Sea World... and it's special place in my heart, and, uh, on my butt

Back in 1997 there was a soon to be college graduate with a dolphin tattoo on her (upper) butt and a dream – a dream to train dolphins at Sea World. Being that eager young thing with a degree at her fingertips and the determination and confidence that comes from 4+ years of college, she researched and talked to people and realized that it was almost impossible to go straight into training at Sea World.  It turns out most trainers start off in other areas, and move into the coveted animal positions. With a talent for public speaking, she was thrilled to be able to try out for a position as a narrator in the Education department. Slightly hungover from the night before (hey, no judging, she was just 22 and living in Pacific Beach) she stood up at the Tide Pool exhibit and gave a thrilling speech about stomach evagination and tube feet, a speech that landed her a job telling people all about the animals living at the park. But little did the perky blonde know that getting that job would lead to her meeting her future husband and father of her children, along with making life-long friends. And while the dolphin dream was never realized, the job would change her life forever.

Ok, so I never became a trainer. Life, love and bad timing got in the way and when I left Sea World 12 years ago to move in with Jason, my then boss (SCANDAL!) and pursue a more lucrative (ha) career in Public Relations. Maybe it’s that long-lost dream, or maybe it’s that Sea World was such a vital part of my early 20’s, but that park will always hold a special place in my heart.

Lucky enough to still have good friends that work there and share the love of free annual passes with us, Jason and I have been able to pass the love of sea creatures down to our kids, and Sea World is a favorite choice amongst things to do. Since we are local, ex-employees, and maybe a tad bit snobbish, we don’t normally go to the park in the summer months, saving the less busy, cooler months to enjoy days roaming the paths and staring for hours at playing dolphins and killer whales.  With Jason out of town this past weekend, it was a perfect day-long destination and time-suck for the kids and I to enjoy. Since we hadn’t been for a few months, this was the first time we were able to see the new dolphin show, Blue Horizons.

As we sat in the stands, the kids got more and more excited checking out the new stage, the birds in the back and the dolphins doing laps in the warmup pools.  Then with a blast of water and the rise of, in Zoë’s eyes, a “PINK PIN-SESESES CA-SEL!” a pink wetsuit-clad trainer started to act out a whole performance of a young girl’s dream of dancing dolphins, birds and jumping pilot whales.

While I guess the “word on the street” is so-so about the new dolphin show, I have to say that the kids and I loved it. It was a performance with a bit of Cirque du Soleil flavor - high divers and flying acrobats and large birds that fly within feet of your head. The dolphins were adorable and the pilot whales were featured more than they had been in previous shows. I was extremely impressed with the performance and am looking forward to seeing it over and over for the next 10 + years.

It’s interesting seeing a place I used to work through the eyes of my children. The wonder in their eyes at the large Pacific octopus, the excitement bolting through their little bodies when Shamu jumps up and splashes the crowd.  It reminds of why zoological parks are so good for kids – zoos and aquariums get them excited about the earth in which they live. It also made my heart do a little flip when Lucas exclaimed “One day I’m going to be a dolphin trainer!” Will he fulfill the dream I didn’t? Or will he also forgo a fantasy job to opt for a “real world” career?

It has been a rough few months for our Sea World family. The death of the trainer in Orlando, followed too quickly by the untimely passing of a killer whale this week has left the trainers a bit raw and emotional. No matter what your stand on animals in captivity, from personal experience I can tell you that the people that work at Sea World love those animals like you love your own pets. My heart goes out to them all…


***disclosure: While we were gifted the annual passes, it was from Sea World employee's that are friends, not through the Sea World PR department. 

*** disclosure #2: Yes, I took the kids to Sea World the same day as the horrible Target meltdown. It was for my sanity.