Surfer, writer, sailor, environmentalist, and all around badass Liz Clark has been traveling around in search of waves and a more simple way of living in her 40-foot sailboat, Swell, since 2006. Liz first started her voyage in California after graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a degree in environmental studies, then she traveled to Latin America and across to French Polynesia, where her sailboat is currently stationed in Tahiti.
Since Liz set off, the Patagonia ambassador has been working hard to raise environmental and social awareness about how she lives, chronicling her adventures on her blog, www.swellvoyage.com, and giving talks at schools and events that have inspired many along the way.
“I live closer to nature. I have reduced my daily impact on Earth. Solar and wind provide my electricity. I use less, need less, and want less, yet I have never been more fulfilled,” Liz said.
Most recently, Liz joined a group of women who are filming a documentary called “Beyond the Surface.” For the next month, Liz is traveling through southern India with surfers and activists Crystal Thornburg-Homcy, Lauren Hill, Emi Koch, Kate Baldwin, and India’s first female surfer, Ishita Malaviya, to document the ways in which surfing, yoga, and ecological creativity are helping local people and the planet.
I caught up with Liz, who is in India now, to find out more about the film project, the craziest thing she has seen in India so far, how the waves are, and to find out more about what it’s like to be a female surfer in a country that recently ranked as south Asia’s worst performing country after Afghanistan when it comes to gender inequality (according to the United Nations’ Human Development Report, published this March).
Tell me a little bit about the India trip and film project.
Liz: On the India trip, there’s are a collection of women who have all come to the same conclusion about compassionate living and self-awareness and how that contributes to uniting humanity and preserving the environment. Each of us has come to that conclusion in our own way. Crystal Thornburgh (surfer/organic produce grower/activist) put the trip together and wanted to bring us all together so we could surf, do yoga, and hopefully meet a lot of inspiring people along the way. The end goal is really to show people that simply by changing yourself, you can have a really big impact on the world.
What has been the craziest thing you have seen in India so far?
Liz: We saw a guy driving a motorcycle while balancing a 12-foot ladder on his shoulders, head through the rungs! The temples are wildly impressive too—ancient and ornate carvings, worshipers with anointed foreheads, smells of flowers and incense, and a smattering a bright colors in the representations of the Hindu gods.
What have the waves been like in India?
Liz: There are some really fun waves! Lots of river mouth sandbars and rocky outcroppings to make for good peaks. We even surfed some reefs and a long sandpoint too! After only exploring a tiny percentage of India’s massive coastlines, I’d say there is a lot of wave potential here.
I know you are traveling with India’s first female surfer, Ishita Malaviya. Can you tell us a little about her?
Liz: Ishita is an amazing woman. Ishita and her boyfriend started surfing together with basically no guidance and shared one board for a few years while they were learning! She is an incredible leader for women in India, as she’s broken so many of the cultural barriers to women riding waves here. She’s smart, funny, determined, happy-go-lucky, super positive, and really fun to travel with—and don’t forget gorgeous!! It’s been awesome traveling with her because she enriches our experience with her cultural knowledge, too. She and her boyfriend, Tuchar, run a surf school/club in Manipal called the Shaka Surf School where they teach local kids for free and any travelers or adults who want lessons. Their genuine excitement about surfing and sharing it with fellow Indians is really uplifting and inspiring. They hope to get other locals engaged in surfing not only for the fun and joy it brings but so they will care more about cleaning up local beaches and seas.
What’s your favorite Indian dish you have tried so far?
Liz: I’m into the veggie curry with paratha!
What’s been some of the more memorable moments on the trip since you started?
Liz: The time we spent in Kovalam with Emi Koch and the Sebastian Indian Social Projects (SISP)/Kovalam Surf Club kids was super special, too. Emi facilitates youth empowerment projects all over the world through her NGO called Beyond the Surface, and seeing her in action helping to change the lives of the extremely impoverished kids through surfing and other organized activities made me want to do more to give back to kids all over the world who need more love in their lives.
When are you back from India and where to next?
Liz: I should be back to Tahiti in a month or so, but may head back to New Zealand on the way home. Hopefully after this trip I will have some time to really buckle down and get some writing done on a book. I am not sure when it will be published, but I am ready to start writing.
Read more about Liz and her journey at www.swellvoyage.com.
You can check out www.beyondthesurfacefilm.com for more information on the documentary being filmed in India right now.