[ By Dawne Belloise ]
“I was in love with traditional maritime culture, and passionate about politics,” says Andris Zobs, a once aspiring social justice warrior born of political hippie parents. In his lifetime so far, Andris has mastered several disciplines, lived among various cultures and peoples and is happily landlocked in Crested Butte, entrenched in his chosen community.
Born in Boston, his mom was studying psychology at Boston University and his father was a carpenter and community organizer when they abandoned city life and moved to Walpole, New Hampshire, when Andris was less than a year old. He spent the next 10 years shuttling from New Hampshire, Michigan, Virginia, Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands after his parents split. “My parents were seekers and that’s the reason they moved around so much. My dad was connected to the Latvian refugee community,” moving to Michigan to build the Latvian Study Center. When the Soviet Union occupied Latvia, Andris’ grandparents and father were forced to abandon their home farm and flee in 1945. After five years in German refugee camps, they came to America.
As a sophomore, Andris attended Proctor, a boarding school that his good friend Noah Wight had told him about. Interested in the outdoors, there was a ski program and Andris was on the whitewater kayak team. He also took classes in boatbuilding. “I was a very serious student. I loved bikes and boats.” In Sarasota, Florida, with his mom for summers and holidays, Andris learned to sail. “We didn’t have our own boats so I would go to the marina and talk my way onto various boats as a deck hand. We had lived on a boat in the Virgin Islands for a short time.” He graduated from the experiential school in 1993.
“I had an inkling that I wanted to be a lawyer. I was politically passionate. I wanted to be a social justice warrior,” he says. And he picked up carpentry, like his father. “I had an opportunity to work in a boatyard, restoring a historical schooner, the Harvey Gamage, in Fairhaven, Massachusetts,” he explains. He spent the next couple of months rebuilding the 130-foot boat. “I lived basically in a squat with about 20 other boat builders and we slept on the floor.”
When the boat launched, he signed on as a deck hand. “I spent the next year-and-a-half working on the boat between Maine and the Caribbean, learning traditional seamanship skills,” he says
In January of 1994, Andris jumped off the boat at St. Martin and hopped a flight to New London to start classes at Connecticut College. “I walked into my dorm room with my sea bag and it was kind of alienating, I felt like an adult amongst children. I was a serious guy, in love with traditional maritime culture, passionate about politics and the kids were into partying,” he recalls. Andris followed his passion, majoring in government and political science. He also joined the competitive sailing team, but he was culturally different than the yacht club kids, and left the team to focus more on his studies. In his junior year, he jumped at the opportunity to enroll in the one-year program at London School of Economics and Political Science in England. “London is so culturally rich. People were engaged in their coursework in a way that they weren’t at home. We also saw a ton of music, art and theater.” He returned to Connecticut to finish his final semester.