by the editors | November 24, 2016

Flamingle: Eco Achievers

These Floridians’ offices are in the great outdoors and their work is making waves across the globe.


Illustration by Stephen Lomazzo


Crowned World Surf League Champion a record 11 times, Kelly Slater is both the youngest and oldest person to win the prestigious competition. Born and raised in Cocoa Beach, he also made waves in Hollywood, appearing in several surf films and two seasons of “Baywatch.” These days, he uses his fame to protect our waterways. Outspoken about how human behavior impacts the oceans, he founded the Kelly Slater Foundation, which benefits marine and ecological causes. For his unprecedented achievements, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution declaring him our country’s official surf ambassador.


After high school, this Florida Keys native traveled the globe for eight years as a professional yachtswoman before returning home in 2014 to pursue a career as a standup paddleboarder. She holds a Guinness World Record for paddling 110 miles in 24 hours and the title “Fastest Paddler on Earth” for winning a 200-meter time trial in Germany last summer. Channeling her passion into philanthropy, she lugged her board to South America and trekked across Lake Titicaca to raise funds for environmental education for Peruvian schoolchildren. When not journeying, Hattingh leads yoga and fitness classes—on paddleboards, of course.

Former Chief

Since his childhood spent wrestling alligators for tourists, James Billie has led an extraordinary and controversial life. As chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida (1979– 2001 and 2011–2016), he launched the Indian gaming industry, hunted down cocaine pilots operating in the Everglades, established a museum of Seminole history and culture, and thwarted developers keen on touching Seminole land. Before he was voted out of office (after his second stretch), he filed a lawsuit against the state over new rules allowing more toxins in drinking water sources. The chief was also tried and acquitted for shooting and eating a Florida panther and produced two folk albums.

Elephant Doc

Since it opened in Polk City in 1995, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation, a 200-acre sanctuary for retired circus performers, has welcomed 26 bundles of joy. Expect that number to rise ever higher thanks to Dr. Wendy Kiso, who joined the team of researchers in 2011. Her groundbreaking work in semen biology and sperm cryopreservation helps endangered Asian elephants in facilities throughout the country reproduce with genetic diversity thanks to artificial insemination. She also contributed to a study that identified why elephants seldom develop cancer and is working with pediatric oncologists to determine how these findings might help human children.


As the president of SEARCH, one of the world’s largest archaeology companies, this Jacksonvillian digs dirt. So much so that for 13 years, he and his family cultivated a 140-acre ranch in rural Citra, where he devised the Big Land Conservation Company. Through Big Land, James and 10 stewards pledge to buy 1,000,001 acres of remote lands, primarily in Florida, over ten years. Parcels will range from 75 acres to 50,000 acres, be situated about 100 miles from any major cities and have a few small environmentally-friendly cabins and barns built for owners to enjoy. Pochurek, also a photographer, helped develop an archaeology series airing soon on a major network.