STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Artist Sean Yoro paints stunning underwater murals

Hawaiian surfer turned artist Sean Yoro, otherwise known as Hula, has created underwater murals highlighting environmental issues while free-diving.

Posted: Mar 22, 2019 1:30 PM
Updated: Mar 22, 2019 1:30 PM

Hawaiian artist Sean Yoro likes to paint his evocative murals on precarious surfaces: melting icebergs, the burnt bark of trees and remote waterside walls at the mercy of rising tides, among others. The transient nature of the works, which are destined to naturally disappeared shortly after their creation, is used to bring attention to problems afflicting the environment.

But for his latest project he's set an extraordinary challenge for himself: to paint underwater while freediving, a form of diving that involves breath-holding and no scuba gear.

The project, titled "Deep Seads," is a series of three works created in locations around Hawaii, designed to raise awareness around dying coral reefs.

Marine heat caused by climate change is causing coral bleaching worldwide, and experts believe that the Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast of Australia -- the only living organism that can be seen from space -- might be headed for a disastrous future. According to the WWF, coral reefs are home to 25% of all marine life.

Artificial reefs

Yoro used concrete and steel to create inert underwater structures known as artificial reefs, which are used to help jump start marine growth in areas affected by coral bleaching. He then turned them into a canvas for his murals, making sure that all materials used were not harmful to the environment, including the eco-friendly pigment sticks he used to paint.

"I had to create my own materials," he said in a phone interview. "The technique I ended up using reminded me of charcoal drawing back in when I was in art school."

The biggest hurdle, however, was the physical preparation required to efficiently paint underwater without an oxygen supply. "I've surfed my whole life, but as much as I have experience in the water I've never actually had any experience diving. So even just training for it was much more difficult than I imagined," he said.

Yoro had aimed to complete the project in fewer than six months, but due to an extensive training required, it ended up taking three times as long.

A ruptured ear drum

"For the first three months it was going okay, then I actually got hurt. I ruptured my ear drum and that took me out of the water for three more months," he said.

Even before he got hurt, Yoro believed he would be able to hold his breath underwater for about two minutes. "In fact, I was only able to hold it for probably 40 seconds and go down about 10, maybe 15 feet," he said.

After almost a year of training, his freediving technique allowed him to stay submerged for three minutes, which gave him about two minutes worth of painting time. But due to the time required for resurfacing and breathing, he would only get around 20 minutes of actual painting for every hour. That meant that each piece, on average, took three to four days of work with roughly 10 hours per day spent in the water.

Three works

Yoro painted three works for "Deep Seads." The first, titled "Lumens," depicts a jellyfish and is meant to capture the moment he discovered how much beauty and magic the ocean holds, as well as the fragile state in which it currently is.

The second, "Breath," an exhaling figure, is linked to the discovery of freediving, an activity that Yoro says requires as much control of the lungs as of the mind.

The third, "Buried," is the image of an eye, symbolizing the fragility of the life that lives in the oceans today. The figure is being covered by the sand, representing the need to protect what is left before it's too late.

Just like his previous works, these too will be long gone by the time you read this. Yoro believes that algae started covering the drawings about 12 to 14 days in, and hopefully many more living organism will be thriving on the artificial reefs by now.

Watch every stroke

Although Yoro often works in remote locations and under difficult conditions, he believes adapting his body to painting underwater has been the most demanding endeavor yet. "By far I would say this was the most physically and mentally challenging," he said.

The ocean floor, he added, felt almost otherworldly, which led him into a peculiar mental state. But most importantly, he knew that down there, every movement, every stroke had to count.

"The most crucial aspect was efficiency," he said. "I had to be very careful with the exact lines, to not waste any energy. Because with every line I drew, I realized that I was using up oxygen."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 21774

Reported Deaths: 368
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah501498
Washington316125
Marion297973
Umatilla231230
Clackamas157144
Malheur82213
Deschutes61610
Lane5963
Jackson4862
Yamhill47013
Lincoln4199
Union3952
Jefferson3774
Morrow3773
Polk32612
Linn29611
Klamath2042
Hood River2010
Wasco1943
Benton1716
Douglas1561
Josephine1242
Columbia1010
Coos910
Clatsop890
Crook501
Baker400
Tillamook340
Lake320
Wallowa191
Curry170
Sherman160
Harney100
Gilliam40
Grant40
Wheeler00
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 578946

Reported Deaths: 10523
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2108744999
Riverside41983820
Orange40527724
San Bernardino36072546
San Diego32975594
Kern24995183
Fresno17846171
San Joaquin13870235
Alameda13631205
Santa Clara12962207
Sacramento12274179
Tulare11549198
Stanislaus10264169
Imperial9867244
Contra Costa9787146
Ventura874093
San Francisco769267
Santa Barbara699672
San Mateo6431122
Merced573670
Monterey549437
Marin540481
Kings445356
Solano427441
Sonoma375350
Madera246339
Placer237724
San Luis Obispo227817
Yolo183444
Santa Cruz12876
Butte12388
Napa112911
Sutter9967
San Benito7654
El Dorado7552
Lassen6830
Yuba6664
Mendocino47210
Shasta46910
Glenn4363
Colusa3965
Nevada3571
Tehama3031
Humboldt2864
Lake2402
Amador1853
Mono1581
Tuolumne1552
Calaveras1471
Inyo1063
Siskiyou1020
Del Norte1000
Mariposa622
Plumas360
Modoc50
Trinity50
Sierra40
Alpine20
Unassigned00
Medford
Clear
88° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 88°
Brookings
Clear
60° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 60°
Crater Lake
Clear
83° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 83°
Grants Pass
Clear
88° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 88°
Klamath Falls
Clear
83° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 83°
Sunny and warmer Thursday
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events