For years I saw people wearing Guy Harvey t-shirts and wondered what it was all about. Relatives of mine, boaters in the Florida Keys, strangers in a beach bar: they all seemed crazy for these cotton t's with the dramatic fish swirling on the backs. Why, I wondered. What was the big deal? And who exactly was Guy Harvey?
(Another Guy Harvey t-shirt! Photo by Pat Ford. Courtesy of Guy Harvey/Facebook.)
"He's from Jamaica," Zickie once told me proudly. Jamaicans tend to be proud of fellow countrymen who do well overseas, and for years that was about all I knew about Guy Harvey: he painted fish, his company produced extremely popular clothing, and that he was Jamaican. Then one night, the littlest Island Runaway and I were browsing PBS for something to watch and came across a show called Guy Harvey's Top 10 Sharks. "Why not?" we said to one another. I've had a fascination for sharks since I was a child, and read about The Shark Lady, Dr. Eugenie Clark.
(A mysterious, elegant shark. Photo courtesy of Guy Harvey/Facebook.)
At any rate, the film about the sharks entertained us with exciting footage of these mysterious fish. But more than that, it taught me something about Guy Harvey. Yes, he's an accomplished wildlife painter who has portrayed sharks, marlin, and a host of other creatures in vibrant colors. And along the way, he has become very successful and is now based in Grand Cayman.
(Guy Harvey at work on a painting. Photo courtesy of Guy Harvey/Facebook.)
Yet what surprised me was how Harvey has taken his passion for the ocean and ocean life and become a force for Ocean Conservation. (I had not realized that not only is Dr. Harvey a self-taught artist, he also holds a Ph.D. in Fisheries Management, and has become a noted ocean explorer.)
Apparently, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation funds scientific research with the aim of preserving sealife, especially the large fish that Harvey himself so lovingly portrays, like billfish and tuna. From universities to nonprofits, many institutions have benefitted from the foundation's generosity. One goal is to encourage sustainable practices, whether in the fishing industry or with individual sportsmen and women. The foundation also educates the public about ocean conservation with films and school materials. Meanwhile, the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University in south Florida does vital research on subjects such as shark populations.
(Guy Harvey helping check the health of stingrays. Photo courtesy of Guy Harvey/Facebook.)
While many of us enjoy tropical islands and time on the ocean, Guy Harvey and his team are actually working to ensure that our kids and grandchildren can also have these beautiful experiences.
A few weeks after seeing the shark program, Zickie and I "ran away" to Key Largo for a short break. It started to rain, so we drove down to the huge Bass Pro Shop in Islamorada to look around and wait for the sun to come out. (With an aquarium and the sister ship to Hemingway's boat Pilar, this store is a very entertaining place -- even if you've never fished in your life!) There, just at the front of the store, was a large display of Guy Harvey t-shirts.
(A Guy Harvey t-shirt in its natural environment. Photo courtesy of Guy Harvey/Facebook.)
Guess what? Yes, I bought one for Zickie! It's since become one of his favorites, and I imagine he'll soon get another. There are other Guy Harvey goodies beside the shirts, from prints to posters, stand up paddle boards to jewelry:
(Guy Harvey jewelry. Photo courtesy of Guy Harvey/Facebook.)
Now I "get it." I get, in other words, why people who love islands and the ocean seem so crazy for Guy Harvey clothing. It's not just about a fishing t-shirt, it's about making a little contribution to a very good cause: the health of our beautiful seas.
My birthday's coming up in a few months. Hmmm, maybe Zickie will return the favor and get a Guy Harvey t-shirt for me...