Surfer Liz Clark set sail on Swell, her 40-foot sailboat, from Santa Barbara, California, in October 2005 on a mission to seek out the world’s best unknown surf breaks. That little boat, and the Pacific Ocean, has been her primary home ever since.
“I spent a cyclone season solo in a remote archipelago of the Republic of Kiribati,” says Clark of one of her most challenging experiences at sea. “On my 15-day passage back to French Polynesia, I was caught in severe lightning and thunderstorms for two days, then spent four more days battling upwind against an all-out gale.”
When living on a sailboat you need to be a navigator, a mechanic, and a meteorologist just to keep afloat, and Clark has slowly mastered them all. But a life connected to the ocean is worth it for Clark.
“It’s amazing to live so intimately with nature — waking up surrounded by the ocean, open-air showers on the aft deck at dusk, hardly having to wear clothes, visiting gorgeous remote islands, and sleeping under the stars,” says Clark.
While sailing the most remote parts of the ocean, Clark has been a witness to its growing pollution, fish population decline, and other degradations. “This past year I witnessed a frightening amount of coral bleaching on nearby reefs which seemed linked to the extraordinarily warm ocean temperatures,” says Clark. “But with these negative changes, I’ve also seen a rising tide of awareness about these issues and more and more people willing to speak up for our oceans.”
Currently Clark, Swell, and her cat, Amelia, are plying the waters around Tahiti while she finishes up a book about her life and ocean advocacy.