Steer With Your Heart: Film Release!

Today, I’m super excited to share a short film that came about through the love and encouragement of dear friends. My surf buddy and filmmaker friend, Teva Perrone, was the stimulus behind it. He spent hours editing and fixing my amateur footage, and pushing me to keep working on it despite my juggling the book writing, boat maintenance, and all the rest. Without his efforts, this film would not have come to fruition. Once we got rolling, my sea sister Leah Dawson offered us the use of her beautiful song, “Feel Your Heartbeat”. I know you’ll love it! The full music video for the song is embedded below the film. Tearenui Sagues, another friend here in the islands, scored background music for the film too. My mom-away-from-home, Frederique Perrone, even translated the French subtitles. Deep thanks to all of you.

The footage comes from many years of voyaging aboard Swell. It’s shot on cameras GoPro donated to my voyage, by different friends and crew along the way. The way the film came together, is similar to the way this whole voyage has –through love, collaboration, and people who believe in each other’s dreams. So pop yourself some non-GMO popcorn and take 18 minutes to enjoy a motion-picture peek into what I’ve lived all these years.

I’m also excited to report that my recent voyage aboard Swell was a success–700 nautical miles, whale escorts, unexpected meetings with friends, sharks galore, rendezvous with the wild and talented Jianca Lazarus to take a few last photos for the book, and plenty of fun new adventures for Amelia the Tropicat. I’ll fill you on all the awesome details in my next blog!

Here it is, Steer With Your Heart, enjoy friends.

Cliquez sur l’image ci-dessous pour la version avec des sous-titres français!

Watch here for the full version of the featured song, “Feel Your Heartbeat” By the amazing Leah Dawson!

On the Move + Steer with Your Heart Film Trailer

Swell is on the move! After 3 years of writing my book (to be released April 2018!), I’m finally free to roam the sea again. Getting Swell back into voyaging mode over the last couple months has been both exciting and frustrating, but the projects were ticked off one by one, and Swell took to the open sea again mid-June with her new North Sails! After working out some kinks in the engine room in the city of Papeete, we’re poised and ready again to head out on a new adventure. I can’t help but smile as I type that… 🙂 With Tahui (my sweet hunk of a man) and Tropicat as her crew, Swell will sail wherever the wind blows this weekend.

As I write this, I’m anchored as near to the wifi signal in the bay as possible in order to announce the upcoming release of a new short film, Steer With Your Heart, brought to you with love by dear friends and supporting companies. Music and edit of this trailer thanks to my extraordinary sea sister, Leah Dawson. Next blog will be the full 18 minute film, directed and edited by Teva Perrone, produced by Patagonia, Inc, featured song by Leah Dawson, and with special thanks to GoPro for the cameras that collected this footage through the years of voyaging.

I hope this blogs finds you living inspired and chasing your own heart’s callings! Enjoy the trailer…

With love and wishes for your biggest dreams and desires fulfilled,

Captain Liz

Plastic Swear Jar Challenge!!

Make your jar for next week's challenge! Each single-use plastic use counts as a 'swear', and you can decide how much to put in the jar each time!

Make your jar for next week’s challenge! Each time you use single-use plastic counts as a ‘swear’, and you can decide however much to put in the jar each time!

It’s almost Earth Day, and even though I try to live like it’s Earth Day everyday, there is always more to do! This year, I’m focusing on further reducing my dependence on SINGLE-USE PLASTICS. Almost all of us can do better at this! So next week, in honor of Earth Day, me and my sea sistas at Changing Tides Foundation are hosting a 7-day challenge to develop more awareness about our use of single-use plastics! It’s easy and it’s gonna be fun.

Everyday, I collect trash from the oceans and beaches here in the South Pacific. At least 8m tonnes of plastics leak into the ocean every minute. Ugh! Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times. Annually approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide!? Plastic in the ocean breaks down into such small bits that pieces of plastic from a one liter bottle could end up on every mile of beach throughout the world!? These tiny pieces enter the food chain, harming wildlife–one million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans–as well as contaminating fish that ends up on the plates of seafood consumers. Plastic chemicals can be absorbed by the body—93 percent of Americans age six or older test positive for BPA (a plastic chemical). Scientists predict that there will be more plastic than fish (by weight) in our oceans by 2050!

So what can we do!? Well, according to the laws of supply and demand, we the consumers have the power to make a difference. We can refuse single-use plastics and bring our own reusable waterbottles, cutlery, cups, and shopping bags! We can say, “Ice tea, no straw please.” … when ordering drinks in restaurants. We can opt to buy items packaged in an alternative to plastic.

In an effort to cultivate accountability of how much plastic we use individually, starting on Earth Day, me and my sea sisters at Changing Tides Foundation are inviting you to join us in our  #PLASTICSWEARJAR CHALLENGE! Need some inspiration? Check out this film called, A Plastic Ocean. Let me know if you’re in! xoxo, Capt Lizzy
















 Tahui and I collected this on ONE trip across the lagoon! Not only does this plastic packaging pollute, most of this stuff isn't good for our health to use or consume either!

Tahui and I collected this on ONE trip across the lagoon! Not only does this plastic packaging pollute, most of this stuff isn’t good for our health to use or consume either!


This will motivate us to get creative and hold ourselves accountable! Here’s my papaya straw 🙂

We all deserve a clean ocean to play in, thriving marine ecosystems to observe, and healthy seafood to eat!

We all deserve a clean ocean to play in, thriving marine ecosystems to observe, and healthy seafood to eat!

From Love to Action, Saving Oceania: Interview by Founders of 9 for 17


“Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.” – Albert Schweitzer. Photograph by Talitha Wisner

The above photo and quote were my introduction to Leah and Talitha Wisner. I stumbled upon their instagram account last year and was moved to contact them. Their research proved that 9 of the UN’s 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development could be met by one person going vegan (living a plant-based lifestyle). They had started a grassroots organization to help spread awareness and provide organic fruits and vegetables to the parts of their community in need. Leah, is a graduate student studying Nutrition and Food Systems and Talitha, a freshman at Princeton University, is studying diplomacy. These bright young ladies make me hopeful for the future. Recently, they interviewed me for their column in “Rio Magazine”, published in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. I decided to share it with you here.

But first, a quote by Leah …

“An infallible truth hides behind every modern civilization, shielded by the graceful distance of miles. The livestock industry has fought to conceal the cesspools of poison draining their feedlots, yet the degradative effects of its unethical conduct have become increasingly apparent. Recently, in Livestock’s Long Shadow, a report by the United Nations, revealed animal agriculture is “among the top two or three most significant contributors to our environmental problems, at every scale, local to global.” Considering world population is projected to reach 9.1 billion by 2050 and animal products are expected to double, the U.N.’s report essentially renders a dietary preference for animal products unsustainable, a dramatic dietary switch to a plant-based lifestyle necessary, and a definite reckoning between these two forces inevitable.” –Leah Wisner

Interview by Leah and Talitha Wisner, Founders of 9 for 17.

  1. Liz, your love of surfing led you to sailing the Pacific and now to grassroots activism. What experiences in Oceania led to your work with grassroots organizations focused on diet and sustainable development?”

As exciting as it is to sail to new destinations, my voyage has also led me to some sobering moments seeing adverse human impacts on the planet firsthand. I deal with the world’s plastic pollution problem on a daily basis, observe fishery declines, and have many indigenous friends in the Pacific that stand to be displaced by rising sea levels. As I fell deeper in love with the mystery and magic that is our Mother Earth, I was seeing small environmental crises happening everywhere I sailed. I battled ear infections and mercury poisoning from surfing in and eating fish from polluted waters in Central America. I witness seabirds wrapped in fishing line, corals suffocated by runoff and development, sharks killed for their fins, fish being trapped for aquariums. I’ve had opportunities to see extraordinary ocean ecosystems and creatures, but at the same time I’ve developed a sense of their vulnerability. It’s a strange feeling to sail through a chain of islands that could be completely underwater due to climate change in less than a hundred years. I started making changes in my own life in hopes of treading lighter on the planet. And encouraging others to do the same. I can’t sit by and let our modern systems destroy the things I love.

What a beautiful piece of plastic... uh, i mean sunset. :(

What a beautiful piece of plastic… uh, i mean sunset. 🙁

2. Foreign Affairs recently published “Sinking States, Climate Change and the Next Refugee Crisis”, an article about how Scientists expect Tuvalu to disappear in the next 50 years, and the Maldives in the next 30. Once they become uninhabitable, neighboring islands will follow, affecting up to 9.2 million people throughout the Pacific Ocean’s 22 island states and 345,000 in the Maldives. You currently reside in the French Polynesia; how does this make you feel?

Sad. These people will lose everything. I remember talking to a Puamotu couple one day. The man picked up handful of dirt and sand and said “This island is my pito. I am nothing without it.” Pito is their word for bellybutton. His wife continued, “When the coconut trees go, we will have to go too.” The conversation had come up because I asked why some of the coconut palms were dead. They said they had died because the rising seas had made it too salty for the trees to grow. It hurts to think that these islanders who live so lightly on the planet, will be some of the most heavily impacted.

_MG_5428 copy

Where will my little friends go? Climate change threatens to displace thousands of people on low-lying islands. Photo from 2007.

3. What particular experiences led you to becoming vegan?

As a solo sailor, freedom is something I’ve come to believe is necessary for every soul. One day I came across a young boar on an island being raised for meat. It was in a tiny dirty pen, skinny, hungry, alone, and obviously suffering. I couldn’t do anything at the time to help it, and I decided that day that I couldn’t continue to consume animals raised in captivity, including dairy products. I had to educate myself  to eat ‘vegan’ properly, but it felt really good to follow through with my ethics, plus I couldn’t believe the health benefits I experienced. The more I researched the environmental impacts of animal agriculture, the more convinced I became that it was the right decision for me. Although I personally have less problems with eating wild meats, I chose to stop fishing in places where I could eat plant-based due to visible declines in many of the fisheries where I was sailing. Now I prefer not to kill unless it’s necessary.

4. Talitha and I, two sisters from Laredo, Texas, wrote to you about the UN’s Global Goals for   Sustainable Development and our research proving 9 of the 17 goals are met by eating less animal products and more fruits and vegetables. Why write back? Why invite us to Patagonia’s Journeys to Activism event in California?

Because of how powerfully their research was presented. It’s a well formulated argument for something I believe in strongly, and I wanted to meet the young women who offered solutions to world problems at an age when I was completely selfish.

Two inspiring young women, Leah and Sophia Wisner.

Leah and Talitha Wisner, the two inspiring sisters who founded 9 for 17.

5. Malnutrition in all its forms affects almost one in three people on the planet. Obesity alone affects 600 million adults and 42 million children under five. “Business as usual”, especially in developed parts of the world, isn’t enough anymore. What can citizens do, individually and collectively, to promote Goal #3 Good Health and Well-Being?

GO VEGAN! Or start by at least becoming aware of your consumption of animal products. You might begin to cut them out occasionally–using whatever cause pulls hardest at your heart strings for motivation–animal welfare, personal health, or climate change and planetary health. Both my parents recently went vegan for health reasons, and experienced unbelievable positive changes in both cardio-vascular and digestive health after only a few months of eating vegan.

Plant-based love!

I’ve spent almost five years thriving on a plant-based diet! (*aside from very occasional selectively caught fish in appropriate locations. 🙂

6. Where does reverence for life meet public policy?

I’m hopeful that more widespread reverence for life will begin to reflect in public policy as people shift away from separatist thinking toward understanding our deep connection to other beings and the planet. For example, Goal #12 Responsible Consumption and Production is possible if children are taught to consume and produce sustainably. As “sustainble” becomes collectively agreed upon as the only acceptable way, the technology will continue to arise. If collective change begins with individual action, then education is the single most important driver of sustainable solutions to global issues everywhere.

Although history indicates shifting society’s focus away from animal products will likely take generations, the Latin root of “community,” communis, means the ability “to change”. Transformation will begin at the grassroots level as the outcome of concerned citizens’ idealistic efforts. As creative minds converge, results will coalesce and positive progress will become inevitable.


Today, love and action are two things I can make sense of.

The 9 Global Goals That Can Be Met by One Individual Going Vegan:

Zero Hunger

Good Health and Well-Being

Clean Water and Sanitation

Affordable and Clean Energy

Responsible Consumption and Production

Climate Action

Life Below Water

Life on Land

Partnerships for the Goals

9 Goals

The 9 of the UN’s 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development that can be met by one person going vegan.


Read how 9 for 17 proof here! and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals  and Livestock’s Long Shadow Report . Check them out on Instagram at @9for17.

Staying True to You: Staying Afloat Financially


We all need money, but it isn’t always easy to do what we love AND make an income. We have to find a way to blend our passions and skills to provide something for the world. Having the courage to do so is always rewarded! Photo: Dominic Mosqueira

I met high and low seas during first year of my voyage. Sailing to find surf was exhilarating, but I spent much of my time wracking my brain about how to stay financially afloat.  People often wonder how I manage monetarily. Many suppose I’m some sort of  trust fund kid. I wish that were true! But truly, every dollar spent since leaving the dock has come from my own efforts. That was the original deal I made with my mentor and sponsor, the late Dr. Barry Schulyer. Barry agreed to prepare Swell for the high seas, but I would have to fend for myself financially once the voyage began. My travels on Swell  as a young, female captain earned me considerable attention during my first year of sailing. Covers on adventure magazines like National Geographic Adventure, feature articles in Foam and Wend, shoutouts in Outside, and the opportunity to write monthly columns for Surfing and Latitude 38. In hopes of not draining my savings too quickly, I composed articles and blog posts in a frenzy. I invited adventurous friends as crew who could double as amateur photographers in hopes of attracting sponsors. Every site on the coast of Central America with internet became a happy port of call in my mania to network, produce, and trawl for additional income.

But a year after I sailed away from California, I ran fiscally aground. My only stable sponsor stopped sending money. I panicked. I felt defeated. The window to cross the Pacific had already begun. I kept busy between repairs to Swell in Panama City and writing emails at TGIFridays hoping for new sponsorships. An underlying dread about my finances persisted. A month later, I woke on the cabin sole amidst scattered tools. I began to re-think the entire enterprise, stem to stern. What did I want from this voyage? Why was I really doing this? These unsettling questions flopped around in my mind like a luffing jib.

I realized I had been moving and working at an unsustainable rate for almost two years in an attempt to keep my ‘followers’ entertained. I thought people would get bored and lose interest in my enterprise if I didn’t sail quickly enough to ever-new destinations. I was shaping my whole trip around assumptions about what other people wanted. So I took a deep breath and embraced an actual change in course. I decided to slow down, try to let go of financial anxiety, and really do what I wanted while my savings lasted. While other sailors were choosing to speed across the greatest expanse of ocean on the planet, I decided to let myself  enjoy a few of the first south swells of the season in the islands off Panama. Then, at my own pace, I set off toward the South Pacific late in the season of 2007. Upon arrival, I decided to take more time to explore. I stopped worrying about having a photographer with me and started to love sailing solo. Traveling without a lot of money pushed me to connect with more people, use local transportation, waste less, and become more resourceful. Instead of passages planned around scheduled pick-ups for crew, I tuned into my own intuition about when and where to sail. I went remote, didn’t panic about needing an internet connection, and kept writing blogs because I love writing blogs. New places, cultures, and the enthralling natural world around me urged me to stay present, showing me that money doesn’t always have to be first priority. I learned so much. I had more time for simple joys like photography, fishing, cooking, and learning from local people. My savings dwindled, but I felt richer. I became more generous, more compassionate, more confident. I had more time to discover who I was.

Just when I imagined I’d have to pack up and head home to work to fix a problem with Swell’s hull, private donations began trickling in, sponsors started contacting me, and I was even offered payment for my blogs. I saw that my real value lay in my allegiance to my own dreams and desires. My voyage and life took on more meaning as I challenged myself to maintain the faith and fearlessness to prioritize what felt valuable to me: Freedom to surf and adventure. Time to dedicate to environmental issues and awareness. And time to help people along the way.

Now more than ever there are so many unique ways to make a living doing what you love. Despite what I might make it look like on social media, I work hard every day to keep this lifestyle going. I am lucky enough to work with some of the most wonderful, environmentally-dedicated companies in the world now, including Patagonia, Avasol, Mizu, Eco Flex, Firewire Surfboards, Zeal Optics, and Wave Tribe. Plus collaborate with a variety of non-profit organizations like Changing Tides Foundation, 9 For 17 (vegan awareness), Beyond the Surface International, and Boarding for Breast Cancer. I’m also finishing up that book I’ve been promising! I’m not putting away any savings for retirement yet, but I’m living in my values and doing work I believe in. Whenever I doubt myself and my future, I try to remember this lesson. I tell myself to stop doubting and stay true to myself, because, although it may not appear so at first, therein lies our greatest abundance. It’s not easy to do in today’s world, but we must remind ourselves that we have the power to choose where and how we spend our energy, and that when we persistently align ourselves with our deepest callings and desires, we can attract what is needed to do what we really want to do. When we live from heartspace, there is always a way. Turning away from the ‘security’ of a job we don’t love or a situation that no longer suits us is a scary leap, but there is so much to gain when we prioritize our personal values and happiness. So in this new year, I will strive to trust my heart and give myself the liberty to choose again, and choose differently, according to what feels right. And I hope that you will too.

Happy New Year, friends.

P.S. Book comes out March 2018!


Nature is my favorite boss. I hope to be able to keep working hard for Her!! Photo with GoPro Hero 4


I’m honored to push for sustainability in surfing through companies pioneering better methods and materials–here Patagonia Yulex non-neoprene wetsuits, Aquatic Oddities Eco-Flex surfboards (the singlefin), and Firewire surfboards (the wood veneer board)– so stoked to show people that these alternatives exist and that by choosing them we choose a more sustainable world! Photo with GoPro Hero 3


I cherish having time for children along my journey. They always re-inspire me to keep fighting for the future of our beautiful planet. Photo with GoPro Hero 4


My floating ‘office’.


Sometimes I just wanna save the world, but then the surf comes up and I remember we all need balance in mind and body. Play is essential to staying inspired! Small day fun on my Firewire Hashtag.   Photo: Pierre


Stay true to YOU … xoxo,  Liz     Photo: Domenic Mosqueira

Worship the Sun Safely: Navigating towards a ‘safe sunscreen’

It's not easy to understand what's in our body products these days, but it's important!

It’s not easy to understand what’s in our body products these days, but it’s important to make sure we aren’t putting potentially hazardous ingredients on our bodies and into the seas and waterways.

Every since I was a kid, putting sunscreen on was considered a ‘healthy’ thing to do. Whether I was sailing small sailing dinghies, playing on the beach, or surfing, I was always caked with sunscreen. Like most consumer products, I never questioned its safety for my body or the environment. Sunscreen was something that let me surf longer and captain Swell without getting burned. In 2008, I had a filmmaker on my boat for a week that used only natural soaps, oils, toothpastes, etc, and I started to get curious about what was in the stuff I was using. I was shocked to uncover synthetic chemicals, hormone disruptors, and even plastic in the form of microbeads in some of the products I was using!? I started reading labels and learning more about what some of these hard to pronounce ingredients were. I started choosing natural alternatives to large corporate brands for everything possible. But effective natural sunscreen was still hard to find.

I read some studies that linked some of the ingredients of common sunscreens to harmful side effects for my body and for the sea. From health problems, to coral bleaching, to interference with plankton development–the base of the ocean food chain—I realized that the ingredients that I was putting on my body had rippling side effects!

But with all the sly marketing strategies and conflicting information out there, I had a hard time understanding what and if a truly ‘safe’ sunscreen option even existed?! Until I connected with Chris Wilkinson of Avasol Suncare, I had a very fuzzy understanding of what ‘safe sunscreen’ meant. He sent me links to key studies, and broke it down for me like this:

Sunscreens basically fall into two categories: mineral and non-mineral.

Mineral sunscreens work by sitting on top of the skin, providing a physical barrier between your body and harmful UV rays.  Zinc is the primary active ingredient in most mineral sunscreens, and is the safest, most effective sun protection out there.  Zinc in its natural form poses no known health or environmental risks. But recently, scientists have engineered tiny molecules of zinc and titanium in ‘nano’ form, which are proven to be problematic…We’ll come back to this in a moment.

Non-mineral (aka “chemical”) sunscreens contain synthetic ingredients that are designed to absorb into the skin, allowing them to rub on clear. These make up the bulk of common sunscreens like Coppertone, Sun Bum, Neutrogena, etc. Oxybenzone is a common ingredient in most chemical sunscreen formulations, however, it has been found to pose alarming risks. It is a colorless crystal used in sunscreen to absorb UVA II and UVB rays. In the body, Oxybenzone can enter the bloodstream, disrupting normal hormonal processes. Oxybenzone has been classified as a Category 1 hazard to marine wildlife! When washed into the ocean, it is highly destructive to coral reefs and the delicate ocean ecosystems that depend on them. It’s recently been scientifically proven that this compound inhibits young coral from developing and that even one drop of sunscreen can contaminate the amount of water in 6 Olympic swimming pools!?

Other chemicals to be cautious of include: octinoxate, avobenzone, Mexoryl SX, Mexoryle XL, tinosorb, to start. Not to mention that little is known and safety testing is shockingly absent about how these compounds react in our bodies in combination with each other and with skin penetration enhancers.

Overall, opt for mineral sunscreens.  They provide effective sun protection that’s better for you and better for the environment.

But even within the mineral sunscreen category, not all sunscreens are created equal. Here’s where nanoparticles come in…

What is a nanoparticle? It’s a chemically-manufactured substance that is 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Nanoparticles exhibit different physical and chemical properties than their larger counterparts and pose potential health risks to humans and to the environment.

Although Zinc-oxide is the safest and most effective active ingredient in sun protection, the downside is that it leaves an opaque white tint on the skin when applied. To solve for the white tint that zinc leaves, manufacturers have begun to chemically alter zinc-oxide down to the nano scale to make it rub on clear. Nanoparticle zinc or ‘Clear zinc’ sounds great in theory, but it’s the side effects remain unclear.  Nanoparticulate zinc and titanium oxides have since become common in mineral sunscreens – even the ‘organic’ ones. But the tiny particles have been engineered to be so small, that they can enter into your body circulatory system. In a scientific review, Adv Drug Delivery Rev., Dr. Kreilgaard researched the effect of human exposure to the chemical titanium dioxide, noting that, “very small titanium dioxide particles penetrate into the skin and interact with the immune system.”

Beach day with Amelia.

Beach day with Amelia and all the essentials.


Protect where you play! It all eventually flows to the ocean, so using reef and body safe sunscreen benefits you and the ocean no matter where you live. Ingredients in common sunscreens have been found to inhibit coral and plankton embryos from developing properly. One drop of sunscreen can contaminate enough ocean water to fill 6 Olympic swimming pools!

The use of spray sunscreen is also cause for concern. Spray sunscreen is conveniently applied through an aerosol application. But this application can spread those nanoparticles and chemicals into the air, putting you at risk of inhaling them. Nanoparticles have been linked to have damaging effects on the lungs and intestinal tracts. Once inhaled, these are so small that they interfere with your body’s normal biological chemistry and can cause complication such as infection, or even the growth of cancer cells. When applying spray sunscreen make sure to hold your breath to avoid inhaling the chemicals, but it’s probably better to avoid the risk altogether.

The long-term health risks of nanoparticle use in humans remain poorly understood. There hasn’t been enough research done to truly know the degree to which these nano-scale particles are penetrating our skin and interacting with our cells, tissues and organs. What has been thoroughly studied, however, is the effect nanoparticles have on the earth’s ecosystems.  Recent bodies of research have shown that the release of these ultra-small particles into the environment accumulates as toxic pollutants in air, soil or water.

At the beach or lake or river, people cool off by taking a dip and their sunscreen washes off into the water polluting it with toxic chemical compounds and/or nanoparticles. Since everything flows to the ocean and since these particles are too small to filter out, you don’t need to even be in the ocean to pollute it–just taking a shower at home can do it. Sunscreen nanoparticles have been shown to be toxic to the base of the ocean food chain by damaging and disrupting the immune systems of phytoplankton and marine creature embryos.  As the bottom of the food chain becomes compromised, this creates a butterfly effect up the food chain from algae to fish to dolphins to whales.

A white sea urchin

A white sea urchin embryo that was exposed to nontoxic levels of nano-zinc oxide. The green dye shows that other toxins are retained when exposed to nanoparticles. Click here to read more.


I seek shade and cover up with clothes and hats when possible! * Image by Ned Evans

Sunscreen companies are aware of these studies and consumers educated on the issue have raised significant and valid concerns.  As a result, manufacturers have begun clumping up a bunch of nanoparticles together and calling the formulation ‘non-nano.’  These claims are misleading, as this is a superficial attempt to disguise the true nature of a product. They key is to find products that contain solid-particle, non-nano zinc oxide.

Unfortunately, nanoparticles are currently not regulated by the US FDA as they are in other countries, so it is not likely we as consumers in the US will be able to find adequate information about these ingredients on product labels.

So, if your sunscreen rubs on clear, it’s probably not safe.  A non-toxic, non-nano-based sunscreen will always come in the form of a visible, ‘physical barrier.’

My mini sea sisters, Heimiti, Vahine, & Kohai doing their Avasol sun rituals to protect themselves while surfing but love their reefs at the same time!!

My mini sea sisters, Heimiti, Vahine, & Kohai doing their pre-surf Avasol rituals to protect their skin and love their reefs at the same time!!

Any time you see a formula that rubs on clear, it is going to either contain UV-absorbing actives like Oxybenzone, a chemical known to interact with human bodily processes and damage coral reefs, or if it’s a mineral formula, will contain nanoparticles, the side-effects of which are murky.

I’ve decided that the mild appearance of a physical sunscreen (the tan color on my skin) and the slight additional cost of all-natural, 100% bio-based, mineral ingredients far outweigh the risk in buying a cheap, corner-cutting sunscreen with unknown long-term risks.

For those of us dedicated to making healthy decisions for our bodies, families, and the environment, I encourage you to protect yourself from the sun with shirts and hats when possible, and ask questions and do your research when choosing a sunscreen. It has been such a pleasure for me to get to know Chris and Lisa of Avasol Suncare over the last few years. It’s so rare to meet people so dedicated to sustainability, accountability, and responsible business. Every ingredient is researched carefully, sourced responsibly, tested extensively, and combined with love to make sunscreens that actually make my skin feel happy when I put them on! Avasol ticks all my boxes for personal and environmental safety, plus the packaging is 90% less plastic than most brands. The epic face stick they make comes in a 100% biodegradable, recycled paper tube that’s waxed for water resistance! In this world where the consumer constantly feels like they have to be on-guard, I feel so lucky to know that there are people like the Wilkinson’s, trying to do the right thing for the right reasons. Order some today at! For international inquiries, email


Avasol is the most effective, conscious, versatile solution for ‘safe’ sunscreen that I know of! Order at

Gathering of sea sisters at the Avasol headquarters in Santa Barbara. Lisa and Chris Wilkinson created Avasol out of passion and persistence, right in their own backyard. They are on the far right!

Journeys to Activism Patagonia Event Tour: Our choices define us

Hawaii Event

Patagonia Honolulu Event with these amazing ladies: Lauren Bosworth, Jen Homcy, Ashley Lukens, and Haunani Kane. Thanks for the photo Austin Kino!

Last year, Patagonia contacted me about participating in a series of events about ‘women in activism’. I felt excited. To me it meant that I was being recognized as an ‘activist’ for the planet because of the choices I’ve made in my own life to cause less harm and use my voice to spread awareness about environmental issues. They gave me the liberty to shape some events to share my own ‘journey to activism’. I decided to also celebrate the lives and choices of other women living passionate lives for a better world too, and invited ladies local to each venue in Hawaii, Santa Monica, Cardiff, Atlanta, and New York City to come talk a bit about their ‘journeys’. It took a while to track these ladies down and coordinate the events, but meeting each of them and learning their stories more than made up for the time and travel it took to make these events happen! Each of their unique journeys reminded me that all of us have a calling in this lifetime and special opportunity to serve ourselves and the world with our individual desires and talents if we chose to follow our hearts and passions! Since there were many people who couldn’t attend an event, I wanted to share the intro speech I gave at the events, some photos, and a bit about each of the amazing women who made these events so special.

I’m not a natural when it comes to public speaking—in fact I get anxious for weeks in advance. But when it’s for something I believe in, I think it’s important to lean into fear for both for personal expansion and for the positive cause! So this is what I said:

“Good evening everyone. Thank you for your presence tonight, and thank you to Patagonia for hosting this event and supporting my voyaging dream for over 10 years. Tonight is a celebration of choices, especially the ones we make that align with our dreams and values—because we’re fortunate enough to be able to make those choices, and because they expand us into greater and greater versions of ourselves. So tonight is about reminding ourselves of the importance of re-connecting to our inner compasses and making choices that move us towards those moments when we get the feeling that we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be in life.

At the start, my surf voyaging dream was self-centered. I wanted to surf remote waves without crowds, but living on the ocean, befriending people of other cultures, and depending on strangers in foreign ports gave me a very tangible understanding of how interconnected everything really is. I saw the same small environmental crises happening all over the world and I was frustrated that I couldn’t do more to help. It’s so easy to feel discouraged and overwhelmed and negative about the state of the world today.

I decided that the only way that I could guarantee change, was to change myself. So I tried to focus positively on what I could do individually everyday to make a more positive impact on the world. I tried everyday to become a better person, educate myself on the issues, and make more responsible & sustainable choices that reflected my understanding of indivisible nature of our universe. I was really proud when Patagonia asked me to take part in this tour about Women in Activism because I realized that just by changing my individual habits, I was having a significant positive impact on the world.

It’s not always easy to make choices from the heart when they go against the norms. It’s easier when you have a support system of people who love and believe in you. I want to give a shout out my family and friends and my network of sisters around the world who make me feel that as long as I keep choosing from the heart, I can’t go wrong. It’s important to surround yourself with people who support your dreams and your happiness, and also to be that person for others.

So tonight I want to create a climate of sister & brotherhood—a safe zone—for us all to acknowledge and nurture our true desires, even if they seem selfish in the beginning, because I believe they are leading us to more self-love, connection, a better world, and an understanding that we are truly unlimited when we live from the heartspace.

Learning about other people’s journeys gives me more courage on my own path, so I’ve invited inspiring examples of ladies who have actively made choices to follow their curiosities and passions here tonight. I’ve also invited a yoga instructor to lead us in a few breathing and seated yoga poses, since yoga, meditation, and breath-work have been instrumental to me for finding direction in my life when I’m not sure which way to go.”
We then did some group yoga in our seats—a bit of breathing to get centered, then some individual or partners stretching to promote unity and cooperation. Next I showed my new short film titled, Steer with Your Heart. This 18-minute documentary by Teva Perrone will premiere online here in August! When the film wrapped up, we did another stretch and then invited the ladies up to join in a panel discussion to talk about their individual stories, moving beyond fear, the benefits and challenges of living their passions. I wish I had recorded all their answers for you, because they were all so brilliant and inspiring, but here is a brief bio of all of them so that you can look them up and check out their inspiring work as you’d like:

Journeys to Activism at Patagonia Honolulu, Hawaii


Ashley had us all captivated by her knowledge and leadership of Hawaii’s fight against GMO testing and food system justice. Great capture by Austin Kino!

Ashley Lukens

Ashley Lukens is the Program Director for Center for Food Safety in Hawaii. Her work focuses on issues of human and environmental health as they relate to the food system. She is actively fighting GMO testing in the Hawaiian Islands and advocates public involvement in local politics along with supporting the movement for smaller-scale organic farming. She is also a founding member and the Vice President of the Hawaii Food Policy Council and continues to teach Political Science courses at UH Manoa and UH West Oahu. Follow her journey on Instagram @ashleylukens

Jen Homcy

Jen Homcy is a former Marine Scientist turned reclaimed woodworker. Her start up, Found Wood, diverts valuable Hawaiian grown hardwoods from the dump and creates heirloom pieces for homes and living. Using lumber from trees that have been removed for development and salvaged from the chippers of Hawaii’s tree trimmers, Jen describes her pieces as “Where art meets function.” Follow her journey on Instagram @foundwoodworking

Haunani Kane

Haunani Kane is an apprentice navigator aboard the Hōkūleʻa World Wide Voyage and a PhD student studying Geology and Geophysics at the University of Hawaii. Honoring her Hawaiian heritage, Haunani’s chief focus is on past and future impacts of rising sea levels upon Pacific Island communities. Haunani also volunteers at the Polynesian Voyaging Society, where she assists with the development and training of crewmembers for Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia’s ‘Science at Sea’ projects. Follow her journey on Instagram @hihaunani

Lauren Bosworth

Lauren is native to San Diego but is currently teaching Happy Back Yoga on the North Shore of Oahu.  She feels that sharing this form of active therapeutic yoga with the island is her passion and guiding people through healing themselves is her purpose. Her passion for healing and people come through fantastically in her courses. You can check out her workshops and weekly schedule on her  Instagram @serenebeing or email for privates

Journeys to Activism in Santa Monica, California


With legends Peggy Oki, Anna Cummins, Shayna Gladstone, and Casey Stroud at Patagonia Santa Monica.

Anna Cummins

A Santa Monica native, Anna is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the 5 Gyres Institute. Their mission “S.E.A.” or “Science. Education. Activism.” has led the effort to research aquatic plastic pollution and find solutions for plastic-free oceans. 5 Gyres empowers people to become leaders in combating the global health crisis of plastic pollution . They have led 16 ocean research expeditions, succeeded in passing the first ever state microbead legislation, and restoring habitat with international beach clean ups. Follow her work on Instagram @5gyres.

Shayna Gladstone

Shayna Gladstone is a global organizer, transformational facilitator, sustainable farmer and co-founder of Earth Journeys and NuMundo. Both organizations promote personal and planetary transformation. While Earth Journeys empowers change seekers to cultivate lifestyles that regenerate the mind, body, soul and planet through transformative journeys and earth-based education, NuMundo connects people to meaningful experiences to facilitate personal transformation and accelerate the development of impact centers. Follow her journey on Instagram @earthjourneyscollective and @nu_mundo

Peggy Oki

Peggy is legendary for her role as one of the primary females in the surfing & skateboarding movement in the 70s in Venice Beach, California. You may remember her part in the film, Dogtown and Z-Boys. Through her passion for surfing, she fell in love with cetaceans and began painting them. Peggy founded the Origami Whales Project in 2004, combining her love for art and cetaceans. Since 2004, the Origami Whales Project has worked to raise awareness concerning threats to dolphins and whales. She mobilized thousands of concerned citizens across the globe and created a “Curtain of 38,000 Origami Whales”. This large-scale public art project was exhibited throughout the world and served as a powerful visual statement and memorial for the thousands of individual whales killed since the 1986 ban on commercial whaling.

Casey Stroud

The evening’s yoga was led by yoga specialist, Casey Stroud. When Casey found yoga in 2009, her heart was set afire by yoga’s simplicity in cultivating profound physical and mental awareness. She earned her ERYT 200 and RYT 500 Yoga Alliance certifications under the tutelage of Sigrid Matthews, Noah Maze, and Matt Schwartz. Along the way to becoming a yoga teacher, she discovered AcroYoga and Thai massage in 2012, which blew the lid off of her already delighted mind, body, and spirit. She dove deeper, garnering both Level 1 and 2 certifications from, and taking multiple Thai Massage trainings. Her ability to maintain a beginner’s mind, even as her physical practice may look nowhere near beginner, keeps her offerings accessible, encouraging, and full of love. Follow her journey on Instagram @c_l_s

Journeys to Activism in Cardiff, California

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Patagonia Cardiff’s amazing line-up of ladies: Leah Wisner, Emi Koch, Anna Santoro & Becky Mendoza

Leah Wisner

Leah and her sister Talitha founded 9 for 17; a student organization at UTSA and Princeton University. 9 for 17 promotes veganism as a solution to meeting 9 of the 17 Global Goals of the U.N. for a more sustainable and loving world. The organizations chief focus is to feed the hungry in local communities a sustainable diet of fruits and vegetables and work to change nutrition and education policies in the hopes of a better world. By one person going vegan, 9 out of 17 of the UN’s Goals for Sustainable Development can be met, including: zero hunger, good health and well-being, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, responsible consumption, climate action, life below water, life on land, and partnerships for these goals. Follow their awesome journey on Instagram @9for17

Emi Koch

Surfer, humanitarian and a personal hero to me for her relentless efforts to empower underprivileged youth, Emi founded Beyond the Surface International at just 18 years old in an effort to bring equal opportunity to all youth. Her non-profit now funds organizations and community programs in 18 locations around the world using surfing, art, and digital media for youth empowerment, community development, environmental education, and ocean literacy initiatives, while addressing issues such as conflict, poor health practices, and lack of access to education. Check out some of her latest videos from her Coast to Coast initiative here! Follow her journey on Instagram @beyondthesurfaceintl

Becky Mendoza

A surfer, action sports lawyer, humanitarian, and clean eating enthusiast, Becky recently co-founded Changing Tides Foundation with her best friends, Anna Santoro, Leah Dawson, Leane Darling, and Jianca Lazarus. Changing Tides will visit and produce media highlighting positive causes and organizations around the world in hopes of bringing attention to their work and facilitating everyday travelers with opportunities to serve these groups along their travels. I’m honored to be a board member for this organization and look forward to helping them grow this network. Website coming soon! For now you can follow their journey on Instagram @changingtidesfoundation

Britta Rael

The evening’s yoga was led by Britta Rael. When Britta lost her mom to colon cancer in 2006, she made a conscious choice to shift her lifestyle to eat organic, homemade food and to be more intentional about using and loving her body. She has since studied and practiced hatha yoga, sports medicine, outdoor mountaineering, partner acrobatics, slackline yoga, ocean swimming, massage therapy and a whole slew of other movement modalities. Her intention is to share the deep healing that yoga—as a complete system—offers because of its “potential to catalyze enormous positive change in my community.” She believe this change begins with the individual, through personal transformation, then expands globally as a result of real healing and connection to others. Follow her journey on Instagram @brittaraelyoga

Journeys to Activism in Atlanta, Georgia

Patagonia Atlanta's line-up included chef and urban farmer Carolynn Ladd and yoga instructor Charisse Williams.

Patagonia Atlanta’s line-up included chef and urban farmer Carolynn Ladd and the fabulous lawyer turned yoga instructor, Charisse Williams.

Carolynn Ladd

Carolynn is a fellow vegan, private chef, and urban farmer with Freewheel Farms. This small-scale farm looks to connect people with farmers and offer the highest quality foods in the Atlanta area. Through her work as a chef, Carolynn works to educate and inspire her clients to eat healthier and more sustainably. Freewheel farms exemplifies the importance of developing strong local economies and producing food on a human scale in an effort to support thriving community based food systems. Check out a tour of the farms here. And follow her journey on Instagram @adatewithfigs and @freewheelfarmatl

Charisse Williams

Chicago native Charisse M. Williams earned her BA from Cornell University before attending Northwestern University School of Law, where she received her Juris Doctor degree. She has over 20 years experience working in the nonprofit sector. During that time, she has served as a program staff member, Director, President, a foundation Program Officer and has also held many volunteer, board and advisory board positions. Over the course of her career she has worked with diverse populations including incarcerated youth and women in outpatient drug treatment. It was her passion for the role of the nonprofit sector in addressing complex social issues that led her to found Charisse M. Williams Consulting in June, 2015. Her enthusiasm for yoga led her to earn her yoga teacher certificate, and she now teaches yoga classes and workshops around Atlanta, including Beginner’s yoga at Kashi Atlanta on Sundays at 10am. She works to bring joy and a sense of humor to her classes and make them accessible to all abilities and bodies. She loves to experiment and is currently collaborating with cellist Okorie Johnson on yoga classes featuring live cello accompaniment! Follow her journey on Facebook at Charisse M. Williams Yoga

Journeys to Activism in New York City

Honored to come together with Patagonia Bowery, NYC's all-star line-up: Shaney Jo, Debi Spindelman, Caitie Rowe, Alexis Krauss

Honored to come together with Patagonia Bowery, NYC’s all-star line-up: Shaney Jo, Debi Spindelman, Caitie Rowe, Alexis Krauss!

Alexis Krauss

Alexis Krauss is the Co Founder of Beauty Lies Truth, an incredible online community dedicated to educating consumers about the ingredients in personal care products and promoting sustainable and non-toxic skincare. “The beauty industry needs a makeover,” the immaculate website claims. She and her co-founder create content from ‘#DIYBEAUTY’ to ‘#BEAUTYBULLSHIT’, challenging social norms and redefining what it means for women to feel beautiful. Alexis is also the singer/songwriter from the popular band Sleigh Bells. Follow her work on Instagram @beautyliestruth

Shaney Jo Darden

Shaney Jo is the one and only founder of two hugely successful non profit organizations: Keep a Breast Foundation and Non-Toxic Revolution. Through art events, educational programs and fundraising efforts, the Keep a Breast Foundation helps to eradicate breast cancer by exposing young people to methods of prevention, early detection and support to ensure long term health and well being. Branching off of Keep a Breast Foundation, Non-Toxic Revolution also works to inform, educate, and inspire young people in a revolutionary way against the dangers of toxic chemicals in the environment and food supply, especially those linked to breast cancer. Shaney Jo is a boss!! Follow her work on instagram @keepabreast @nontoxicrev

Debi Spindelman

Debi’s experience traveling the world as a competitive longboarder in her early twenties stoked her passion for working toward a sustainable and resilient future. Now Debi is not only a consultant to the United Nations, but an educator and researcher at Columbia University where she mentors Masters students working to improve the quality of life for people around the world. A deep believer in participatory problem solving, Debi directs applied learning initiatives for SIPA’s Masters of Public Administration in Development Practice program, where she guides early- to mid-career practitioners in sustainable development and climate resilience. Committed to education, youth empowerment, public health, and social justice, Debi paves new ground every day in the fight for a better world! She also writes for people working to make the world a better place at Follow her on journey instagram @d_spindelinski

Caitie Rowe

Caitie Rowe made a courageous leap from her position as the Global Marketing Manager at Hurley to being Global Operations Director for the non profit organization, Waves for Water. Her mission is simple, but powerful: ‘Get clean water to every person that needs it.’ How does she do it? By working on with world leaders and strategic partners who take a no nonsense attitude toward making global change. She’s happy to be using her energy and talents to help alleviate worldwide clean water access issues. Some of the nonprofit’s most recent projects include earthquake relief in Ecuador, Nepal relief initiatives, and the Flint water crisis. Follow her work on Instagram @wavesforwater

A special thanks to Laura Rubin with Left Left Right Consulting and All Swell Creative (Instagram @allswellcreative) for helping organize the NYC event, and inviting my mom and I for a wonderful weekend at her home in Montauk!

Here’s some other great moments from the tour!


My sister, Kathleen, flew in and showed up halfway through the Honolulu event. So happy to see her!!

So grateful for sea sister support from Leane and Lolo in Hawaii!

So grateful for sea sister support from Leane and Lolo in Hawaii!

Honored to share the evening with a Hawaiian legend--Haunani Kane--apprentice navigator on the Hokulea, sea level rise expert, and volunteer ocean educator.

Honored to share the evening with a Hawaiian legend–Haunani Kane–apprentice navigator on the Hokulea, sea level rise expert, and volunteer ocean educator.

A few days of nature and seasister restoration with these beauties--Mckenzie, V, Lolo, me, & my real sister Kathleen. Mckenz, thank you for flying in to hang for the weekend! Pure love and good vibes, thank you Ana & Leane for letting us take over the Hen House!

A few days of nature and seasister restoration with these beauties–Mckenzie, Vivian, Lolo & my real sister Kathleen. Mckenz, thank you for flying in to hang for the weekend! Pure love and good vibes, thank you Anna & Leane & Leah for letting us take over the Hen House!

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My old friend Ryan Richter showed up to the Patagonia Santa Monica event with flowers and a huge hug. Great to see you Mister Richter!

Epic turnout at my home town event at Patagonia Cardiff! Thanks to everyone who cam down it was such an honor to have you all there.

Epic turnout at my home town event at Patagonia Cardiff! Thanks to everyone who cam down it was such an honor to have you all there.


We were all a little nervous…hahaha…

After meeting in a yoga class in San Diego 5 years ago, it was a special honor to collaborate with yogini extraordinaire and beautiful soul, Britta Rael, at the Cardiff event!!

After meeting in a yoga class in San Diego 4 years ago, it was a special honor to collaborate with yogini extraordinaire and beautiful soul, Britta Rael, at the Cardiff event!!

Special serendipitous run-in with seasister supporter Yarnie in her Steer with Your Heart, Swell Voyage sweatshirt! We got a lovely surf together at Swamis!

Special serendipitous run-in with seasister supporter Yarnie in her Swell Voyage sweatshirt! We got a lovely surf together at Swamis! Thanks for the support and good vibes sister!

The brilliant Leah Wisner of 9 for 17 flew out from Laredo Texas to join us for the Cardiff event, and got to go for her first surf ever!

The beautiful and brilliant, Leah Wisner, of 9 for 17 flew out from Laredo Texas to join us for the Cardiff event, and I was stoked to bring her out for her first surf ever this morning!


Group yoga at Cardiff!! I see you Squirrel Girl.


After talking with Emi and Leah until 3 in the morning in our hotel room after the event, we met up with Becky and Anna the next morning for a few awesome rounds of Wim Hof breathing and meditation overlooking the sea! I hadn’t seen Emi in almost 3 years!?

Stoked to see Alfonso Lopez of Ocean Force Foundation at the Cardiff event!

So stoked to catch up with Alfonso Lopez of Ocean Force Foundation at the Cardiff event!

Mom joins the tour and we're off to Atlanta and NYC!

Mom joins me on the tour on her birthday and we’re off to Atlanta and NYC!

Pre-event yoga with Charisse Williams was wonderful!!

Pre-event yoga with Charisse Williams in Atlanta was wonderful!!

Yoga with Charisse

Yoga with Charisse made me so relaxed and confident for that event!

I got to visit Freewheel Farms in Atlanta where Carolynn gets all her chef supplies from her boyfriend's two urban farms that grow beautiful organic food and try to get it in low-income neighborhood shops where fresh organic produce is often scarce.

I got to visit Freewheel Farms in Atlanta where Carolynn gets all her chef supplies from her boyfriend Brent’s two urban farms that grow beautiful organic food and get it in low-income neighborhood shops where fresh organic produce is often scarce.

Carolynn took me to an incredible secret swimming hole with a Georgia peach to savor along the way!

Carolynn took me to an incredible secret swimming hole with a Georgia peach to savor along the way!

Alexis informing us about the dangerous ingredients in so many commons beauty products today.

Alexis, lead singer of Sleigh Bells, informing us about the dangerous ingredients in so many commons beauty products today. Check out!

NYC crowd!!

Patagonia Bowery NYC crowd!! Must have been a serious moment. 🙂

Shaney Jo of keep a Breast and Non Toxic Revolution on the mic!

Shaney Jo, founder of keep a Breast and Non Toxic Revolution on the mic!

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Wonderful to meet these fabulous passion pursuers in person!

Epic breakfast visit with Steven Sadoff, longtime Swell Voyage supporter, at his delicious and popular coffee stop, Ground Support in the SoHo district.

Epic breakfast visit with Steven Sadoff, longtime Swell Voyage supporter, at his delicious and popular coffee stop, Ground Support in the SoHo district of NYC.

Such an amazing time with Mom in NYC! Blown away by the all the expressive energy and creativity of this wild area of human congregation!

Such an amazing time with Mom in NYC! Blown away by the all the expressive energy and creativity of this wild area of human congregation!

Lucky to be invited out for some rest and relaxation after the tour by my friend Laura in Montauk!

Lucky to be invited out for some rest and relaxation after the tour with my friend Laura in Montauk!

And a little wave sliding too!

And a little ray catching and wave sliding too!

Mom soaking up the backyard...

Mom soaking up the relaxing backyard…

To meet up with North Sails for a possible collaboration about upcycling sails and making new sails for Swell!

Then hopped a few trains to Rhode Island to meet up with North Sails for a possible collaboration about upcycling sails and making new sails for Swell! Thank you for everything Bill and Kenny!

And then off for some more unforgettable moments with mom to fulfill her east coast dreams!!

And then off for some more unforgettable moments with mom to fulfill her east coast dreams!!

Grateful and blessed for all the beautiful people, experiences, and learning that were part of this tour. More from the South Seas soon!

Grateful and blessed for all the beautiful people, experiences, and learning that were part of this tour. More from Swell and the South Seas soon!

Empowering the Sisterhood: voyaging with two amazing sea sisters

Last year I got to meet fellow Patagonia ambassadors Kimi Werner and Léa Brassy for the first time. Patagonia generously arranged for all of us to meet upon the waters of some remote atolls that have come to be my beloved backyard and playground. From all that I knew about them, I expected we’d have an enjoyable time but I never imagined that we would connect in such a way that, by the end of our time together, it felt like I had gained two sisters. The videos above and below are compilations of our time together, beautifully created by Patagonia.

All three of us share similar interests—wilderness, wildlife, waves, conscious eating, etc.—but I feel like it was our open minds and hearts that made this time together so genuine and so special. Whether we were diving, sharing waves, giggling under the stars at night, wandering on the motu looking for coconuts or just watching the seabirds circle and dive, it was like they saw exactly what I saw: divinity, freedom, peace, respect. Being with Kimi and Léa in nature felt like being completely understood.

Kimi shines in and out of the water, but being underwater with her was like swimming with a real mermaid. She’s completely in her element down there. Kimi dives with a beautiful combination of feminine power, humility and wisdom. She’s excited but calm, confident but cautious, and so very present and aware of everything that’s going on around her. She doesn’t try to control what happens. She lets go and stays open to whatever comes, something that I have had to learn as a sailor. She honors the process of fishing from start to finish, everything from prepping her equipment to cleaning her catch to putting love into it as a meal to share with her friends and loved ones. You can tell she sees the whole as a sum of each part, none more important than another and all sacred.        Macdonald_j_0081Kimi explores the reefs of French Polynesia. Photo: Jody MacDonald

Macdonald_j_0070Kimi cleans her early morning catch. Photo: Jody MacDonald

Lea faithfully standing watch up the mast for coral heads in the uncharted lagoon waters.

Lea faithfully standing watch up the mast for coral heads in the uncharted lagoon waters.

One of the most beautiful dynamics of our time together was how open and excited Kimi was about teaching Léa to spearfish. Léa is a powerful lioness. She’s fearless and has the kind of drive and fortitude that makes her successful at anything she wants to do. She’s a natural athlete and powerful waterwoman. Instead of seeing Léa as a threat or taking up her time, Kimi embraced Léa’s desire to learn completely and wholeheartedly.

So often our society encourages women to compete rather than cooperate and we end up losing out on so much. When we come together and help each other to be our best, it opens up channels of new power within us and enriches our lives beyond measure! Their relationship was a beautiful example of this. Léa’s respect for Kimi, and the patience and joy with which Kimi imparted her wisdom and passion to Léa, were absolutely inspiring to witness. Under such loving and gracious tutelage, Léa excelled quickly and brought back some gorgeous fish.

Since turning to a vegan diet, I have lost my appetite for hunting, but in the area where we were sailing, the fisheries are still plentiful and I felt ok about eating some of their catch since it was taken with the utmost respect, consciousness, and love.

Macdonald_j_0080Kimi and Léa get ready for a spearfishing session. Photo: Jody MacDonald

Léa stayed aboard Swell longer than Kimi and we sailed together for a few more wonder-filled weeks. She was so helpful as crew. She wanted to learn everything, carry the heavy loads and experience the dirty work. The way that she looked out at the open horizon or the empty lineups, it was like she understood exactly why I do what I do. We felt so free.

In those wild corners of the Pacific, with no one around, we could howl at the moon, wear any sort of odd ensemble and go a week without brushing our hair. We made no plans. We just flowed with the weather and swell, enjoying series of magical experiences together: bathing in turquoise sea rivers, cooking over a fire on an empty beach under a zillion stars, underwater backflips with mantas, morning yoga, flawless surf, holding hands while swimming with humpback whales.

At one point we got into some pretty messy seas on a passage. We were both wind-chapped, salty and seasick, but loving it! I never thought someone so seasick could be so happy. Even if it meant nausea, sleeping in the rain, exhaustion or uncertainty, the freedom and the adventure was worth it and Léa was game for it all.

There’s something about having these kinds of adventures with girlfriends that’s so empowering and nurturing to the female soul. My time spent with Kimi and Léa really helped validate who I am and where I’m headed right now. Every moment we shared was positive, authentic and encouraging. We cooperated with one another, learned together and supported each other. Our hope is that this journey will inspire other women to come together in similar ways. The steps we take toward chasing our dreams and becoming the best versions of ourselves are steps taken not only for each of us individually, but also for the rise of the humanity too. So, go sisters, go! Break the mold, follow your heart, don’t be afraid to be who you truly want to be! Move towards friends who lift you up, share, don’t add drama to your life, and always want the very best for you!


Kimi proudly serving up her catch!


Wind-whipped, hungry, salt-crusted, sea sick…and so stoked!! Spontaneous outerisland pit-stop…

Lea setting up on a solid one. Rewards after a rough two day passage.

Lea setting up on a solid one. Rewards after a rough two day passage.


Sunrise descent from a surf check up the mast… Photo by Jody MacDonald


I snagged a few of these wide sets that swung through the pass…

Nothing warms the soul like time with your girlfriends and a beach bonfire!!

Nothing warms the soul like time with your girlfriends and a beach bonfire!!


Simple yet ultra satisfying beach dinner of Lea’s fresh-caught fish and some local sweet potatoes cooked on the fire. Leaf plates too!


Headed to land to bath in the turquoise ocean rivers pouring into the lagoon…well, not Tropicat…she was busy climbing trees.


Whipped up a vegan meal after finding a local permaculture farm to restock our veggie supply!


Our fine sea chariot.


Sisters of the sea.

Procrastination in paradise: book-writing on board

Typical afternoon in the mountain office.

Typical afternoon in the ‘mountain office’.

Blog updates have been limited this year because I’m writing a book! Last year, Patagonia Books proposed that I write the story of my voyage. The timing felt right, and now that I am more than halfway through, I have mustered the courage to announce it here. It’s been a about 11 months since I started trying to write what I hope will portray my personal story of growth and transformation since I started sailing Swell.

Everyone has a different approach to creative projects. In my case, the process has taken me through a gamut of emotions and phases. I spent the first four months with a heavy sense of dread, haunted by acute procrastination and approach avoidance. It felt as if I was attempting to roll a boulder up a steep hill. For a while I just had to walk around it and look at it from all sides, think, fret, and finally take a stab at it. Once I finally got started and I entered a period of self-doubt. I would make a little progress, but didn’t love what was surfacing, so I was happy to be distracted by anything else that arose, like boat tasks, my Nat Geo nomination, the new website, local friends, surf, etc. Any momentum I had could easily be halted, followed by regression into dread once more. I’d have to hype myself up to get the boulder moving again, but there was always an excuse not to write. Whether it was too hot or I was hungry, or I needed to scrub the hull or clip my fingernails, there was always something else to do.

One thing I’ve learned through this process is that, for me, the activities that appear to be completely dissociated pursuits, are actually contributing to my creative process in their own mysterious, but important way. Keeping the balance of life must remain first priority, and so the floor must be cleaned, the veggies chopped, the dishes done, the surf surfed, and yoga practiced in order to sit down in front of the screen and have the words flow properly.

At the outset of the project I decided I would need a separate workspace from my usual little navstation/dining table/everything space, where I could leave the computer and all my journals and log books without having to put everything away every time. So I removed the wooden door to the head (bathroom) and my friend Simon helped me convert it into a temporary desk space in the forward cabin. We then found an old three-legged school chair in the local dump which fit perfectly into the miniature space. I loved it. There was more air flow up there, and I could look up and see the sky out of the forward hatch. Plus, it felt so official—like I had a real ‘office’.

I wrote there for a few months during the ‘dread phase’, but come rainy season, the hatch above proved to have a stubborn leak, so the computer and all the hand written journals and diaries were constantly in jeopardy there. No amount of caulking or covers would stop the ceaseless drip in the heaviest of downpours, and it wasn’t the time for a major hatch overhaul. Gradually everything that couldn’t get wet was moved off the ‘desk’, and soon the old door was piled with dirty clothes and salty surfboards, instead of pens and books and papers.

I migrated back to my usual spot in the middle of the cabin. Mornings and evenings, I could sit outside in the cockpit without too much glare on the screen. But after Amelia the Tropicat returned from her island sabbatical I knew I had to find a way to spend more time on land where she could roam while I typed. So we started hiking into the mountains with my hammock, and I soon found that the different scenery, and maybe the oxygen boost from the forest, proved superb for my creative flow. Kitty was thrilled, and I felt freer too, without her staring at me wondering when we were going to go do something fun.

The project took a hiatus to a few tropical storms, the lost cat, some epic swells, visiting friends or strangers, a love affair or two, and a short trip to see my mom and sister. Deadlines came and went, but I realized that i could not go faster than was the nature of living on the boat in a remote place where I have to cook all my own meals, haul water in jerry cans, and keep up with basic maintenance aboard Swell to assure our safety. But by and by I kept just tapping away at it, little by little. Then one day i turned the corner and realized I was truly enjoying the process. My friend, Tahui, helped me build a table and bench in the forest, using only the fast-growing Purau tree and its bark to lash it all together. With of view of Swell and the reef, I suddenly had the office of my dreams. Until it rained one day and my backpack leaked and I lost about last six weeks of work due to my computer getting wet!? Data recovery places want a fortune to get it off the damaged drive, so hopefully the second draft of the 42 lost pages will be better than the first. Everything happens for a reason, right?

As I have pondered and peered at the story line, read though my diaries and log books, I am amazed to see just how far I have come. I now see how all the difficulties appeared so perfectly along my path for my growth and expansion. Moments that at the time felt like the end of the world, are now part of the beautiful mandala that is my story. Realizing this has opened me to sharing more than I ever thought I would, mostly in hopes that other people will be encouraged to affront their own challenges and see that I am not some superwoman to whom destiny opened the door to a perfect sailing dream life. I attempt to show my faults, reveal my thoughts, and help people understand just how challenging and rewarding following your dreams can be.

The new spot has worked wonders on my productivity and I look forward to long hours in the forest—typing, doing yoga when my body needs, and cooking uru or heating tea on the fire. Except on rainy days!! The project has taken on a life of its own now and I feel as if I’m just the conduit. By adhering to what has gotten me this far, I’m doing my best to let what feels right be the guide.

SO without further delay, I return to task!!

TROPICAT UPDATE***For those of you curious as to how my relationship with Amelia the Tropicat has evolved since her return…all i can say is, Wow!…what an amazing experience it has been. In order to keep her feeling like her free and wild self, we continue taking land adventures, although each time I realize that she could decide to run off again at any moment, making each time we go ashore an amazing venture in trust. There have been at least a half dozen moments where I thought she was gone and I would have to launch the search efforts again, but each time she teaches me in her own way what she needs and likes, and we grow. I often end up sitting for an hour in the dark somewhere being bitten by mosquitoes because she’s not ready to come out, but in those times I’ve learned how to calm myself down, and connect with her through meditation. I first learned this meditation from my Animal Communication friends Jonquil and Thom’ s website when she had gone missing. The more I do it, the more she comes through louder and clearer in my mind, it’s so wild! So thank you, Amelia, you constantly keep me in check and have helped me expand my own borders of what I believed was possible. As I write this she is splayed across my arms in a deep sleep.

The infamous 3-legged school chair that i found at the local dump fit perfectly in my little forward cabin office space.

The infamous 3-legged school chair that i found at the local dump fit perfectly in my little forward cabin office space.

The forward cabin writing station made from the old door to the head (bathroom).

The forward cabin writing station made from the old door to the head (nautical term for bathroom).

At the mid-cabin workstation with Amelia in the first mate position.

At the mid-cabin workstation with Amelia in the first mate writing position.

Morning surfs with my barrel-riding coach Kepi to get the creativity flowing.

Morning surfs with my barrel-riding coach Kepi to get the creativity flowing. Plus she has kept me alive with her food deliveries when i’m on a roll and can’t stop typing to cook for myself!!

An epic birthday care package from my Auntie JulieAnn to keep the spirits high!

An epic birthday care package from my Auntie Julie Ann helped keep the spirits high!

Algae scrubbing makes for great procrastination.

Algae scrubbing makes for great procrastination.

An afternoon surf excursion every now and then too...

An afternoon surf excursion every now and then too…

The portable hammock office is sweet too.

The portable hammock office.

Got to take a little side trip to join Mom and sister Leen for their 65th & 30th birthdays!

Got to take a little side trip to join Mom and sister Leen for their 65th & 30th birthdays!

There's always some wonderful people passing, a visit from the unforgettable Spalding family!!

Gotta take a break when wonderful people are passing thru…here, a visit from the unforgettable Spalding family!!


A few details of the bark lashings Tahui and I used to make the table in the forest…

photo 4

At work in the forest…

Hungry? Climb a tree and cook an uru (breadfruit).

Hungry? Climb a tree and cook an uru (breadfruit).

Reminder: back up your work often!! especially when you work in an office with no roof! Rain on the hard drive. Lost about six weeks worth of work... :(

Reminder: back up your work often!! especially when you work in an office with no roof! Rain on the hard drive. Lost about six weeks worth of work… 🙁

Happy homecoming.

Happy evening homecoming.

Took a break to climb a mountain...A few more months of book writing and we will have climbed that mountain too!

We all need a break sometimes…A few more months of book writing and we will have climbed both this and the book writing mountain too!

Reunited and it feels so Good!! Tropicat is BACK

Reunited after 42 days!!

 In case you haven’t heard via IG or FB, Amelia turned up about a week after I posted the blog about ‘letting go’!?! It’s ironic how often when we stop trying to control things, accept, and trust the Universe…beautiful surprises are in store! I was overjoyed to get a phone call from the manager of the bed & breakfast on the islet saying that Tropicat had shown up looking fit and healthy, but thirsty and ready for some love. She’d been on her own for 42 days!?

My experience with the pet psychic was interesting to say the least. I would never have thought to call one, until someone on Instagram suggested it. I did a Google search and found and set up an appointment via skype with Jonquil Williams. I certainly wasn’t sure it would do any good, but 3 weeks after she’d disappeared I was desperate to have any sort of lead or clarity on the situation. Jonquil ‘connected’ easily with Amelia and asked her the questions that I was hoping to have answered. Amelia was apparently alive and well and still on the islet, but just needed some land time. Amelia told Jonquil that she would come to me in a dream when she was ready to come home.

After our ‘session’ I had no Amelia dreams, but I was impatient to see her and camped out multiple times, calling for her and walking all over the island. I left food and clothes and still saw no sign of her. Time went on and I started to doubt Jonquil’s information. On my last search effort, a man on the islet told me that he’d found a tiger striped cat dead. My hopes were dashed and figured it was time to give up. Just a few days later I started having vivid dreams about reuniting with Tropicat for 4 or 5 nights in a row. I decided to schedule a follow up appt via skype with Jonquil and see what she thought.

 That very morning of our second appointment, I got the call from the manager of the pension saying they’d found her!? I kept my appointment with Jonquil anyway, hoping she could ask Amelia if she wanted to come home to Swell or stay on the island. Jonquil said Amelia was in high spirits and ready to come home to her ‘best friend’, but she asked Jonquil to tell me that she’s ever ready to go back for another island sabbatical she will let me know by ‘tapping on the porthole with her paw’!?

Overjoyed, I headed for the islet directly that afternoon. When I saw her for the first time again, she came running over and rubbed up on my legs and told me all kinds of meowing stories! I still couldn’t believe I was really seeing her again. The emptiness that I’d felt since she went missing was instantly gone. I still wasn’t sure what to do about bringing her back to the boat, though. I thought maybe she would be better off at the pension where she could happily help catch rats and lead a more normal cat life. But when I went to leave, she followed me all the way out the little dock. I got in the boat then looked at her and asked her if she was sure she wanted to come home. She looked at me for a moment, then casually stepped into the boat…

Since her return, our relationship has changed some. I appreciate her more and take her needs more seriously. I’ve promised her we’ll camp out on land more often, and a friend helped me build a little desk in the forest where I can work on my book and Tropicat can climb trees and chase chickens!! The more freedom I give her, the more she seems to trust me. She still follows me all over the mountains and on beach walks, and if I’m patient and let her do it in her cat-like way, she hops right in the dinghy when it’s time to go home.

So in the end, everything Jonquil had told me was correct! Although everybody laughed at me when I said ‘the pet psychic told me…’, I’m now even more certain that anything is possible and that people can develop their intuitive and clairvoyant powers just like we can learn to surf big waves or climb mountain peaks or learn to hear our own hearts more clearly. Thanks Jonquil for reminding me that it is only our beliefs that limit us!! Anything is possible and True Love always prevails!

And so far so good… no porthole tapping… pheew!! 😀 😀 😀


Amelia saying goodbye to her sabbatical paradise…

She was exhausted for about a week–kitty looking like she just came off a 42 day bender.

Amelia the Tropicat , queen of the forest.

Stretching her legs at sunset…

Building a table so i can work on the book in the forest while kitty climbs trees.

The new office !!

Ultra tired kitty after a long days hike.

SO grateful to have my adventure buddy back!!