A self-avowed beach person, Kraszewski has spent her adult life deriving a living from the sea. But rather than extract, she’s been one to give back.
The owner of surf boutique Ocean Girl at 2162 Avenida de la Playa in La Jolla Shores (she owned another boutique for a dozen years in Mission Beach prior to opening Ocean Girl), Kraszewski has also authored children’s book “Surf Angel,” and for the past six years has successfully marketed her expanding, homegrown brand of Whale Tails tortilla chips.
“I just love being by the ocean ... it’s so beautiful and it helps you calm down,” said the white-haired, blue-eyed Kraszewski of her muse.
Marine mammals have always been a preoccupation of hers.
“I love dolphins and whales so much,” she said, noting she was a synchronized swimmer as a little girl and used to tie her feet together “to be either a dolphin or a mermaid.”
She has carried that marine-mammal theme through with “Surf Angel,” a children’s bedtime story about a creature who ensures a safe night’s sleep to all her ocean friends while bringing children closer to the magical wonders of the sea.
“I wrote it with my daughter,” Kraszewski said, explaining that the story is about “taking care of each other and the animals of the sea.”
Kraszewski and her husband started Whale Tails chips, choosing whales as the canvas because they felt whales often represented an iconic symbol of ocean conservation.
“We also felt that [the whale tail] would be a great dipping chip,” Kraszewski added pointing out, “It’s better for dipping by natural design.”
But Kraszewski’s organic, gluten-free Whale Tails chips were also to have a higher purpose — ocean conservation.
Toward that end, she solicited the help of renowned marine life artist Wyland and his nonprofit Wyland Foundation, which is working to preserve the world’s oceans, waterways and marine life by encouraging environmental awareness through education programs, public arts projects and community events.
“Wyland was so kind to do the art on my packaging,” Kraszewski said. “We both have the same belief in conservation through education. So the money we raise through our chips funds school programs to educate children about the ocean and how we can be better stewards.”
Right from the start, the chips, made by Kraszewski’s best friend and marketed as “chips with a conscience,” were meant to give back to the environment.
“Our simple idea was, ‘Let’s do something that doesn’t just sit on a shelf, but that people have to keep on buying so it would be fundraising,’” she said.
Whale Tails chips, sold locally through Whole Foods chain and numerous local, coastal outlets like Jimbo’s, the OB Co-op, SeaWorld and delis throughout San Diego, started out with one flavor — yellow corn made with a special Hawaiian salt. The line has since expanded to three flavors, adding blue corn with chia, a “super” seed high in omega-3 fatty acids and a Hawaiian barbecue chip with mango flavoring.
Kraszewski’s fascination with the cetaceans extends beyond their brand image. Two years ago, she took the trip of a lifetime, joining a Birch Aquarium tour to Scammon’s Lagoon on the Pacific side of Baja, Mexico to view spawning gray whales.
“It was the most remarkable experience with 1,200 whales in the lagoon and 500-pound babies and we got so many up-close-and-personal experiences with them,” she said. “We touched them and we actually had a mother bring her baby right to the boat and pushed it right to us.”
Kraszewski also traveled recently to Long Beach where she viewed blue whales, the largest creature ever to live on the Earth.
“It was absolutely remarkable, the awe of them,” she said. “There are no words to describe the majesty of that animal. Underneath the water, they’re this beautiful ice blue, almost like a turquoise. On the surface, they’re as gray as a battleship. We were in a 60-foot catamaran and the whale was easily as long as we were.”
Most days though, Kraszewski is content to tend shop at Ocean Girl, where she carries a wide variety of surfwear and beach accessories for women of all ages and backgrounds.
Though she’s not quite ready to discuss details, Kraszewski said there are even bigger and better things in store in the future for the Whale Tails line.
“It’s been fantastic,” she said.
For more information, visit www.whaletailschips.com.