Questions for The Swell Voyage
Questions contributed by Liz Clark on April 13, 2009
QFL: What are the three - five primary questions that you asked yourself that contributed to your decision to sail around the world?
Liz: When the opportunity came my way, I wasn't sure I could actually do it, but I decided that I would regret it more if I never tried than if I tried and failed. And when looking at my other options I asked myself: 1. What do I value in life? Adventure, nature, surfing, and family. So I thought, 2. How can I have many of these values in my life at one time? By sailing around the world I can have the first three all the time, and make the time that I do spend with my family really special. Then I thought, okay, I want to do this, 3. But are the risks manageable?
QFL: What are the three - five primary questions that you asked yourself that led to the success of your voyage?
Liz: I asked myself: 1. How can I make this boat function to my strengths and desires? What else can I do to prepare myself and the boat for dangerous situations? 2. How can I turn my passion for writing and adventuring into a commodity that can help support my travels? And 3. Is everything tied down on deck? And finally before I make any big decisions, I ask myself, 4. Is this really what I want to do? Am I going with my 'gut' or my instinct and not basing this decision on outside influences?
QFL: What are the three to five primary questions that you ask before, during, or after surfing that have contributed to your success and enjoyment with the sport?
Liz: 1. What's the tide doing? Just kidding, but yeah it's good to find out about the local tide, current, swell angle, etc. because they certainly affect your surfing enjoyment! Surfing is my passion for many reasons-it's a source of exercise and immersion in nature, it's physically challenging, and artistically expressive. It drives me to want to progress at all the time. I often ask myself 1. What can I learn/focus on in today's conditions? 2. Is this fun?! 3. What could I have done better on that wave? 4. And what can I do for my body out of the water to benefit my surfing?
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Born in San Diego, California, Liz Clark grew up on and in the ocean, fishing, diving, and sailing. Most of her childhood weekends and vacations were spent on her parent's sailboat. When she was nine years old, the Clark family left land-life behind and sailed the coast of Mexico for a year, a life-changing experience for Liz.
"That trip inspired both my environmentalism and my dream of sailing around the world," she recalls.
A few years later, Liz started surfing, another life-altering experience. "I rode my first wave in 1995. My family had just moved close to the beach in Del Mar, California. I started surfing everyday. I excelled in school, but all I really wanted to do was excel in surfing."
After high school Liz moved to Santa Barbara to pursue a degree in Environmental Studies, a passion she had maintained since that first sailing trip to Mexico. While she attended UCSB, she also surfed for the school team. She competed for three of her four years at USCB, finishing her 2002 season with a win at Nationals, making her the 2002 NSSA College Women's National Champion.
"That win seemed to put out most of my competitive surfing fire. After that, I shifted my focus back to surf traveling." After crewing on various boats, Liz gained enough confidence to want to captain her own. After purchasing Swell in early 2004 with the help of a private sponsor, Liz spent two years overhauling the 40-foot sailboat, apprenticing with various marine mechanics, rigging, and sail experts, while preparing both the boat and herself for an extended voyage. "This was a very busy time. I worked 5 nights a week in a restaurant and spent my days working on the boat and learning everything I could. I had to know about rigging, electrical systems, plumbing, long distance radios, first aid, engines, carpentry, fiberglass and epoxy work, navigation, storm tactics, and weather forecasting and prediction, just to name a few! Sometimes it was too overwhelming, so I'd grab my surfboard and go find some waves."
Leaving California in 2005, she spent the first year and a half gaining confidence as a captain with different friends as crew while traveling down the western coast of Mexico and Central America. After announcing that she intended to sail to the South Pacific alone, her mother volunteered to accompany her. They spent 22 unforgettable days sailing across the largest expanse of open ocean on the planet. With the mysteries of blue water sailing behind me, I spent the next year exploring French Polynesia and eastern Kiribati alone. She plans to continue west around the globe, documenting the journey through writing and photography, and other various forms of media coverage to support the trip. She travels without a set schedule, but with the ongoing intention to promote environmental awareness, goodwill and positivity, better herself, and appreciate each glorious, bizarre, painful, and unbelievable experience that this challenging voyage unavoidably creates.