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Santa Barbara Surfer Leaves it All Behind to Sail to Tahiti
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Santa Barbara Surfer Leaves it All Behind to Sail to Tahiti

Have you ever wanted to leave everything behind, get on a sailboat and explore the world while in search of the perfect wave?

Not only is this possible, but we found someone who has actually done it and decided to pick her brain about ecology and surfing.

Liz Clark, nominated 2014 Adventurer of the Year by National Geographic, sat down with us—virtually—from her boat in French Polynesia and gave us a unique perspective.

What perspective is that, you might ask?

Well, Liz sailed a 2500-mile loop through French Polynesia's outer islands and definitely trumps my twenty-mile trek from Ojai to C-Street.

What follows is my interview with ex-local Santa Barbara surfer and all around sea goddess Liz Clark.

Do you feel that surfers have a special responsibility for ocean stewardship?

Yes—we receive our greatest pleasure from the sea and Mother Earth, and therefore we should be the first to want to give back to the source of our sport.

Surfers are more connected to what's going on in our local oceans and we need to be the canaries in the mining caves that help inform others.

We need to be ocean stewards and educate others about the current state of the oceans and the urgency and importance of restoring their health.

How did you get interested in ecology?

Liz Clarke

I became interested in ecology and environmental issues ever since my family took a trip to Mexico on our sailboat at age nine.

On that 5000-mile trip, I experienced two types of oceans. One, the most pristine ocean environments in remote parts of Baja and the Sea Of Cortez, full of healthy sea life.

Those beautiful images were unfortunately contrasted against the sewage and trash filled bays of populated areas like La Paz, Manzanillo, and Puerto Vallarta.

That trip remained with me for years, those passions and curiosities never faded and I decided to get my BA in Environmental Studies from UCSB. While on this voyage, I've been on a quest to understand how to shift our thinking back towards care and stewardship for the planet.

What do you see in the world that is inspiring change?

I see so many amazing young people with a true desire to change the world for the better through whatever their passion is—art, permaculture, hunting, technology, social media, and engineering.

There are so many people in upcoming generations who understand the undeniable connection we have to the planet and each other. These incredible people are working to re-establish that harmony in their own lives and communities.

I also see people trying to better themselves, inspiring change in others around them. Social media networks and the internet are accelerating change because they allow information to be spread so quickly.

This is a huge advantage that we have in this time to turn the tide on non-beneficial ways of thinking and educate people on environmental issues that matter to all of our lives and the generations that will follow us.

Have you noticed a change in the oceans throughout the years?

I constantly see plastic trash in the sea and on beaches. Island 'landfills' are spilling over with plastic trash that is being imported with goods. The nearshore environments are always more polluted near populated areas.

Most shocking, though, has been the marked decline I've witnessed in fish populations and coral health since arriving in the South Pacific 7 years ago. This is part of what made me decide to stop eating fish when it was possible.

There are very few local fishing regulations and lots of international boats vying for tuna and offshore species. Most of them are taking fish without respect for the limits of the fisheries. Even though my personal impact is small, I just didn't want to put more pressure on the fish and reefs than there already is.

Anything else you want to add about your eco journey?

One thing I'd like to mention in regard to turning around our environmental crisis—how important each of our individual decisions are in shifting the paradigm towards sustainable living.

After years of feeling helpless to the enormous problems that we are facing, I shifted my focus to what I can do versus what I cannot.

Now I understand how powerful it can be to just change your own actions, work on your personal evolution and peace—develop compassion, educate yourself, and make choices and votes that move the consumer demand and laws towards conscious living while respecting all life on Earth.

When we take this positive angle on it, there is so much we can do every day to have a positive impact and promote change.

For more on Liz please see the website