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Swell: A Sailing Surfer’s Voyage of Awakening

It all starts with a dream. Embarking on an adventure that most only fantasize about, Liz Clark, set forth from Santa Barbara, California, more then 15 years ago as captain of her 40-foot sailboat, Swell, headed south toward the wonder and learning that lies beyond the unbroken horizon.

Liz Clark and the Voyage of Swell

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. 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 free-ranging 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 support from my family, Swell and I were united.

Swell was converted into an ocean-worthy vessel. For almost three 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 20,000 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.

powerful lessons I’ve learned along the way:

  • We really do have immense inner power to create the life we desire and manifest our dreams.
  • By using the challenges and adversities in life as opportunities to grow and learn, something positive can come out of almost any difficult situation.
  • We’re all just doing our best, so instead of pointing fingers or placing blame, it’s always more useful to look within for solutions.
  • Practicing relentless positivity and loving-kindness has the power to completely change one’s reality.
  • WE ARE ONE! Nature, humanity, and all life on Earth are inextricably and fantastically connected. 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!

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