I may as well warn you now; you could find yourself a little jealous of Liz Clark. After all, who wouldn’t want to call themselves a captain, professional free surfer, explorer, author, photographer and environmentalist spending several years sailing solo around some of the most beautiful parts of the world? Sneak a peek at her blog www.swellvoyage.com but beware, your envy could sky rocket as her photos draw you in to worlds of remote pacific island sunsets and picture perfect empty dawn surfs.
And then you meet her. And you realize you’re not jealous anymore. Not because her life isn’t mind-blowing — it is — but because it’s impossible to be anything other than inspired, challenged, and uplifted by what this delicate free spirit achieves as a one-woman show.
In early 2006 Liz set out on what is possibly one of the world’s most impressive surf explorations aboard her 40-foot sailboat, Swell. With the intention of venturing in to the unknown, surfing remote empty waves and bringing attention to the environmental impact of pollution while reducing her own daily impact on the earth, she embarked on a journey that has become her life. Or as she puts it, “a lifestyle, passion, and search for better ways for humanity to inhabit our shared planet.”
Whether she is single-handedly sailing through French Polynesia or diving 100 feet to the depths of the ocean to secure her anchor, Liz is fearless in her fight for an environmentally sustainable existence and simple life, and she works hard to spread the word for a healthy, peaceful planet.
But her voyage is more than just a physical one around the world’s oceans. It is also a journey of introspect, of inner learning and a search for what she calls “Love, Light and Positivity.”
It seems to be working. After all, few people could turn a blog post about breaking their neck into an essay brimming with positivity and appreciation for the lesson learned and the opportunity to venture even deeper within.
LIZ: It’s not that I’ve overcome fear. I still deal with fear nearly every time I go to sea. I’ve just learned how to break it down into manageable parts and try to befriend it. I actually think it’s a good thing—fear is a means to my safety and survival. If I get too comfortable out there, it’s easy to make a grave mistake. And a little fear keeps me feeling alive and challenged. Being prepared really helps. Knowing my boat/equipment inside and out helps me feel like I am calculating a large majority of the risks. I always take things slowly, err on the side of caution, and use my intuition to make critical decisions.So far it hasn’t failed me.
MIZU: Do you ever get lonely?
LIZ: Once in a while, but I quite enjoy my time alone. I never really think of it as ‘alone’. I always feel like I’m with the all the Infinite Greatness! There’s always lots to do to get myself to the next destination, so there isn’t much time to be lonely. When the weather is bad, it’s less fun to be alone, though. When there’s light & steady breezes, blue skies above, and I’m gliding silently over the neon blue Pacific, I cherish my solitude out in the wildness!!
MIZU: Aside from the skill of sailing Swell alone, how did you learn to take care of everything else, from fixing your boat to making your own kombucha? It seems there is nothing you can’t do!
LIZ: I’ve learned each thing little by little over the years…and there’s still so much more to learn! I used to get bummed when something on the boat would break, but I’ve learned to see these adversities as an opportunity to get familiar with that particular piece/item/machine. If I don’t know how to fix it, generally someone shows up in my life that does. I love learning how things function and working with my hands, so it’s generally a fun process–NOT always in the moment—but after I crawl out of a cramped boat hole for the hundredth time and something actually works because I fixed it, it feels glorious!! With a mix of the right tools and a little creativity almost anything is possible!
Kombucha-making and other such galley endeavors have developed alongside my passion for living cleaner. Trying to eat a plant-based diet in a land without a Whole Foods market down the street, has taken some learning, practice, and experimenting. It’s fun to try to make things on my own when you can’t get them nearby.
MIZU: With all the time it takes to maintain the boat and sustain your existence, is there much time left to surf, practice yoga and just ‘be’?
LIZ: My life is pretty ‘full’ most days. There are stretches of time, like when the boat needs work in the haulout yard or on my forays to the US, where I don’t have as much time as I’d like for surfing, yoga, reading, etc. I’m learning how to stay in balance, though. Sometimes we need to tip the scales a little to one side or the other. The key for me is recognizing when to shift back towards the other side…
MIZU: You live a very clean and simple life right down to the way you eat. Was this always the way, or something you adopted along your journey?
LIZ: This has all evolved over time. I don’t come from a ‘clean-living’ background. I’ve met people along the way who have helped me open my eyes to the benefits of reducing the chemicals and toxins in our food and surroundings. Since introducing these lifestyle changes, I’ve grown more in tune with what works for me personally through trial & error and experimentation. Doing boat maintenance, I am often exposed to toxic substances, so I now try to reduce my exposure to other toxins wherever possible—especially in daily life. It’s incredible to learn how many chemicals we ingest and absorb through ‘food’, hygiene, cleaning products, etc. My diet was refined over time, and now honors my beliefs and passion for taking back our food system and respecting animals. I’ve been eating plant-based for over a year now and my body is so happy!! Living remotely, where these sorts of things don’t come as easily, I’ve learned that I don’t really need them. I switched to using vinegar, baking soda, essential oils, and simple soaps for cleaning both Swell and myself. Natural oils can replace conditioners and lotions. Baking soda mixed with peppermint essential oil and coconut oil with a few drops of hydrogen peroxide works great for toothpaste! I’m learning more and more all the time about nutrition, health, and healing through food and clean, positive living and I love it!
LIZ: There are select people and groups all over doing their best to manage local trash issues. But the task is often large and these people are generally in the minority. Education and effective pollution management and prevention are lacking almost everywhere I’ve been. There are some bright lights out there, though. Making an individual effort always gets noticed, and coming together as a community to clean and protect local beaches is such a beautiful way to build awareness about the issues and momentum towards solutions.
There is so much power in our hands if we choose to use it! I recently met a long time Argentinean-born resident of Imperial Beach in San Diego—Alfonso Lopez, who founded a local non-profit called Ocean Force. He leads year-round local efforts to remove the constant stream of trash flowing out of the Tijuana river mouth onto local beaches. Stories like his keep me inspired that there are local heroes out there making a difference. The impact one person can have to effect positive change is incredible.
MIZU: Are you selective about the brands you represent? (Liz represents Mizu, Patagonia, Zeal Optics, Leatherman, Pro-Lite, Sesh Air and Surf-Vival)
LIZ: Over the course of my voyage, I’ve witnessed the continual benefits that come with living true to your beliefs. In my experience, happy living honors your personal truths. As a peaceful warrior for a happier, healthier planet, I couldn’t represent brands or products that go against my ethical and ecological values without sacrificing my ability to live in alignment with my truth. So as a brand ambassador, I choose to represent companies whose products have a higher purpose for people and the planet and are sourced and produced mindfully.
MIZU: Your outlook and your practice of finding peace with your world are inspirational. Do you feel that being surrounded by nature so much has helped you find that perspective?
LIZ: Being surrounded by nature often gives me the strength to go on through the most difficult moments. The infinite beauty of Earth is always there to remind me how magical and miraculous our existence really is. But finding peace within our hectic world is a constant practice. I’ve had to dedicate myself to living positively. It’s a choice and an effort. I would have given up sailing a long time ago had I not decided to welcome adversities as opportunities to grow and learn about the world and myself. You can be in the most beautiful natural surroundings in the world, but if you refuse to go inward and face your negative emotions, feelings of peace will be fleeting. My greatest source of peace has come from surrendering to the present moment, letting go of ego, looking within for solutions rather than blaming others, and learning to serve the world everyday with love and kindness.
MIZU: What wisdom would you pass on to people from your journey?
LIZ:Listen closely to your heart. Don’t wait! Take action on what is calling you! The universe is guiding each of us toward our highest, happiest Self through our desires and intuition. Make choices accordingly and you will always feel like you’re ‘on course’…