manager
Patrice joined O’Neill Sea Odyssey in 2018 as an accountant, following working for nearly six years as Executive Assistant to Jack O’Neill. Originally from Massachusetts, she has lived in Santa Cruz County since 2006. Patrice earned a B.A in English Literature from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, VA and an accounting certificate from University of California Santa Cruz Silicon Valley Extension. She has long felt connected to the ocean and its healing potential, and spends as much time as she can by the water. She loves that working at O’Neill Sea Odyssey gives her the opportunity to help the next generation fall in love with the ocean and realize our shared obligation to care for it.
Melissa Boyd, Instructor
Melissa was born and raised in southern California where her love for the ocean and conservation started at a young age. She graduated from California State University Monterey Bay in 2014 with a B.S. in Environmental Science with a concentration in Applied Ecology. She has worked on a variety of native plant restorations projects throughout Monterey county and has also taught surf lessons and managed a yacht maintenance business. Melissa is currently the Club Manager of the Elkhorn Yacht Club and has a deep connection with the Moss Landing boating community. She believes that connecting youth with the outdoors and science will lay the foundation for a happy and sustainable society. She loves being part of the O’Neill Sea Odyssey team and looks forward to sharing her knowledge and passion with every student.
Joey Rodrigues, Instructor
Joey was born and raised in central California. He holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from California State University Monterey Bay with a subdiscipline in outdoor recreation, education and administration. He is an American Canoe Association certified Level 4 Coastal Kayaking Skill Instructor and has over a decade of professional water experience. His connection to the sea was cultivated at a young age, inspiring Joey to pursue a life as involved with the ocean as possible. His infatuation with the sea has led him to introduce and educate the general public about the wonders that have molded his personal connection with our mother ocean. Joey currently resides in Moss Landing on his sailboat with his dog-friend Merle and is excited to be a part of O’Neill Sea Odyssey.
TK Kim, Instructor
TK grew up in beautiful Santa Cruz and attended University of California Santa Cruz, where he received a B.A. in Environmental Studies. TK has an affinity for teaching and working with kids and has served as a camp counselor and leader in children's outdoor education camps, and as a surf instructor at Club Ed Surf School and Camps. His passions include spending time outdoors, surfing, rock climbing, playing music, and eating burritos, which are conveniently available at the Santa Cruz Harbor. TK's love for teaching and working with kids inspires him to spread awareness about our ocean and environment as an instructor onboard the Team O'Neill.
Marina Maze, Instructor
Marina was born and raised in Boulder Creek, and was lucky enough to experience the O'Neill Sea Odyssey program as a 5th grade student in 1997. Marina holds a B.S. in Marine Biology from University of California Santa Cruz and an MBA focused on sustainable business from Green Mountain College in Vermont. In her graduate studies, Marina wanted to understand if an economic value could be placed on outdoor education and experiences. Outdoor experiences are often undervalued as an educational tool for young children, as well as a tool for personal and professional growth. Marina has been an outdoor educator in the Monterey Bay area since 2010, working with local organizations such as the Seymour Center, Save Our Shores, and Return of the Natives. Marina is passionate about outdoor education and introducing students to the intricacies of the varying and unique ecosystems found along the Central Coast. Marina has been an instructor and crew member aboard the Team O'Neill since 2014. Working with students on the water has been one of the most rewarding experiences of her educational career. In her free time Marina enjoys trail running, hiking, making art, and spending time with her friends and family.
Lauren Hanneman, Instructor
Lauren has lived in Santa Cruz for over a decade and graduated from UCSC in 2002 with a combined degree in Biology and Environmental Studies. Prior to living in California, Lauren lived in Florida outside the Everglades and it was there that she developed a love of marine conservation and education. She has worked as both a volunteer and staff for a number of organizations focusing in marine research and conservation in the Monterey Bay. She has worked for Team Ocean Kayak Outreach for NOAA since 2002 and has over five years of professional maritime experience working in public education and marine interpretation. Lauren joined the O’Neill crew in 2005 and finds teaching for the Sea Odyssey Program to be “the most fun and rewarding job in marine education.”
Nancy Vielmas, Instructor
Originally from LA, Nancy moved to Monterey Bay to attend California State University, Monterey Bay and graduated with a degree in Environmental Studies. Growing up in an urban area, any time she got to go to the ocean or river it was something she would remember. Playing in the waves at Santa Monica beach with her brother was a formative experience. Facing the ocean's power at a young age with both caution and excitement, taught her to value, respect, and love the ocean environment.
As an adult, Nancy pushed herself to become comfortable and confident on the water. She is a seasoned Spanish-speaking bilingual environmental educator, formerly working for our partners at Return of the Natives Restoration Education Project, as a kayak guide at Kayak Connection in Elkhorn Slough, and currently working for MEarth in Carmel Valley, fostering a connection to nature and food through experiential learning. She is a huge plant nerd, enjoys hiking, writing, reading, listening to music, and planning dream trips with friends and family.
Nancy loves teaching kids about the ocean because “the ocean is like a portal to another world and getting the opportunity to explore it with great co-workers and curious children is amazing.”
On her first day at O’Neill Sea Odyssey she saw two humpback whales up close for the very first time in her life!
Eliseo Nevarez, Instructor
Eliseo graduated from University of California, Santa Cruz with a B.S. in Biology. He's a skilled waterperson and an avid diver and Divemaster who loves exploring new places both underwater and on the surface. Eliseo has spent extensive time traveling and learning abroad, even working as a Reef Science Educator in Indonesia. Most recently, he worked in the Underwater Explorers program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium where he taught interactive marine science classes in both English and Spanish and surface SCUBA lessons for children of all ages in the Great Tidepool, focusing on California coastal biodiversity and kelp forest ecology.
Eliseo fell in love with the ocean at a very young age, playing on the beaches of Santa Monica, looking for creatures in the sand and water. His love of the ocean is infectious and our students learn from his enthusiasm.
In Eliseo’s words, he describes his first impression of working at O’Neill Sea Odyssey; "I love working with kids from all different backgrounds and ages and feel lucky to be teaching and inspiring the next generation of ocean scientists and conservationists, especially those who may not always see themselves represented in the marine science world."