Architects of Change Highlight: Emi Koch ’07

Architects of Change Highlight: Emi Koch ‘07

By Kiana Yazdani ‘18 and Sofia Rojo-Kratochvil ‘20

An Architect of Change is a person who challenges what is, imagines what can be, and moves humanity forward. Emi Koch ‘07 is an inspiring woman who is an advocate of saving the environment and raising awareness about ocean literacy. Her journey began when her dad taught her to surf as a little girl. Surfing developed within her an immense love of the ocean. Emi began combining her passion for the ocean with a heart for social justice after she took an OLP service trip down to Tijuana, Mexico, which opened her awareness to the needs of others.

During Emi’s college years at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, she became inspired to start her own nonprofit called Beyond the Surface. Once she committed to surfing for a cause above just winning contests, she received a Billabong sponsorship that she uses to help fund her social justice endeavors. A few years ago, along with her partner, Peruvian photographer, Nicolàs Landa Tami, they began the Coast to Coast Movement, which provides tools, training and opportunity for small-scale fishing villages to share their stories, advocate for their rights and take part in the ocean literacy solution. This movement works to raise awareness of ocean degradation, colonialism and climate change in relation with culture and society.

Emi Koch has traveled to many places including Peru, Mexico, India and Indonesia. She travels to raise awareness without imposing her way of life on others to avoid issues that historically have bred negative impact through colonialism. She focuses on listening to others and demonstrates how surfing can be used as a tool of confidence in places where it is not allowed. Emi loves being aware of the challenges that locals go through, including having to take a 20-hour bus ride/boat ride to a hospital. She herself has experienced health issues while in remote locations as well as language barrier challenges. Ever the student, she attempts to learn the local language of her destination even though she does not view this as an issue. Often times, Emi reflects, “you don’t need verbal communication when you have a real connection with an individual, as in an energy or spiritual sense.” And she notes that especially when working with children in the water, physical motion is used more to communicate and teach.

Emi Koch inspires us to move forward through the way she immerses herself in her work. She overcomes any obstacle in her way, including communication barriers, health issues and financial issues. She puts others first and inspires us to do the same.