About Liz Clark

http://www.swellvoyage.com

Posts by Liz Clark:

‘Dear & Yonder’ Capt Lizzy section released… 8 minutes from life on Swell

 

In the midst of running around So Cal–seeing friends and family and gathering supplies for this year’s sea-bound adventures, I got word from Dear & Yonder surf film creators Tiffany Campbell and Andria Lessler, that I could release my section of the film for public viewing!! Dear & Yonder “Daring Stories of Ladies United by the Sea” was filmed in 2007/8 and released in 2009. My section in the movie took three separate attempts to capture over nine months, and across two island nations and thousands of miles of open sea!! These beautiful images were captured by Tiffany & Thomas Campbell, Andria Lessler, Dave Homcy, & Bali Strickland. Huge thank yous to everyone involved! What an incredible souvenir for me to look back on…For more about the film go to dearandyonder.com or email tiffany@villavillacola.com. Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Tiffany Campbell and Andria Lessler, the creators of the film, Dear and Yonder, aboard Swell in French Polynesia in 2007. Their film captures the lives of many talented ocean women for the world to see. And I gained two incredible sea sisters! Thank you, ladies for encouraging all women to live out their highest potential!

 

 

Eating for Earth!

Happy Earth Day!! Our planet provides for us daily--food, air, and water. Give back to her by eating a little more Earth-friendly today! Here, organic pineapple...often organic fruit and veg options are smaller in size than non-organics. Be wary of oversized or 'too perfect' looking foods!

Happy Earth Day!! Our planet provides for us daily–food, air, and water. Give back to her by eating a little more Earth-friendly today! Here, organic pineapple…often organic fruit and veg options are smaller in size than non-organics, but they taste so much better! Be wary of over-sized or ‘too perfect’ looking foods!

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Mother Earth fills our bellies everyday, so in her honor I’ve decided to write about ‘food’ for Earth Day. We eat three times a day, everyday… so our food choices have a huge impact on our health and, simultaneously, the health of the planet. This topic is especially exciting for me, as I have tried eating ‘vegan’ for the last year and, after a bit of fine-tuning, I’ve never felt better! In addition to the physical ‘feel good’ benefits, I’ve realized that our daily food choices can be a powerful form of individual eco-activism, accumulating an enormous positive impact over time!

So here are a few Earth-friendly suggestions to consider–>

    • Support small-scale, organic farms and alternative methods to corporate agriculture! Gardening is not always an option, but buying food from local, organic farms generally is. Between consciously-sourced markets, farmer’s markets, community gardens, co-ops, and local growers that deliver a weekly box of fresh veggies, there are lots of ways to avoid buying from corporate farms. Large-scale agriculture is the least ecologically-sensitive way to grow food. Growing the same crop over large land areas does not take advantage of the naturally beneficial plant combinations that can eliminate the need for using pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Corporate farms do not consider the health of their workers, consumers, the ground water, the native plants and animals, and general public safety when they routinely spray highly toxic chemicals on our food and soil. UN: Eco Farming Feeds the World, Is Organic Farming the Key to Solving Hunger? And Climate Change?, Corporate Power in Agriculture

 

  • Eat less processed food! I like to think about trying to reduce the number of hands and machines and altering processes my food goes through before consuming it. During my outer island roaming and food-foraging, I decided that I liked eating whole foods because it made me feel closer to nature eating things that looked they came off a tree rather than out of a factory. Not only does eating whole food decrease the need for packaging, it ensures that you aren’t consuming artificial preservatives, flavorings, colors and any of the other thousands of often mysterious ingredients that are added to US foods. Various food dyes, Olestra brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, Azodicarbonamide, BHA, BHT, rBGH, rBST and arsenic are banned in other countries but still legal in US foods! There are certainly minimally processed options, but it’s worth having a closer look at food labels and reading between the lines as to what constitutes truly ‘natural’, healthy food. 9 Ways the Processed Foods Are Slowly Killing People, Dirty Secrets of the Food Processing Industry
  • Boycott GMO-containing foods and companies!!! Despite that it is still unclear as to whether or not ‘genetically modified’ foods are safe for human consumption over time, Monsanto and the other ‘big 6’ biotech corporations–BASF, Bayer, Dow Chemicals, Dupont, and Syngentacontrol nearly every aspect of our food system. They are responsible for creating most of today’s genetically modified foods along with producing the chemicals required to grow them. They’re also attempting to control and regulate the world’s seeds, so that farmers will be have to buy their patented GMO seeds. Not only is this threatening to destroy the critical biodiversity of seeds that humans have developed since the dawn of plant cultivation, it gives them a frightening amount of power! These billion dollar corporations are paying scientists to engineer ‘franken foods’ that are not always more ‘nutritious’. Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” crops have been genetically engineered to allow direct application of the Monsanto herbicide ‘glyphosate’. This lets farmers drench both their crops and soil with this chemical to kill nearby weeds and pests without killing the plants, leaving the crops coated in this highly toxic chemical, the soil degraded, and the groundwater polluted. This is just a taste of these companies’ multitude of ecologically and socially irresponsible practices. Please educate yourself further on this issue! On March 26th of this year, The Monsanto Protection Act was signed into US law, essentially giving GMO companies immunity to the federal courts and states that even if future discoveries show that GMOs cause significant health problems. Total boycott of GMO-containing foods is a powerful way to show that we do NOT approve of all this! Documentary: ‘The World According to Monsanto’ , Surf Legend Kelly Slater Attacks GMOs and Biotech Giants, Surfing for Change’s Latest film: Pro Surfers vs GMOs by fellow Patagonia Ambassador Kyle Thiermann
  • When/if eating seafood, please choose wisely… Through my years on the sea, I’ve watched and participated in fishing of many kinds. On voyages to more remote island groups, I’ve seen by comparison, how drastically reduced the fish stocks are in more populated, overfished places. These populations now look farther and more remotely to supply their seafood. Ultimately, this is not a sustainable solution. Most of our critical global fish stocks are in steep decline, and although I often enjoyed sustenance fishing, after seeing the results of overfishing first hand, I no longer feel comfortable consuming seafood. So I’ve decided to eat a plant-based diet where it’s an option. “A study of catch data published in 2006 in the journal Science grimly predicted that if fishing rates continue apace, all the world’s fisheries will have collapsed by the year 2048.” (National Geographic)  For those not ready to give up seafood entirely, there are certainly more sustainable choices. In general, eating lower on the ocean food chain, choosing wild versus farmed, and eating locally-caught options are generally more sustainable. There are even free apps for smartphones to help you decide quickly at a restaurant which might be the most sustainable seafood on the menu.  Seafood Watch Iphone AppFAQs for Seafood Watch AppEDF Seafood Selector,  Tackling Overfishing on Many Fronts, National Geographic: Overfishing
  • When dining out, support restaurants that source their food from local, conscious suppliers! Try to keep up your conscious-eating standards when dining out. Asking nicely about food sourcing spreads awareness and promotes businesses to have healthier, Earth-friendly alternatives.

When I broke my neck in 2012, I spent a lot of time reading about healing through food. I wanted to be on my feet as soon as possible, so I studied up on which foods are conducive to healing and which hinder. I ate well, thought positively, and completely eliminated caffeine, refined sugar, meat, & alcohol. I healed incredibly quickly!!

Through that experience, I learned a lot about what I do and don’t want to eat. I’ve continued researching, experimenting, and using my intuition to understand what my body runs on best. It’s taken years to refine my eating habits to what they are now. I started by cutting out red meat and poultry…then reduced refined sugar and processed foods…then caffeine…then came dairy…and lastly fish. I’ve been amazed at the changes I’ve felt in my body in the past year of eating a very clean, plant-based diet. I feel strong, get sick less often, and have more energy than ever before! And all the nagging injuries I was suffering from have healed. I can’t be sure that this is all a result of my dietary changes, but I want to share that this adventure in food has been as awesome and profound as any of other.

Choosing to eat more consciously doesn’t mean you can’t make exceptions, or that dietary decisions are forever. I think we are all fabulously unique and this means no one type of diet suits everyone. If someone told me five years ago that I would stop eating cheese and not miss it, I would have laughed! This is a very personal process, and I’m not trying to tell people that eating this way is best. Rather, I’m encouraging everyone to go on their own dietary adventures and educate themselves to make more informed food choices. Doing so comes with the great benefits of better health for you and our dear Moma Earth!

***Thank you to my dear and wise sister, Kathleen Clark, for your editing help and input on this piece! She has her own amazing food story of healing her incessant migraines through a shift to mostly plant-based eating. I Love You, Leen!!

 

Been so fun sourcing local organic growers!

It’s been so fun sourcing local organic growers in the South Pacific…It takes a little extra work, but it’s always a fun adventure and I generally come home to Swell overwhelmed with amazing food and new friends.

Bananas for bananas!

Read up on bananas, they’re not only delicious but they are so good for us!

Amelia, my newly adopted crewmate, is a little less excited than I am about eating a plant-based diet. :)  Unlike humans, she is a real carnivore!  All locally-sourced, organic foods–tomatoes, lettuce, chives, basil, breadfruit, papaya, pamplemousse, passionfruit…and my jar of probiotic-plentiful kombucha brewing in the background!!

Still crazy about coconuts!

Still crazy about coconuts! They’re high in fiber, protein, potassium, calcium, magnesium, lower cholesterol, contain lauric acid which is known for its antifungal and antibacterial properties, boosts immunity, and helps regulate thyroid and metabolic function. And coconut water is one of the highest known electrolyte sources!

 

Grating coconut. I've learned to love cooking in the last few years...

Grating coconut by hand…I use it to press for coconut milk, put in smoothies, curries, oatmeal, or just eat plain…SO tasty!!

Plant based meals under the stars!!

I’ve learned to LOVE cooking in the last few years…Here, enjoying a plant-based meal under the stars!!

 

Passion fruit!! One of endless, nutritious, and absolutely delightful spoils of Mother Nature…

 

Ch ch ch chia!

Ch ch ch chia! Who knew the seeds we spread on clay animals in the 80s were an Aztec superfood high in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, and minerals! A little chia limade on a hot South Pac day…

 

 

 

I even got to grow a few of my own this past year!

I even got to grow a few of my own this past year! Putting my hands in the dirt felt heavenly. Watching them grow and eating from the garden was a true blessing.

Spread the word…partake in the radiance, positive impacts, and health of more plant-based nutrition for today and for the future generations who deserve to inherit a healthy Earth!! We can reduce and prevent diseases of all kinds, and reconnect with and heal our Great Mother. Here, the beautiful Hepua about to participate in a traditional Tahitian banana-carrying running race.

 

Hovering Neon Droplets: a moment between the sea and me

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The tiny raindrops had stopped by the time I got back to the boat, but this was taken just after, so you can imagine how it looked with the raindrops falling!

 

Despite a day of gray, the sun refuses to depart unnoticed, surprising me and the thickly-clouded sky with a lavish splash of reds and pinks. The heavens then toss the light down onto the sea, where it warps into a hypnotizing tango with the water’s evening shadows. A dark line appears ahead. I study its form and decide to paddle over it. It lifts me up, and then I fall softly down its brilliant, berry-colored back. The second of the set is bigger, fuller–its arm reaching farther to the south… I calculate my placement as it nears, turning just before it’s upon me, and stroking twice.

 

I rise to my feet as it picks me up. Two quick, extended pumps and I’m high-lining along a blossoming, neon-lipped water wall. A moment later, the wall stretches out well beyond me. With one more high-toed pump I think I can make it, and crouch under a translucent-pink water roof. Bracing toes, surreal excitement, all of me aimed for the exit. Briefly there is no confusion, nothing out of place–just trim and bliss behind the waterfall…

 

Then poof, it’s over. The sea boils and the reef sucks dry just ahead of me. Dropping back to prone, I stroke for deeper water while attempt to take my mind back inside… The vision runs fugitive but the sensation lingers like an electric shock.

 

Before I start the paddle home, I stop to acknowledge my tremendous Gratitude to the Greatness. No matter the time or struggle between moments like this, I am thankful for All of it. For without the bitter, how could we know sweet? I take a deep breath and cherish once more the vast silence of alone and adrift between sea and sky. How oddly comfortable it feels… How marvelously empty my mind can be when surrounded solely by raw, undivided Nature and Wildness…? It’s as if I cease to exist, or maybe it’s more like reattaching to the Rest?

 

I wipe my eyes and watch tiny raindrops begin to collide with the shiny pink surface of the sea. They each send out a perfect, teeny ringlet. Soon a zillion miniature gongs are singing! My eyelids drift closed and I lay my head on my board. It sounds as if I’m afloat in a giant glass of just-poured mineral water; its effervescent tickle exceedingly delightful. The patter sends fine, glowing mist onto my face and into my smiling mouth.

 

I become so entranced I almost loose my balance, sitting up at once. But I’m quickly stolen into the scene again by the countless neon droplets that scatter across the sea upon their impact and hover just above it for one fleeting instant–touching, but separate—for one glorious final moment of their individual journey from the sky before sinking into oneness with the endless sea again. Mesmerizing…

 

A chill brings me back to my body; goosebumps rise on my arms. I turn and paddle for the boat, watching those miniscule hovering droplets scatter as I go, knowing I am just like them–momentarily and illusorily separate, yet inescapably and fantastically Part of the Great Sea of Oneness.

 

Live your Dreams, Heal the world: Why doing what you love makes the world better…

 

I wasn't sure it was real until i woke up

After years of dreaming to succeed as a captain in search of remote waves, I had to pinch myself in moments like these. Panama 2007

 

“Passion is the love of turning being into action. It fuels the engine of creation. It changes concepts to experience…. Never deny passion, for that is to deny Who You Are, and Who You Truly Want To Be.” –Neale Donald Walsch

 

 

the quiver

The mothership,  the quiver, and the happy cappy in 2010. Photo by Adrian Midwood.

 

Wishing you all a peaceful, love-filled, and joyful holidays!! …I’ve been thinking about writing this blog for a long time…excited to share it here with you all!!

 

So aside from the obvious reason that following your dreams and living your passions makes us, as individuals, happier and more fulfilled, I believe there is a Greater reason why doing so is important…So let’s break down my theory…:)

 

We are each born with a great, unique potential. All of us have a different call or purpose in this life that cultivates a deep yearning to be fulfilled through physical experience. Imagine…you can know that you want to be a great chef, a wandering traveler, a singer/song-writer, or the proud owner of a business, but until you actually have that experience, there is an inevitable part of you that doesn’t feel complete. Or maybe you don’t quite know what you want, but you know you need to go figure it out. I’ve come to believe that the best thing that we can do for ourselves, our families, and for the world is to hear and follow our hearts and calls. The alternative is living in quiet frustration, haunted by whispers of what ‘could be’ or ‘could have been’. We can attempt to repress these whispers, to push them deeper, but I don’t think they ever truly go away…

 

But it’s never too late to hear and honor them! Even a small step toward living closer to our truest self makes us feel more alive, more vibrant, more inspired, and closer to the person and potential we know brews within us. Every time we make a choice that moves us in that direction, even slightly, vitality trickles in. We often don’t know what we’re moving toward or even what we really want, but we do know which steps feel like progress and which don’t. Trial and error, forward and back, faster, slower, but eventually closer to what feels right.

 

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Way back in Costa Rica in 2006, it hardly seemed possible that I’d sailed myself there… Photo by Jeff Johnson

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A few thousand miles later in 2007, things were starting to feel real and right! Photo by Ryan Hargrave

 

We tell ourselves a thousand reasons why we should not move towards our dreams and goals: “There’s too much risk!” … “I’m comfortable…” “I don’t want to fail…” “I have a family to support…” I say the risk of regret is much riskier. I say that comfortable is caustic and that the only failure is having never tried. And for the noble householder, I say, what better example, what more important message could you pass along to your children and/or partner, than: ‘Become the greatest You!’, and ‘Live a life you Love!’??  The joy and peace transmitted through this example are worth more than all the material things you could ever provide.

 

This could seem like a selfish concept at first, as it may not intuitively link to uniting humanity and saving the planet. But wait…I’m getting there…

 

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There is no way to know if you can until you try. Photo by Bali Strickland

 

Doing what we really want to do in life can seem a little selfish, probably because we are taught from youth that sacrificing ourselves for others and doing what society needs us to do is what makes us worthy and admirable (…granted that sometimes there are situations and consequences that demand our responsibility and/or  we should always avoid hurting people and use integrity when making decisions!). But in general, our society teaches us that achievements are the things that you can note on your CV or measure in the number of zeros in your salary.

I say achievements are the decisions we make and actions we take to be true to ourselves. I say learning to truly love Oneself is our greatest achievement…and hearing our dreams and calls is a powerful path to getting there. It’s a process, and the road is long and windy, but in my opinion, it’s not money or fame or letters of recommendation that make us admirable. Admirable is each small, humble, and inwardly-celebrated step that we make toward becoming more self-aware, changing habits that don’t serve us and others, and living a life we believe in.

And so, with great courage, we might take a step towards living our version of a more authentic life. Initially, your loved ones might feel betrayed, but with persistent, loving explanations, the people who really love you will understand and want you to seek happiness. Your choosing to do so is a very powerful statement that they can too. As you walk, no matter how slowly, toward each small goal and higher vision of yourself, you give others courage and reason to do the same. This courage is profoundly contagious. And it all starts with a small decision to go within and listen to what you really want out of life.

 

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We can always improve! Putting one’s self in question allows us to see where we can do better…Off for a little soul-searching at this lonely right in Indo on a Patagonia trip.  Photo by Jeff Johnson

 

I don’t think you have to know exactly what you want forevermore. I think the ‘call’ often evolves along the way. One might need to become the richest woman alive in order to know that money doesn’t make her rich. Or compete mercilessly in surf contests in order to one day realize that giving an epic wave to a friend actually feels more like winning.

 

The first steps are the surely the hardest. But as it does when you choose your hopes and dreams, the universe conspires to move you steadily, often magically along. The steps start getting easier until one day you find yourself striding right along–strong and confident that your feelings, instinct, and innate knowing can be trusted. The unknown hardly seems intimidating anymore. In fact, it starts to become kinda exciting! You wonder what twist in the tale will appear, and know that if you choose to greet your daily angels and teachers with an open, humble heart you will never be led too far astray. With great patience, practice, hard work, stumbles and strides, self-examining and reflection, you move closer to the person and place you so desire to be. You keep listening, you keep doing what you do because you love and believe in it.

 

a work of love is hardly work

Even the hardest work is a labor of love when it’s your dream.

Then one day you wake up in your dreams. They have become undeniable reality. It might not be exactly how you had imagined. Maybe it’s even better! You bathe in the glory and greet new adversities with optimism. For each day doing what you love is a gift, no matter how hard or stressful. You learn deep gratitude. You are so thankful that you listened to the voice within you, and cherish those who encouraged and believed in you. You learn to appreciate your life so deeply and wholly that all of a sudden you look around and realize you’ve made a great ascent on your climb to personal peace.

peak of peace

Nothing is more important to peace in the world, than peace in your own heart. Climb to your ‘peak of peace’!

 

While sitting blissfully atop that ‘Peak of Peace’, a few important things might happen:

 

1. You look down at the steep and hard-trodden road to where you are sitting and see that, in fact, all those misfortunes, failures, difficulties were the means to arriving there! You stop mourning things in your past because you see how they helped you to where you are now. A deep trust is born in the Greatness and Perfection of it All. True Wonder and Awe is awakened at the thought of each of our wildly unique and complex journeys!

 

2. Compassion flourishes. The feeling of deep peace combined with the understanding that the same is possible for every human on earth, creates a longing for others to feel what you feel and desire to help them on their way. The thriving, positive energy feels SO good, that you just want others to thrive, too! Your compassion soon expands out beyond your family and friends to all people and plants and animals too…

 

3. Competition is replaced by a sincere wish to bring others up. Jealousy vanishes, for you now know from experience, that life’s truest riches abide solely in the realm of the internal. Rather than feel threatened or envious of another’s good fortune, you praise and cheer them on, in hopes that that they may one day call out to you from atop their own peak of peace… “Hello dear sister! Hello my brother! How glorious is this view!!?!”

 

4. We begin to truly feel and see the interconnectedness of all of life; that we all come and return to one great Energy, regardless of our form. We see the similarity in the struggles and victories of each living being, regardless of its species, race, or gender. Knowing we are One, we understand that we can only truly rise if we all rise together.

 

And so I conclude that the more of us who take this journey, and make it to their personal ‘peak of peace’, the better chance we have at creating a happier, healthier, more loving world. So be assured that living your dreams, hearing your call, and pursuing a life of passion and is as powerfully serving to humanity and the Earth as it is to your Self. I believe it is as practical and direct a means to contributing to a better world, right now, as any other.

 

For how can we possibly hope to feed our hungry, end war, repair our ecological crises, learn respect for all life, and move towards fuller, more satisfying ways of existence if we as individuals are not whole, realized, and peaceful ourselves? I tell you it is just not possible…

 

So do, be, and live what you love! A better you makes a better me makes a better world, because essentially…We are One.

 

 

One Great Heart

We are all of One Great Heart.

 

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Smile, your truest life awaits you!

The ‘Fill Me Up’ List

Fill me up with empty warm waves!!

Fill me up with warm waves!!

“Accept yourself. Love yourself as you are. Your finest work, your best movements, your joy, peace, and healing comes when you love yourself. You give a great gift to the world when you do that. You give others permission to do the same: to love themselves. Revel in self-love. Roll in it. Bask in it as you would sunshine.” ~ Melodie Beattie.

Let’s get back to the wonderful and the worldly! After posting my last blog, a tide of relief rushed in. Thank you for all the love and positive comments. I was practically backstroking through all the support. It felt like hundreds of virtual hands lifting me up! I thank you deeply and will continue to send out my highest hopes that those words continue to reach others ready to free themselves from unhealthy situations…

Since then, I’ve been focused on finding my balance again. There was still so much work to do on Swell at that time and emails piling high in my Inbox, but I knew it was time to focus on feeling like myself again. We have little to give when we aren’t feeling whole and strong ourselves. So on the cabin wall, I taped over the ‘Swell To-Do list’ with a different sort of list…It read:

 

The ‘Fill Me Up’ List–>


1. Go S-L-O-W, no rushing…
2. Go surf!
3. Meditate and do Yoga
4. Take time to be truly Present
5. Eat whole, Organic, sustainable food & drink coconuts!
6. Dance outside
7. Read
8. Massage your feet
9. Sleep outside
10. Watch the sunrise/sunset/stars
11. Do only what you feel like doing!

Bring your thoughts to the present to turn average moment into magic...

Bring your thoughts to the present to turn an average moment into magic…

 

Good friends, blazing sunset, my favorite board, peeling rights, and fresh air...filling up!

Good friends, blazing sunset, my favorite board, peeling rights, and fresh air…filling up fast…

 

Coconuts unlimited!!!!

Coconuts unlimited!!!!

 

It worked wonders! In no time at all, I was feeling strong and blissful—soaring high like as a little coiled spring, just released. Maybe plunging deep into darkness, allowed me to heartily catapult back into the shiny world of Love and Light! As was said, we can only appreciate a smooth sea, for having traveled a stormy one.

So I’m happily back to a clean, humble, hard-working sea life. Restoring my foundation has helped me appreciate the sweet little things again. I wake up grateful for my simple freedom, the sea’s soothing embrace all around me, and the positive, loving people who recently appeared on my path. The sky is bluer, the rain is sweeter, and the wild waves call to me ever stronger…

No matter how busy, we MUST make time to do the things we love. Sacrifices often have to be made, but whenever possible, fill up your ‘me’ tank. Practicing loving-kindness to ourselves is a critical part of being ‘full’ enough to love, listen to, give, and support our brother and sister humans!

 

Ahhh the nightlife!

Fill me up with the riches of the heavens…starry nights getting lost in the Universe’s infinite grandeur…  Photo by Bali Strickland

Epic salads under the stars...

Epic solo salads under the stars…dancing to come… :)

Good morning Mother Earth!

Good morning sweet, glorious Mother Earth!

Nothing better to replenish the soul than an all girls camping trip to the top of the mountain!! Bring your own firewood and Waves for Water waterfilter for refilling the Mizu bottles!!

Nothing better to replenish the soul than an all girls camping trip to the top of the mountain!! Bring your own firewood and Waves for Water waterfilter for refilling the Mizu bottles!!

Fresh fruit smoothies with super greens and protein!

Fresh fruit smoothies with super greens and protein!

Fill me up with morning sunbeams on my head!!

Fill me up with morning sunbeams on my head…

Everything is rolling right along again...:)

Thanks to a little self-love, everything is rolling right along again…:)

Lesson in Love: fear and expectations kill the cupid

To know paradise as a place, we must first know it in our minds.

To know paradise as a place, we must first know it in our minds.

We’ve all found ourselves in a situation that we know isn’t right for us, but for one reason or another, we resist change. Our innate knowing of what is best taps patiently at the door of our stubborn minds, but sometimes we are so intent on a certain desired outcome, that we refuse to hear the knocking and continue to push, force, and turn round and round in a negative situation for weeks, months, years…lifetimes?

I’m going way out on a limb here, as I’ve never talked about my love life on the blog before, but I’ve decided to share my recent experience because it was such an enormously growth-producing event for me and with hope that my doing so might comfort/encourage others dealing with something similar.

So here we go…

In 2011, I fell in love with a wonderful Tahitian guy. It was a powerful, unexpected, fairytale kind of love story, and after knowing him for only a few months, I trustingly took a leap and invited him to fly up and join me aboard Swell on a tour of French Polynesia. Having proven all I needed to prove to myself in terms of solo sailing, I was ready to love and share it all. I just knew that together we would be unstoppable…

When he was at his best, we were. But shortly following his arrival, I began seeing that his extraordinarily caring, chivalrous, talented, courageous, and hard-working ‘good side’ had an equally extreme and radical jealous, possessive, and manipulative ‘bad side’. But there I was, out in the middle of the Pacific, already overly attached to my expectations for our relationship. I resisted sending him home, in hopes that giving him all my love and wisdom might help him overcome the darker aspects of his character so that we could live happily ever after…

Tahiti 2 237

That was stupid. On the good days all was blissful, but after a few months aboard those days grew fewer and farther between. Nothing I did was ever enough. His jealousy was always my fault. Amidst awe-inspiring paradise, he only felt fear. Fear of losing me. Fear that I would stop loving him. Little by little, he pushed and tested me, whittling away my energy and hope until there was no question that I had to get away from him. But around the same time we arrived back in the Society Islands, and Swell got t-boned by a charter boat, which complicated distancing myself from him, as he was from the island where the Charter company was based that was responsible for doing the repairs to Swell.

Hence, putting real distance between us was impossible until I flew to California for the birth of my nephew, and even then, I felt like Swell was vulnerable there on the island with him if I didn’t keep things friendly.

When I eventually returned to French Polynesia and climbed up the ladder to Swell in the boatyard, all the memories of our voyage and the deep sadness and disappointment returned. He came around to help and against my better judgment, I caved and let him. I missed him and wanted to believe he’d changed like he promised he had…but before long, the neurotic jealousy started again and I knew I had to cut him off completely.

But the more I resisted, the more he persisted to be near me. The island became very small. There was nowhere to hide. He was always watching me. It soon became clear that he was more unstable, unpredictable, and prone to violence than I had ever imagined.

One evening I locked myself inside Swell at the yard, seeing his mood go south earlier in the day. He arrived later—drunk and crazed—and set to violently bashing on Swell’s door, yelling belligerently that he was going to beat me when he got in. Horrified and panicked, I fumbled to call his mother, my friends, the police… I got quite a reality check about the general attitude surrounding domestic violence when the police said they wouldn’t come because they needed a key to get in the gate!? Luckily the yard owner and my friends came quickly to my rescue. He slinked away into the night when he saw them coming…

After this terrifying moment, I knew there was no other way to ensure my safety until Swell was floating, than to go along with his wishes. I moved out of my girlfriend’s house and in with his family during the final months of the haul-out in order to placate him and decrease my chances of being alone. His family welcomed me graciously, but his behavior remained erratic. His frightening mood changes had me living in fear all day, everyday, not knowing when or what might set him off. He wasn’t ashamed to steal and hide my belongings or threaten me with force.

The more I quietly shared my story with other women, especially Tahitian, the more stories I heard about others dealing with the same. In fact, this kind of behavior is quite common here. This was one of many scary incidents I went through with him, and despite that I managed to avoid ever being directly ‘hit’, the threats and bullying and psychological abuse are not to be disregarded. The next day he always acted as if nothing had happened and, as they do, promised that nothing like it would ever happen again. But knowing I feared him and that I was trapped there, he continued to threaten physical violence to keep things his way.

Never in my life did I think I would find myself in such a radical situation, stripped of my independence and personal freedoms. I couldn’t be myself because I was constantly questioning whether he would misconstrue my actions. He became paranoid beyond belief, hardly letting me out of his sight for those long, laborious months. Desperate to gain my liberty from him, I worked madly on Swell from dawn to dusk, usually with his help, as he never wanted me to be alone. I couldn’t call my friends or go where I pleased, and I felt ashamed and guilty to tell people what was really going on. Even the sunniest day felt dreary.

Sometimes me must call upon our deepest reserves of strength and keep believing that everything is happening for our highest good.

Sometimes me must call upon our deepest reserves of strength and keep believing that everything is happening for our highest good.

To be honest, I never thought I’d be sharing this here, but with a month or so away from it now, I feel that hiding the situation only adds to the silence and shame that cloaks the lives of women (and men) in similar situations. Concealing it would betray them. I cried in the night, thinking of them–all over the world—people living in fear everyday of oppressive, unpredictable partners. I knew I would soon sail away and have my life back, but in so many places there were women who would be forced to remain in such situations out of fear for their safety. It pains me to know that females are still treated as possessions or ‘lesser’ than males in so many parts of the world, and that this kind of behavior is just accepted as ‘the way it is’. I was raised to believe that my potential had nothing to do with my gender, but so many women in the world aren’t that lucky. I mourned humanity’s massive loss of potential squashed under the world’s repressed women. For how can one pursue their gifts and passions under such stifling circumstances? And how does love manifest itself in such an ugly way?

I’m not looking to blame or demonize him, only to call to attention this kind of backwards behavior. As, in his mind, he was showing me how much he loved me. Through the long saga, helped me enormously on Swell any way he could. My choices were my choices. I could have found another way. Maybe I needed to see the depths of his darkness in order to free myself from my last hopes for his transformation. My love for him and sympathy for his confusion about how to express his love, made me weak to leave for a long time. But I see now that every time I accepted him back into my heart after the bad behavior, I was telling him it was ok.

Evidence of the long, tough job...

Evidence of the long, tough job…

New non-skid completed.

New non-skid almost completed.

Ready to launch.

Swell in her new seafoam green dress, finally ready to launch.

In the end, instead of relishing the sweet completion of the enormous overhaul of Swell on the day she was re-launched, he became instantly jealous because Swell was berthed next to a boat with two young men on it. I watched his mood begin to unravel and I wasn’t about to wait around for the wrath I knew was coming… I feared he’d lash out like never before, knowing that my freedom was now possible. So despite my bone-deep fatigue, I devised a plan and notified my friends. With trembling hands that night, I snuck my belongings out of his house and my friends helped me sail away under a big lovely moon…

Regaining my freedom felt completely surreal, but the fear lingered on. He called and threatened relentlessly to come find me in the days following, and on the third morning after my departure, all the stress and fear and exhaustion manifested into the temporary paralysis of one side of my face, a condition called Bell’s Palsy, followed by a bout with shingles!!! Awful!?! Luckily, I was safe and surrounded by loving friends, good health care facilities, and had the long-distance support of my family to get me feeling strong again.

So there it is… the reason for the big blog delay, and why I haven’t yet replied to a lot of your emails. It’s taken some time to heal and process it all. I deeply appreciate your patience and continued support.

I’m all healed now, and feeling stronger than ever. As hard as it was, I bless this experience for all the perspective it has given me. For we cannot know the Light without the darkness. We cannot choose who and where we want to be in life unless we know who and where we don’t want to be! Hardships are our greatest opportunities to choose anew, grow and redefine ourselves. But only if we choose to see them that way.

I realize now that when it comes to relationships, ultimate love and fidelity to one’s Self—by both parties—would be a much better foundation. Love doesn’t mean you put someone else before you or sacrifice who you are for them, it means you support each other to grow into the ultimate best versions of yourselves, with respect to individual pace and method. When that doesn’t include each other anymore, may we lovingly go separate ways. Every soul is undergoing its own unique journey to becoming who he/she wants to be, and I was naïve and self-righteous in thinking that I could get him to evolve faster than he was ready for…or that what he was choosing wasn’t perfect for his evolution. I got attached to results, and in doing so, caused myself a great deal of pain.

Fear and attachment work contrary to love. They erode what builds and binds us, and we constantly have the choice of to use. It’s often so much easier, safer, more comfortable to lean into fear and blame the other. But in the end, this doesn’t serve us. It only digs us into a lonely hole. As much as I couldn’t understand his behavior in the midst of it, I see now that if he never crawled into that hole of fear, and truly experienced its dark, isolated, empty space, how would he know and decide that he doesn’t want to be there?

…All paths lead to the Light in the end, we just have to accept the often painstaking duality along the way.

If we choose to look within and ask ourselves what we can do to change our unhappiness, life becomes unlimited potential. When we keep blaming others or grappling at expectations, we stay in the hole. Trying to convince people of their greatness is futile. We can only be so busy working on ourselves, that we might inspire them to realize that their own evolution is possible.

So, may we free ourselves and our partners from expectations, and truly want for them, what they want for themselves. If you have the luxury of choice to leave a relationship that isn’t serving you, do it. And feel all the women (and men) in the world who can’t (or don’t), cheering you along. A better life awaits…

I pray that as humanity, we learn to cherish our women (and men) across all lands. Not to fear their power, but embrace it. Not to stifle their voices, but sing together in harmony. We must rethink standards we have set, question our prejudices, and help our sister and brother humans call forth a new era of respect and love among us–no matter the gender, race, or social status. Your individual power to change yourself is a critical spark in the global fire of human evolution towards Love and Oneness. So let the sparks fly!!

So thankful to be free and me again...

So thankful to be free and me again…

Forgiveness is Freedom

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The collision point on Swell’s hull post-repair…

 

 

Early last May around 2pm, Swell sat at anchor over my favorite sand bank in Tahiti after arriving the following evening from a year-long, 2,600 mile loop through the outer islands of French Polynesia. I was tucked in at my little desk in Swell’s cabin talking to my father on the phone…

“I’m so proud of you Lizzie! Congratulations! Navigation through those waters is no small feat!” He said.

“Thanks, Dad. What a year it was!”

Suddenly I heard yelling outside, and lifted my head to the window. A massive catamaran was barrelling straight down on Swell!?!

CRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!!! Dad, I’ll call you back!!” I yelled. “Someone just hit me!”

The 50 ft charter yacht had properly t-boned Swell, ramming its port hull into her starboard side, just above the waterline slightly aft of the chainplates. It bent some stanchions and broke lifelines and kinked my forward lower cable, too. Where the hull had flexed inward, the interior wood near the bookshelf and drawers crushed and splintered.

Shocked, speechless, adrenaline coursing, I could hardly do more than stare at the middle-aged American dude waving frantically on the bow…Raiarii, on the contrary, was foaming at the mouth, livid, cursing, and ready to leap over and tackle him. The guy backed his yacht away, anchored behind us, and then came over in his dinghy with his wife and another crew shortly after.

In the minutes before his arrival, I talked myself into being calm and kind. Surely, I’d done something as equally ridiculous as to crash into an anchored vessel in the middle of a huge open bay in broad daylight…??? Maybe not…but we all make mistakes…I pleaded with Raiarii to let me do the talking since they spoke English anyway (in retrospect I wish I’d let him handle it the Tahitian way!)

When they arrived I greeted them with a smile, and the captain, Mr. Glenn Dimmit nervously climbed aboard and ran around Swell assessing the damage. He seemed apologetic at first…

“This is completely my fault.” He said.  “I went below to do something and the boat was drifting faster than I realized and…”

“It’s ok,” I said. “What’s done is done. Just take care of the damage and lets not let it ruin your vacation.” He claimed he knew lots about boats and that the damage was minimal. But the bulbous hull of the catamaran had hit initially, then pushed Swell over on her port side, where the boat struck her a second time slightly below the waterline when Swell tilted back to starboard. The boat would have to be hauled and the rig would have to be checked to truly assess all the damage…

“Let’s make a list of the damage,” Glenn said.

It seemed like a good idea to me.

His non-engaging wife walked around Swell like it was contaminated with toxic waste, adjusting her hairdo after each photo she took of the damage.

“Honey, did you get this?” She’d say, ignoring me altogether.

He wrote out the list on a few clean pages of my notebook and then curiously numbered each page in the bottom corner…”1 of 3, 2 of 3, 3 of 3”. He then signed his name at the bottom.

“Just sign right here,” he said, “to verify that this is the only damage there is.”

“Wait?” I thought. “Something isn’t right here…? This stranger just carelessly rammed into my home, my life, my way of transportation…and he wants me to sign something? We can’t possibly know what all the damage is yet. What do you think I wanted you to ram into me??”

I recoiled and looked at him suspiciously…

“You know,” he smirked, “just in case this turns into a pissing match…”

At that, my Zen bubble was painfully popped. The magic of a year’s worth of wild open ocean, remote island beauty, and generous Polynesians had been t-boned by a conniving kook from Anaheim. He didn’t give a spit about Swell or I, he was only out to cover his own ass, knowing that his recklessness could be expensive.

“Hmmm…” I played dumb at first. “I really don’t think its necessary for me to sign anything. We can’t possibly know what all the damage is until it has been properly assessed.”

He shoved the paper at me again nervously. My good humor was melting away quickly. I’d been so nice?! He’d made such a hideously blatant error?! I’d kept my Tahitian boyfriend from crushing him into rubble!? And there he was trying to trick me into signing a some sneaky document to protect his ASSets!!?

Maybe I’d been at sea too long–adrift in my fantasy world of positivity and love…but this guy was really a douche!! He and his posse slinked away shortly after my final refusal to sign his paper. He never passed again to see how we were doing in the two days he remained anchored behind Swell. In fact, he’d motor his dinghy wide on his way to shore in order to avoid us…

I called the charter company to report the accident, which kicked off a saga of poor handling by the company’s manager. Despite the deep pockets of the international company, Dream Yacht Charter refused to pay for a true assessment of the damage by a surveyor. And in the end, Swell was repaired as minimally and heartlessly as possible.

The predator!

The predator!

Collision point.

Collision point.

Splinters and the dislodged glass tab on the starboard bunk board.

Splinters and the dislodged glass tab on the starboard bunk board inside.

This shows how flexible fiberglass is! The wood pushed out from wher ethe hull flexed.

Luckily fiberglass flexes!! Here you can see how far the wood was pushed in from the push of the hull.

 

Friends and strangers alike urged me to fight back. I could sue Mr Dimmit in California for my losses due to his recklessness. I could file an international lawsuit against the charter company manager, Jerome, who I watched sneakily wipe off the paint from collision point of the accident above the Swell’s waterline, and then tell the yard worker not to grind that area down (because he didn’t want to have to pay to redo the paint!?). When I ground the patch down myself, there was a large area of damaged fiberglass that would not have been repaired had I not happened to see him slyly arrive on his scooter with acetone and a rag in hand.

The whole ordeal was time-consuming, energy draining, and downright disheartening. I wrote some letters of appeal for support to Glenn and those higher up at Dream Yacht Charter. Glenn never responded at all, and the company only turned accusations and faults on me. I spent too much time feeling angry, hurt, confused as what was the best thing to do…I had always tried to do right by others…how could they care so little??

I despised Glenn and Jerome through the summer, until I realized that my negative energy for them was really only hurting me. I was taking it personally, when really, their heartless way of living was their own problem. If I felt anger toward them, I was even more of the loser.

So little by little, I talked myself into letting the whole thing go…My kicking and screaming to bring them to justice was not worth the amount of money and time that I would lose fixing Swell properly on my own. Lawsuits were plain unthinkable—the mere thought of courtrooms and paperwork gave me the jitters.

One morning, while vacationing with my family in Catalina, I made the decision to put the whole thing behind me. I must have had a karmic debt to pay, and both Glenn and Jerome would have theirs too. Nothing is wasted or lost in this universe…And a minute more spent thinking about the situation, was a minute less spent with my beloved family.

Standing under a cool blue sky on my parents boat in Catalina, I lifted it up to greater forces and handed it over…ahhhhh it felt so good!!

Prior to that moment, I feared that ‘letting go’ would hurt my pride, or render me weak, but instead, the forgiveness induced an immediate wave of freedom and serenity that washed completely over me… Suddenly, ‘pride’ and ‘losing’ seemed so pitifully insignificant! I couldn’t wait to get back to playing with my family.

Awwww...i'm free!! Photo: Ryan Levinsion

Awwww…floating in my newfound freedom… Thanks for the photo, Ryan Levinson! (Patagonia R3 Women’s Fullsuit, so warm!!)

Back to what matters...love, family, and the pursuit of good for the good of good.

Back to what matters…love, family, and the pursuit of a better world.

 

… I took my next breath feeling renewed, empowered, and ready to get back to much more important things like inspiring people to live out their dreams, promoting sustainability, and sharing Light and Love with a world in need! We must find a way to keep peace in our own hearts…for if not, how can we strive for peace amongst humanity?

Peace starts within...attain, maintain, and retain it!!

I’m sure the dolphins could tell us…Peace starts within…Attain, maintain, and retain it!!           (Patagonia Addie Boots)

 

Bring on the ‘feeling’: boatyards and expanding compassion

 

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Whittling away at the deck paint preparation…this is when I wish Swell was about ten feet shorter!!

 

Our human compassion binds us to one another–not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.”  –Nelson Mandela

 

I’m sitting on the bow of Swell in the yard. It’s 3pm and the sun’s heat is irritatingly persistent. Since my return from India, I’ve been up to my neck in this deck painting project. My fingers are aching and there’s a blister on my right thumb. I switch to my left hand, but it’s awkward and it bashes into the cleat as I work around its base. There’s still so much prep left to do before I can paint. I can hardly bear to look around. The rays pierce the spots that my hat doesn’t shade. The smell of resin and bottom paint wafts through the air. The nicked flesh on my hands burn. But I just keep sanding…

 

My mind drifts to family and friends…what they might be doing…and then keeps coming back to ‘compassion’ and ‘suffering’. “…If I never did this hard work, I could never relate to those in the world who work this hard everyday.” Amidst the sweat and fatigue and boredom, I felt connected to all those people out there working similar sorts of manual labor. That connection makes us feel richer, stronger, and more prone to making decisions that serve others and the planet.

 

Some of us are born compassionate; others have to work at it. The difficult situations we go through that can be turned into opportunities to expand our ability to ‘feel’ and connect to others if we choose to use them that way. Adversity can harden us and turn us inward, or it can soften us and open our hearts wider. The latter choice is scarier, but it keeps us ‘feeling’…for when we stop feeling, we’re like a sailboat without water under it—dry, boring, lifeless, and disengaged!

We must stay open to the lessons offered to us and use our hardships to empathize and understand others, in the hope that we can help heal each other. Because the truth is that no matter how happy we are in our individual lives, we cannot know complete peace and contentment when others in the world are suffering.

So yea, I hate sanding Swell’s deck, but I love the ‘feeling’ it brings me…

 

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The chosen chisel.

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Midday papaya snack!

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The neighborhood kids are happy I’m taking so long in the yard since they get to ride my skateboard!

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Super moon setting, 6 am. Time to start sanding.

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Poor lil spidey got dusted…:(

 

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Lil Temehani always finds a way to lighten the situation…

 

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6 hours of sanding later…contemplating a career change…:)

 

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Lani shredding around after only a few weeks of skating.

 

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Let the fun begin…

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Reward for a long day on the job…

 

 

 

 

Emi Koch: Bringing surfing to those who need it most!

 

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The beautiful, Emi Koch, and her big beaming heart!

 

Isn’t everyday you meet someone who dedicates their life to helping others, especially a surfer at the age of 24. But Emi Koch wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s brave, brilliant, beautiful, independent, idealistic, and humble almost to a fault. She was bold enough to start her own non-profit while she was a full time college student at Georgetown, and now almost 5 years later, she’s been creative enough to keep Beyond the Surface International going on a shoestring as well as a life for herself revolving around improving children’s lives across the world. After spending three weeks with her in India, I saw that her job isn’t easy, but it’s her labor of love. She sacrifices her own comforts–sleeping on floors, working odd jobs, overlooking material necessities, and spending long hours on the computer–in order to give back to the many kids that Emi serves and loves worldwide.

As a surfer who has spent more than my share of selfish hours waiting for the next wave to appear on the horizon, the sheer notion of Emi Koch is refreshing. Here is a surfer willing to give up some of that coveted water time to make riding waves possible for a whole lot of others who would be less than likely to ever do so. Her organization, Beyond the Surface International, is a platform for six coastal groups worldwide—like the Kovalam Surf Club that we visited in India—who are using surfing and ocean play as a medium for empowering underprivileged, at-risk kids in developing communities. Right now, BSI has platforms in Mexico, Peru, Chile, the Gaza Strip, India, and two in South Africa. Emi’s goal is to be able to raise funds and procure equipment for all these clubs, so that the people running the day-to-day activities in each region can focus their time on the kids…(although I’m certain the kids at each club wish Emi could be everywhere at once!)

…We pulled up to the Kovalam Surf Club one sunny morning to meet the kids Emi has been working with often in the last year. They leapt up the moment they saw her, dashing over and elbowing each other to be nearer to her. Her love for each of them was almost palpable; her good energy magnetic and therapeutic.

 

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Enthusiastic reunion with the girls in the surf club. Some of these girls surf really well, but as they reach puberty, cultural traditions require that they don’t associate with the young boys. Their parents want them to stay home and prepare for marriage and home life, even at 13 years-old! We got to play in the waves that day together, and they were required to wear all their clothes to swim.

 

The place was abuzz with stoke, as 20 or more kids readied to head for the beach. They’d just moved into a new space and it was looking sweet. Old boards of all shapes and sizes lined the wall in racks, a faded row of rash guards covered another, and a few boards under repair lay drying outside in the. Jelle Rigole, the program’s founder and director, was removing a hunk of homemade surf wax out of a jar. We were probably thousands of miles from the nearest surf shop. Jelle had obviously learned to be resourceful.

The children that the Kovalam Surf Club & the Sebatian India Social Projects (an amazing local program that Jelle’s program works in conjunction with) serve live in extreme poverty—many of them malnourished, abused, homeless or worse. In the midst of so much suffering, the club provides them some much-needed respite. If the kids attend school, they are invited to go surfing in the afternoon and on weekends. It’s a deal that keeps all parties smiling. By motivating them to achieve an education, Jelle knows these kids will have a slightly better chance of survival later on. And don’t exclude new opportunities as surfers and ocean-savvy Indians in tourism developments, as well.

 

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Emi and Jelle, with one of Kovalam Surf Club’s star surfers, Ramesh, who might otherwise have never known wave-riding.

These are the long-term goals, but what I immediately felt while being with the kids on the club grounds and while pushing them into waves that day, was the Club as a safe-haven. It was a brief moment to forget about their hardships, and come together with friends to laugh, play, express themselves, and take on a new challenge in the sea. I witnessed kids helping each other in the water and sharing equipment so everyone had a turn. Boys who would hardly look at me at first, were getting rides all the way to the beach, looking back to make sure I saw them, and then running back out for more. The stoke of surfing transcended our differences, and we all became fast friends.

Some of the kids were absolutely ripping!? Jelle, Emi, and 8 or so of the boys who had been surfing longest sat outside catching sets and speeding down the lines of the fast beach break waves. I had tears in my eyes more than once. Jelle had created a safe space, full of hope and wonder for them in the world, and by teaming up with Emi, they hoped to be able to continue doing so for years to come. It was beautiful to behold.

 

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Emi and the SISP girls, making shell and bead necklaces–fostering creativity and self expression and possibly inspiring a few with a skill for the future.

 

One evening Emi and I lay under the fan in our hotel room chatting before we fell asleep.

 

“I don’t know, Liz.” She said. “I cannot say for certain that… yes… surfing will keep these kids out of jail or off the streets or away from drugs or otherwise, but one thing I know for certain is that if they do ever end up in a dark place years from now… I know they will look back and think about the waves they shared with their friends in a fun and safe and loving space and be able to say… yeah, that was a good day.”

 

I remembered wishing in that moment that there were more Emi’s on the Earth…

 

Emi, Jelle, and the leaders of all the other programs in the Beyond the Surface International platform are not just putting temporary smiles on these children’s faces. They are building futures and fostering loving relationships with the ocean, which will remain a lifelong refuge and friend for these beautiful, deserving souls.

I could go on and on about Emi because I adore and admire her beyond words…but for now, check out these links!

 

Beyond the Surface International

Donate to Beyond the Surface International

Billabong Team Profile on Emi Koch

Sebastian Indian Social Projects

Kovalam Surf Club

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Jelle Rigole and some kids from the Kovalam slums, heading off for an afternoon session. Jelle is living proof of the power that one person can have to improve the lives of others…

 

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Jelle and the Kovalam Surf Club, a true testament of the power to effect positive change in developing coastal communities through surfing and local brother & sisterhood! YAY!

 

Emi, lovely as ever.

Thank you, lovely Emi, for your example of selflessness and service to the world!! Shine on!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Bharat Mata’: Mother India feeds the soul…

 

These courageous women carry water from the well to their homes every morning and afternoon...

These courageous girls of Manapad carry water from the local well to their homes every morning and afternoon…what happens to our appreciation and connection to our water source when it flows endlessly out of a tap everyday?

 

 

It didn’t seem real until the Indian official stamped my passport and waved me toward baggage claim at the Trivandrum airport in Southern India at three in the morning. The speed of air travel still confounds my sailor’s mind…Instead of watching lights slowly appear on a dark horizon, I found myself huddled around a whirling belt of boxes and bags elbow to elbow with Indian air commuters returning from Dubai. After long flights on multiple airlines, my travel companion since Brisbane–surfing’s extraordinary ecofeminist, Lauren Hill (Check out her fantastic blog/Zine: The Sea Kin), and I were relieved to find our belongings amidst the chaos and head for the exit.

The sliding doors opened to reveal a sea of families lined upon a railing awaiting home-comers. The fluorescent airport lights eerily illuminated the throng against the black of night. Whites around dark eyes, teeth exposed between open lips, the flash off women’s shiny fabrics, ashen blessings on foreheads, and dazzling gold jewellery all blinked at us like navigational beacons on a horizon of humans. India. We had arrived!?! The air was a thick mix of humidity, exhaust, sweat, and spice, and I sliced through it with the vertical load of my Prolite Rhino Series 6′ 4″ boardbag on the airport trolley…

Where the crowd thinned we found, Uddi, our driver, holding an 8 by 11″ paper scrawled with “Lauren/Liz”. He bobbled his head from left to right and we took that as a sign to follow him. We strapped the boards atop the classic Ambassador taxi and hopped in.

The old headlights spat weak light on the right side of the oddly busy two-lane highway. Behind the wheel, Uddi was possessed–honking excessively and using the middle of the road like we were in a game of PacMan. We passed and dodged oncoming traffic in a series of what each felt like near-death incidents. My body stiffened. I clenched the velour cover on the backseat, fixing my eyes on the road from between the headrests, as if it might help us avoid collision. Twenty minutes into the ride, the fatigue of the 30 straight hours of planes and airports hit me. “Relax,” I told myself. “You’re not the captain now…” I closed my eyes and heard ‘Bharat Mata’, Mother India, whisper…

 

“Lesson One. You are not in control. You never really are for that matter…People come to India for many things. But what I give each of them are opportunities to open their minds and hearts ever wider…chances to grow from within…to loosen the stuck places…nourish their souls with the notion that everything is possible…Welcome, my Dear, and enjoy the ride…”

 

She's beautiful, unphased...barefoot and striding gracefully across the sizzling hot asphalt.

She’s beautiful, confident, unphased by the blazing asphalt on her bare feet…striding gracefully across the busy road. I followed closely, sensing this veteran knew what she was doing…

 

despite what seems like complete chaos amongst the mix of often overloaded trucks, cars, buses, motorcycles, push carts, scooters, bicyccles, farm animals, pedestrians, and whatever else you can imagine...somehow it all flows...It took a while to get used to the cacophony of blaring horns, as the rule is to honk before AND after overtaking, and whenever else the driver feels like it really. One hand on the wheel the other on the horn!

Despite what seems like complete chaos amongst the mix of often overloaded trucks, cars, buses, motorcycles, push carts, scooters, bicycles, farm animals, pedestrians, and whatever else you can imagine…somehow it all flows…It took a while to get used to the cacophony of blaring horns, as the rule is to honk before AND after overtaking, and whenever else the driver feels like it, really. One hand on the wheel the other on the horn!

 

 

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Young boy watches over early morning harbor scene…

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Spirituality knows no boundaries in India…Hindu deities displayed amongst tools in the hardware store.

 

 

Elephants are sacred, as they symbolize the Hindu god Ganesh, Remover of Obstacles...now if he could only remove those chains!!

Elephants are sacred, as they symbolize the Hindu god, Ganesh, Remover of Obstacles…now if he could only remove those chains!!

 

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Angel in Manapad.

 

Morning preparation

Morning duties: chai and paratha, respectively.

 

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There comes a moment when we are called to connect to something Greater than ourselves…

 

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Swell needs a cutie pie boat face like this!!

 

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I AM COCONUT MAN.

Wild, strong, beautiful, bold Swami woman.

Wild, strong, beautiful, bold Swami woman.

 

The Beyond the Surface film group...

The Beyond the Surface film crew, blessed to be together…Lauren, Erik, Dave, me, Kate, Emi, Ishita, Tushar, and Crystal!

 

For the last 50 years, the women of Manapad have been making livelihoods, building community, and empowering themselves economically by weaving coconut leaves into sustainable arts and crafts.

For the last 50 years, the women of Manapad have been making livelihoods, building community, and empowering themselves economically by weaving coconut leaves into sustainable arts and crafts. Go girls! Davey capturing them in action…

 

Emi, Lauren, Kate...catching sunrise over the lake.

Emi, Lauren, Kate…catching sunrise over the lake.

 

A fisherman teaching me some Indian resourcefulness. We're adding coconut leaves at short intervals along the rope to make it float!

A fisherman teaching me some Indian resourcefulness. We’re adding coconut leaves at short intervals along the rope to make it float!

 

Making films is hard work! Just ask Dave and Crystal!

Making films is hard work! Just ask Dave and Crystal! Ishita, Lauren, & Emi, tree pose queens.

 

What have we here? Morning surf check...

What have we here? Morning surf check…

 

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All smiles after a morning in the sea…

Ishita means 'Godess of Godesses' in Hindu. Her grandmother chose her name and she was spot on. She is a bold, beautiful, and fearless leader for Indian women today.

Ishita means ‘Godess of Godesses’ in Hindu. Her grandmother chose her name. Was she ever spot on! Ishita is not only India’s first female surfer, she is an inherently bold, beautiful, and fearless leader for gender equality in India today.

 

Tushar Pathiyan, Ishita's boyfriend, supports Ishitia to be the greatest she can be, and epitomizes Aloha and positivity at every turn. We're so lucky that he's a leader in the growth of Indian surf culture.

Tushar Pathiyan–Ishita’s partner–supports Ishita to be the greatest she can be, and epitomizes Aloha and positivity at every turn. We were so lucky to have him with us, and India is equally as lucky to have him as a leader of India’s young surf culture.

 

Crystal Thornburg-Homcy, spearheading the film project

Crystal Thornburg-Homcy, the visionary and backbone behind this special project…with Emi Koch, the founder of the non-profit organization Beyond the Surface International,which was the original inspiration behind the film.

 

Yogini, Kate

Master Yogini, Kate Baldwin, constantly inspired us with the vast breadth of her yogic wisdom, both physically and spiritually.

 

 

Miss Lauren Lindsay Hill, surfing's favorite eco-feminist. Smart as a whip, stoked as a grom, and lovely as  butterfly.

Lauren Lindsay Hill is surfing’s favorite eco-feminist. Smart as a whip, stoked as a grom, and lovely as butterfly. Author and founder of The Sea Kin.

 

Master of film

Dave Homcy. He makes magic with film while always leading with his big, open heart. Chivalry is alive with Dave around!

 

 

Erik

Filming assistant, Erik Knutson, was the king of road snacks, camera tasks, and ceaseless wit. He was never intimidated by long days or food preservatives!

 

Between boards and camera gear, we were not exactly travelling light! My Rhino Series Prolite bag was the perfect sizet!!

Between boards and camera gear, we were not exactly traveling light! My Rhino Series Prolite bag was the perfect size for my 3-board quiver.

 

Miraculously, a swell appeared when we least expected and we weren't going to miss a second of it! Sunrise at the point.

Miraculously, a swell appeared when we least expected and we weren’t going to miss a second of it! Sunrise at the point.

 

My Mizu stainless steel waterbottle made thousands of miles with me and reduced waste!!

My Mizu stainless steel waterbottle made thousands of miles with me and reduced lots of plastic waste!

 

The refuse problem was pervasive.

India’s trash problem was often overwhelming…

 

The local catches in Varkala were frighteningly insignificant. Most fishermen I spoke with said catches had been even lower than the last few years.

The local catches in Varkala were frighteningly insignificant. Most fishermen I spoke with said catches had been even lower than the last few years. With fish stocks plummeting worldwide, small fishing villages like this one will be the first and hardest impacted. A contributing factor into my recent turn to eating vegan.

 

Equipped and ready to

Yours truly, toting all my right point utensils!

 

It's good to be a cow in India

It’s good to be revered…Sacred cow gazing over morning harbor scene.

 

Believe.

There was plenty of roadside inspiration for the long bus trips…

 

 

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Ganesh in the flesh.

Street art in Kochi.

Street art in Kochi.

 

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Deepak was one of the people I knew I was ‘supposed to’ meet in India…

 

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Sab Kuch Milega… ‘Everything is Possible?’…it’s a long story, but it basically comes down to me being hopelessly gullible and painfully generous with Indian shopkeepers…Luckily I had Ishita to tell me what it really meant!

 

 

 

 

I believe the

After my short time in this amazing country, I am hopeful that the spirits, opportunities, and freedoms of the next generation of Indian women will continue to soar higher and higher…

 

 

 

THe lolvely crew and our beautiful experience with the women of manapad

A magical trip, thanks to the beautiful people of India and my extraordinary travel companions! Thank you all!

 

***Note to my travel companions: After my hopeless folding to those drum vendors on that last evening in Kerala, the drums were immediately seized by Australina customs officials!! :) :)