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5 Questions With Captain Liz Clark

By Abigail Abesamis Demarest
The sailboat captain, avid surfer, and new author talks about life at sea, her favorite beach activities, and life mantra.

It seems that Captain Liz Clark was always destined for a life at sea. She was seven years old when she learned to sail in San Diego, California, aboard a red sailing dinghy. At age ten, she completed a 5,000-mile, six-month cruise in Mexico with her family on their sailboat, The Endless Summer. This trip inspired Clark to become the captain of her own sailboat and to work to protect the natural world from various aspects of human destruction.

Fast forward to today, and Clark is living out her childhood dream. In 2006, she left California aboard her 40-foot sailboat, Swell, in search of waves to surf and a simple life close to nature. Since then, she’s sailed more than 20,000 nautical miles and has written a book about the trip titled Swell: A Sailing Surfer’s Voyage of Awakening (published by Patagonia in 2018).

We managed to reach Captain Liz amidst her on-the-go lifestyle of sailing, surfing, and nonprofit work, and asked her a few questions about life at sea and her favorite beach activities.

1. Beach Happy: What is your favorite part about being at sea?

Captain Liz Clark: I love the spaciousness, the feeling of intimacy with the ocean, and the beauty of the open sea.

2. BH: What’s something unexpected that you learned while being out at sea?

Captain Liz: I learned that adversities, both mental and physical, are our greatest opportunities to grow spiritually.

Every day of my voyage brought unexpected challenges, and if I didn’t learn to see the blessings and opportunities within them, I wouldn’t have been able to find the courage to keep going.

For example in 2008, Swell started taking on water from a mysterious leak. With my small budget, I had to haul her out of the water in a boatyard in French Polynesia and figure out how to fix the leak myself in a place where I did not speak the language and had no idea where to start. During that time I learned to speak French and some Tahitian, and grew my faith in the goodness of humanity. I learned more about boat repair and Swell’s inner workings than I would ever have thought possible, and I pushed past my own perceived limits of what I could handle, both mentally and physically. It took three haul-outs over a year-and-a-half before the boat was repaired, but during that time, the vulnerability, suffering, and hardship broke my heart open to compassion for others and a connection to our inherent oneness that has enriched my life beyond my wildest dreams.

3. BH: What are your top must-have items to take with you to the beach, and what’s your favorite beach activity?

Captain Liz: My favorite beach activities are surfing and sand therapy (laying in the sand). My essential items include a surfboard, Avasol suncare (particularly their 50+ SPF Surfer’s Barrier Stick), a Patagonia hat, a pareo or sarong, and a Mizu stainless steel water bottle full of water.

4. BH: What message or mantra do you live your life by?

Captain Liz: Follow your heart, and be kind to all beings along the way.

5. BH: How do you spend your free time?

Captain Liz: I like to think that my work and play blend into one as a surf ambassador for Patagonia, and an activist for the planet, people, and animals. I help run two nonprofit organizations: Changing Tides Foundation, an international organization helping to empower women to save the planet, and A Ti’a Matairea Island Protectors, working on solving critical environmental and animal welfare issues in the Tahitian community where I live.

When I do have a little free time, I’m either surfing, cooking yummy plant-based food, free diving, writing, listening to music, reading, or dancing.

To learn more about Captain Liz, follow her on Instagram @captainlizclark and check out her website You can pick up a copy of her book, Swell: A Sailing Surfer’s Voyage of Awakening, on the Patagonia website or Amazon.

This article appears in the Fall 2020 issue of 30A’s Beach Happy Magazine. Look for Beach Happy magazine at Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Publix, Kroger, and other major outlets nationwide, as well as in high-traffic locations along the Gulf Coast. Subscribe now to get print issues delivered to your home or enjoy the free digital edition.