About Liz

I learned to sail at seven years old in San Diego, California on a little red sailing dinghy. At ten, I completed a 5,000-mile, 6-month cruise in Mexico with my family on our sailboat, The Endless Summer, experiencing a different culture, the freedom and beauty of sea travel, and opening my mind to horizons beyond my hometown reality. I credit the origin of my environmental concern to my exposure to the contrasting landscapes of grave pollution and radical natural beauty in Mexico.

Albeit very young, this trip profoundly impacted me. Two things were clear when we returned to San Diego in 1990: I wanted to protect the natural world from human destruction and, one day, I wanted to be the captain of my own sailboat.

At fifteen, my love of the ocean and natural athletic inclination led me to try surfing. Soon after, it was all I wanted to do. Determined to excel in the sport, I spent all my free time in the water and eventually started competing. I surfed in private contests and for the UCSB surf team while studying at UC Santa Barbara. My competitive career culminated in a win at the NSSA Nationals, making me the 2002 College Women’s National Champion. Although I enjoyed pushing my level of surfing through competition, I was more inclined to chasing nature saturated,
exploratory surf experiences. I enjoyed surfing most for the adventures leading to remote breaks, the connection with the elements, and the opportunities for self-discovery. I was full of bigger questions that needed answers.

I began taking surf trips during summers and school breaks to Barbados, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Hawaii, Mexico, Nicaragua, and a ‘study abroad’ trip Australia. As I finished up my degree in Environmental Studies, I remember feeling frustrated by the direction the world seemed headed. Our distance and apathy for the natural world and failure as a country to seek and promote environmentally sustainable living left me disappointed and frustrated. I clung to my dream as a ‘way out’.

My surfing obsession further fueled this fire. The pressures of increasing crowds and urban pollution made the idea of a freeranging life on the sea seem even more appealing. After graduation, I crewed on different boats to gain experience for about a year, and then spontaneously came upon the chance to become the captain of my own sailboat. Thanks to the generosity of my friend and mentor, Barry Schuyler, along with suppor from my family, Swell and I were united.

Through this stroke of serendipity, my intense determination, and the generosity and advice of innumerable people in Santa Barbara and beyond, Swell was converted into an ocean-worthy vessel. For over two years, I worked with local professionals–mechanical, rigging, sail repair, radio, fiberglassing, and others, learning and overhauling each of Swell’s vital systems in order to prepare myself and my ship for sea. Only having sailed the boat a handful of times during this busy preparation period, I honestly didn’t know whether I would be capable of a captain’s tasks and responsibility. Although the uncertainties ahead petrified me, the alternative of not going seemed even more unthinkable. And so in October of 2005, I pointed Swell’s bow south from the Santa Barbara harbor.

Over the 18,000 nautical miles of ocean I’ve sailed since, I’ve discovered that the most important sort of exploration happens within. The enormous sense of fulfillment I’ve gained from following my dream, delving into self-awareness, and living a simple life close to nature motivates me to continue sharing my experiences in hopes of the same for others.

A few of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned along the way:

  • By using the challenges and adversities in life as opportunities to grow and learn, something positive can come out of almost any difficult situation.
  • Instead of pointing fingers, it’s always more useful to look at one’s own faults.
  • Practicing relentless positivity and loving-kindness has the power to completely change one’s reality.
  • Nature, humanity, and all life on Earth are inextricably and fantastically connected. Abandoning the idea of Self and seeking to understand and participate in this Greatness is not only a path to immense personal fulfillment, but also to healthy, peaceful planet and a populace that could exist in harmony with nature!
  • A life of voluntary simplicity can be surprisingly fulfilling and might allow others in our world of limited resources to ‘simply live’.
  • There’s always more to learn!
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22 Comments

  1. Lisa Hetman

    Hi Liz; You are an inspiration!! I hope to see your slide show this Thursday in Cardiff. If you are in Leucadia I hope you will stop by my shop, Swell Stuff, and check it out. Cheers, Lisa Hetman

  2. Stephen Gallie

    Hi Liz! What an exciting and adveturous life you have! Congratulations!! I’m argentinian. Last week we had Mercedes Maidana in Patagonia’s store located in Buenos Aires. She gave a marvellous presentation on her life, surf, expectations, traveling and motivation.
    I’m a sheep and cattle farmer in souther patagonia, near Torres del Paine National Park, Perito Moreno Glacier, very nice area and we are providing Patagonia Inc with sustainable merino wool for their collection starting as 2013. Surfing the patagonian website I read your story and decided to write! Apart from being a farmer I really enjoy sports and especially at this stage ski touring…whenever and wherever i can! skied throughout patagonia and Europe where my brother lives…in Chamonix, France!
    I should send you pictures of this part of the world!!
    Muchos saludos or cheers from
    Stephen!
    ps: whereabouts are you saling and surfing now?

  3. Douglas

    Pleasure meeting you last Thursday at the Moss Research event, Liz (I was the guy manning the Rerip donation “table”). I had head rumblings of your presence here in SD, but did not put two and two together until I went to your blog. I had read about your voyage in some magazine, newspaper, or other periodical. I’m inspired by your story…for the past few years I’ve grown tied of people talking, but not doing. You’re doing things to say the least. Anyhow, I look forward to following your blog. Have a great day!

    Douglas

  4. andrew martinez

    I hope this tip arrives to your mail box. When i viewed the condition of your dingy after 2 months, i said to myself, “Self, i beit you that Mz. Clark has never been informed on how to keep crustations and allgey off the bottom of her inflatable”. I am a friend of a friend of a friend of yours. Raised and learned to surf in Encinitas many moons ago. You now the stuff that you put on your nose and face? call zinc oxide. Well, i went to the 99cent store and bought 2 tubes o the stuff, and used only one tube. I applied it to the bottom of the dignhy with a small sponge. It kept every thing off the bottom for the whole summer. Where i failed to apply it, growth appeared. I learned this from a sailor friend of mine from Cardiff Ca. Pure white zince oxide. Adios capitan of The Swell

  5. Captain lizzy

    Liz Clark,
    My name is Morgan Heckerd and I’m currently a junior in high school. This means I am starting to really ask myself what I want to do with my life. I’m from the coast of Maine and have spent many summers on the water surfing and sailing. The past two summers I have spent working on an 84′ schooner. I absolutely love being on the ocean. So, I have been looking for a way to combine sailing, traveling, photography, and protecting our oceans to somehow form a job. I never in a million years thought that anything like it was possible, but a friend of mine recently told me about you and what you’re doing. I would love to know as much as I can about HOW you were able to create your lifestyle. I would love to hear any stories, recommendations or helpful tips.
    Thank you so much!
    Morgan

    Hi Morgan!

    First of all, thanks for your note. I’m glad you found me! I love your passions and enthusiasm, and i know how scary it can be to have to think about the future, but the truth is that if you follow your heart and do what you love, you will NEVER go wrong. The average person doesn’t do what they love with their life, and get stuck doing something they dont like out of fear of not having what they need. I advise strongly against falling into this way of thinking! In all my travels, and in my own life, the people that I meet who are doing what they love–even if they have relatively little money–are the happiest people! And the best part is that when you stay true to yourself–your beliefs and dreams–the universe takes care of the rest. Just keep putting yourself close to things that you love. Make that your highest priority and make sure there is NO alternative in your mind. Our reality is highly effected by our thoughts and the energy we put into the world is what comes back to us. The more we stay positive, open, and trusting towards life, the more we find that we get the things we need/want when we really need them. It’s funny, because truly the most important things in creating your dream reality are so simple: be kind to yourself and others, think positively and be open to learning, dont judge others–only work on yourself, and try to only allow positive emotions in your mind. The rest happens organically. These are such simple things, but generally our ego, fear, or lack of confidence can get in the way. There are always bumps in the road, but we must learn to launch off them rather than whine about them! We just have to keep working on becoming the best version of ourselves–opening up more and more like a flower, until we become our most True and extraordinary self! What else is life for!?

    Keep crewing on boats, taking photographs, and speaking up about protecting oceans! Keep plunging deeper into your passions! We are here to discover our greatest potential! Sometimes it’s tough at your age with school and its tight structure, etc, but for now, you can look for ways that each subject might apply to your passions. Education is such an important fundamental basis for the rest of your life! It gives you a greater and greater perspective and makes more opportunities available to you later, so never take learning for granted! You will have plenty of time to fully flesh out your dream life!

    And I recommend keeping an open mind to the magic and wonder that life can be when we accept that we dont always have control, and suppose that sometimes a really tough situation is just part of a bigger design leading to something great…in many ways, our difficulties can become our opportunities and strengths if we allow ourselves to use them in that way.

    Hopefully you’ll get to read all about the bumps on my road someday in the book i’m writing! let me know if you have any other questions..

    ALL the best to you! Keep dreaming!!

    Love Liz

  6. Robert Plummer

    Hi Liz: Thank you for sharing your adventure. I’m inspired to make my own. Best regards, Robert, daysailer San Francisco Bay :-)

  7. lilli nicolson

    Hey Liz,

    Thanks so much for your inspiring journey. I am Australian and planning to travel this year and feel inspired to ask- “do you accept crew”? Please let me know. Blessings on your path, following your heart makes such a big difference to the world. Thank YOU!

  8. Jess K

    Dear Liz,

    I recently found your blog on Patagonia’s website. Your travels are inspiring and truly amazing.
    I was a stew/decky on a S/Y and sailed across the Atlantic with a crew of 6. How you manage with just yourself is amazing!
    I am currently living in Vietnam, I have been here for 6 months and have 6 months left of my teaching contract. I’m pretty well travelled and am writing to ask if you would like any help on the organic farm.
    please feel free to email me I would love to hear from you.

    Peace, love and respect,

    Jess x

  9. Katerina

    Hi ,
    I’m Katerina:) I would like to publish a guest post (with one link) on your great blog http://www.lightcurve.com/
    Could you please give me the price for the placement of it?
    Thank you and I look forward to your reply.
    Have a nice day,

  10. Lloyd Kahn

    Liz,
    We are working on a new book titled Tiny Homes on the Move: Wheels & Water. “Nomadic living in the 21st century. Homes on wheels and homes in the water. Campers, RVs, trailers, house trucks, house buses, and bike rigs, as well as sailboats and houseboats. Homes that move.”
    We’d like to discuss including your adventures in the book. Would you contact me at lloyd@shelterpub.com?
    See our books at http://www.shelterpub.com
    Thanks!
    Lloyd Kahn
    Editor
    Shelter Publications

  11. Bob Allison

    Hi Liz,

    I’m inspired by your “A few of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned along the way:” I completely agree and I’ve teaching my kids the same lessons. Hopefully each generation will get better at understanding what really matters. Thank you!
    Bob Allison – surfer

  12. Amy Schrier

    Dear Liz,

    I have been such a huge fan of you and following your adventures! Was the former founder of BLUE magazine (perhaps you remember?) and now launching MISSION.tv a home to content and community about travel and making a positive difference in the world. Would like to invite you to blog/write about your journey Beyond the Surface, or republish material on that journey on MISSION.tv.

    light,

    Amy

  13. Scott Warby

    Hiya Liz…
    I’ve just been steered to you site by a mate of mine…I’m loving it :)
    I’m sat in my tent 1200kms north of Perth (Western Australia) on my yearly surf trip…The wind is blowing hard,but i’m dreaming of my own yacht Angel” a 12m Endurance,and of sailing her “up north” each year for a 6 month surf trip..And in time further afield..It’s been a dream of mine for a few years,and slowly i’m getting there :)..Your site and yourself is helping me believe it is acheivable…
    Alas my computer battery is dead sooooo bye for now..
    Stay sparkly
    Scott :)

  14. Bobby Friedman

    Hey Liz,

    I met you on the cruise along Central America. We were both at the Balboa moorings at the same time in Panama and you might remember our mutual love of Clyde and Mia. I crossed the Pacific in 2007. Anyway, my house here in SD burned down so I’m around for awhile. I’d love to swap old stories about who we used to know.

    Bobby on Barraveigh
    858-333-1679

  15. Terry C.

    Hi Miss Clark,
    As others have stated, you are an inspiration. I would love to pick your brain regarding things that are generally not covered on your blog and may be more mundane or less adventurist. Things like checking in / out of countries, seasonal weather (cyclones), local diets, barter / monetary system, sailing, etc.
    It would be great be great if you had the resource[s] to do a monthly Q&A video blog where people could email / submit questions and you answer them.
    For many years now I have been watching things occur in the U.S. I haven’t been to fond of..I would love to just leave and live a simple life…
    Terry C.

  16. Dane Tinley

    Dear Liz,

    It’s funny how often times one’s environment can influence his or her aspirations. After browsing through your most recent feature on Surfline, it occurred to me that we share a common passion for surfing, self-development and philanthropy. Additionally, I also value delaying the inevitable push for self-gain, vital to life for us at home, in order to acquire a more worldly perspective and take advantage of youth. As I read more about your ventures and philosophy I noticed that we also share a similar story: I also graduated from Torrey Pines, lifeguarded in Del Mar and am apart of the surf team at UCSB. It seems that you’ve gone down the same road as I have and continued in the same direction I aspire to chase.

    My question for you is how can I support you, follow in your foot steps and eventually preserve our common dream?

    Go Gauchos!
    -Dane Tinley

    danerowlandtinley@gmail.com

  17. Claire

    Hi Liz,
    I am an 18 year old girl hungry for adventure. This past year, my boyfriend introduced me to the wonder of sailing, surfing, motorcycles, and your blog. He recently left for a religious mission in Samoa for the next two years and it occurred to me that I can’t wait twenty-four months to start living my life again. Why ride on the back of a boy’s motorcycle when you can get your own, right? As a young blond girl, everyone I speak to is quick to remind me of the dangers, but something inside me can’t resist mapping out a motorcycle-road/surf-trip from Coast Rica to Belize. I’m not afraid to beach camp or meet new people or travel alone or eat weird foods or jump head-first into new cultures, (those are actually all the parts I’m looking forward to) but I also want to be safe and realistic. I don’t want to pay thousands of dollars to be part of a program that schedules meals and activities, I want a wholesome experience abroad, I want to make genuine connections with kindred souls and experience Earth in all her natural beauty, untainted by human intervention. I guess I’m asking what everyone else asks you: “How do you do it?” In reading your blogs, I am both humbled and inspired by your positivity, your stubborn sense of adventure, and your independence. Where do I start? Tell me I’m not crazy for wanting to try this? Tell me I’m not the only girl in the world who doesn’t mind trading hot showers for adventure?

    I’d love to hear back from you,
    Claire

  18. Stacey Bosteder

    Hey, Liz.
    Don’t know if you remember me, but you and I emailed each other a 3 or 4 yrs back (I broke my back at work/paraplegic. You may not remember me). Anyway, because I can’t surf anymore, I’m living vicariously through you and your adventures. I suspect that I am not the only one doing that. My wife and I did start a business that keeps us around surfing though!
    I hope you are still enjoying yourself; it sounds as though you are. Keep inspiring us!
    Stacey

  19. Captain lizzy

    dear awesome Claire,

    your email made me get goosebumps because i’m so excited for the adventures ahead of you!!!! You have so much of what you need already–courage, desire, an open mind, and a good sense of humor. your adventure sounds perfectly feasible. of course there will be the people who want to scare you and tell you not to go. either they just love you and want you to be safe or they are jealous that they themselves do not have the courage to go. you need to learn how to tell the difference between the two, and take only the advice that serves you. leave the rest in your dust trail Girlfriend!! of course you will always need to proceed with a certain degree of caution and respect for the possible dangers you will affront, but my best line of defense on solo adventures is a ‘trust until there is a reason not to trust’ attitude, respectable dress (sometimes its good to cover up to discourage people from getting the wrong idea about you and attract less attention), and spot good people in new places and stick near them.

    the most amazing journey Awaits you, adventure sister!! do NOT wait 2 years!! a single journey alone is worth a lifetime of adventures surrounded by others… the best thing in life is knowing that you can be happy alone, handle any situation that arises, and that the universe will always take care of you in amazing ways and through the good people on our planet…

    you dont need much money. save up, get the basics, go simple, and trust that all else you need you will find along the way.

    Please keep me posted!!!!
    MUCH Love and Light,

    Liz

  20. Captain lizzy

    Hi Stacey! Of course I remember you! So nice to have some news!! So stoked to hear about you and your wife’s new business!! Incredible. I think working in anything centered around our passions is the only way to go… I am still loving live aboard Swell and although 2013 had some dark moments, all is Light and Love again… Thank you for your note!! Take good care and thank you for living inspired like you do. All the best to you and yours, Liz

  21. Peter

    Hi Liz,
    I’m Pete! It’s wonderful to come across evidence that there are other people doggedly pursuing truth through living. I have some idea of what it takes to make it happen, as I’m a captain myself. I’ve always marched to a different beat and find myself having to transcend the collective delusion, and the people who unwittingly (subtly, and often violently) propagate it’s ethics to keep myself afloat. I run a motor yacht based in San Diego, which is how I came to meet a fellow named Ryan who owns an Ericsson 38′, who said some very nice things about you! I’ve begun my own blog which I intend to scale up to a community rooted in responsible living and working toward sustainability. It’s a long story ;) that I’ve just begun to tell using the website s-word.us. Thank you for encouraging us to stay after it! Atta’ girl
    Fair winds,
    Pete

  22. K

    Hey Liz, congrats for doing it. Stories like that always set me into daydream mode:)
    Klemen

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