Ladies We Love: Liz Clark

Liz Clark lives aboard Swell, the 40-foot sailboat she’s been sailing solo around the world since 2006. In 2008, she completed the first solo ocean crossing to and from the Line Islands from French Polynesia—that’s 3,500 miles all by herself. She also captained Swell over the first open ocean crossing of 3,300 miles from Galapagos to Marquesas Islands in 2007.

The drive behind logging these impressive nautical miles? A love of open water and a quest for the world’s best surfing spots, particularly perfect reef passes in the South Pacific. While Clark had her time in the competitive spotlight—she was the National Scholastic Surfing Association College Women’s National Surfing Champion in 2001—her passion today lies with raising environmental awareness through writing, photography, and her Swell blog. We caught up with Liz to learn more about what makes this highly unique lady tick.

WomensMovement: Do you think some people are simply meant to live on the water?
Liz: I think all people need a balance of all the elements, but in this day in age the sea is a great place for those who crave freedom and open spaces. For me, it’s mostly that—the freedom that this lifestyle provides—to go where I want, rely on my own wits, and make decisions for myself–combined with the close living proximity to the ocean and wild places for surfing, diving, sunrises, star gazing, new friends, fresh air, exploring, full moons, and fresh food.

WM: How much time do you spend surfing and free-diving versus sailing? Why?
Liz: I’d describe my relationship to sailing as mainly transportation, while surfing is my passion. I sail to surf remote breaks and be free on the sea. The time ratio varies highly with the weather, place, seasons, schedule, swell, how fast I’m traveling, etc.

WM: What’s the most dangerous situation you’ve ever been in aboard Swell?
Liz: Probably a nasty electrical storm with lightning bolts shooting down all around me while alone at sea 1000 miles from land in any direction. That’s one that stands out in my mind, but there have been plenty of scary moments!!

WM: What does it feel like to do a long-distance ocean crossing? Is it peaceful, serene, spectacular, or scary (or all of the above)?
Liz: It’s definitely all of the above! I’m always anxious leaving port, but if the weather is good, it’s awesome, inspiring, and peaceful out there. Nighttime can be exhausting and intimidating, but there’s always incredible natural beauty with either bright stars or moon/sun rises or sets. When the weather gets bad, though, it’s uncomfortable, often stressful, and really tiring. Despite the hard parts, there is something about being out in the middle of the sea that makes me feel incredibly powerful and powerless all at once. It’s something I wish everyone could feel.

WM: What’s your biggest environmental concern? What can we do to help?
Liz: In my opinion, most of our biggest environmental concerns are equally grave and completely intertwined. Transitioning to alternative energies, eliminating plastic from our oceans, preserving the planet’s biodiversity, curbing climate change, protecting our oceans from overfishing, reducing wasteful consumption, reducing our reliance on toxic chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers, stopping Monsanto and large corporations from controlling the world’s seed stocks and food sources.

To me, all of these things are of great concern to the survival of our planet and its life. In my opinion, solving them as a whole is a matter of changing the way we think—undoing the illusion of separation from each other and the planet that keeps us from feeling true compassion for all living things. We cannot work together to find solutions to these problems in a Me-First world. I came to this shift in thinking by living my dream, facing my own issues of self-love, and traveling to discover that we as humans are all the same!

IMG_3197Photo: McKenzie Clark

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Erinn Morgan


After a 10-year career as an award-winning New York City-based editor launching and redesigning urban, style-driven magazines, Erinn Morgan left her downtown Manhattan digs after September 11th, 2001, in search of a less encumbered, freelance lifestyle. A life-changing, two-year-long trek around the country in a motorhome eventually landed her in Durango, Colo., which she now calls home. Her writing has appeared in numerous— More about this author →