Swell’s Book Trailer: 4 Minutes from Life at Sea

In case you didn’t get to see it at one of the book tour events, here’s a look at the short film from Patagonia Books, made by Chris Malloy and Kellen Keene, as a trailer for the book. I love how it turned out! It’s making was an adventure in itself! Thank you Chris & Kellen, and special thanks to Todd Hannigan for the beautiful scoring.


SWELL-ing!! Accolades & the Story of the Cover Photo.

Swell’s cover photo by Jianca Lazarus.

The out-pour of love for my book, Swell, has my heart soaring! After giving everything I had into sharing my story with the world, it’s been so rewarding to receive all the wonderful positive feedback via messages, emails, comments, and awards since it’s release. Swell sold out of it’s first round of printing in less than four months! It won GOLD in the Living Now Book Awards for Inspirational Female Memoir AND was hand selected by Amazon Books in the Best Books of 2018 AND Best Memoirs of 2018. Wow!? I couldn’t be more thrilled. Thank you all for the support, it’s amazing to see Swell’s ripples of inspiration turning into swells of humans living more inspired, courageous, and environmentally-aware lives!!

For those who couldn’t make it to one of the book tour events, I wanted to share the story behind the cover photo. In July of 2017, I’d just finished the last round of editing on the book, and it was time to shift focus to the book’s photography. I offered thousands of photos from the duration of the voyage, but there were a few gaps that needed filling, since not all of my photos as a jane-of-all-trades single-hander were worthy of making the book. So I called my sea sister and magical photographer, Jianca Lazarus, whose photography work is brilliant. She was up for the adventure, and flew down to meet Tahui and I on a remote atoll in the South Pacific. We spent 3-weeks and 750 nm touring through some remote outer islands. Jianca shot every imaginable Swell task, angle, sailing life activity, in and out of the water. She has endless energy for her passion and I love working in her bright, inspired presence. For the cover, Patagonia Books and my beloved photo editor, Jenning Steger, had given us minimal guidelines with which to be creative: “We need to see Liz and the boat”. We’d tried several ideas but all came out looking rather cliché. Until… An hour before Jianca had to catch her plane home, she had an idea.

“Get in your swimsuit, and meet me in the water!” Jianca said as she loaded her camera into its water-housing. I was exhausted. We’d lost the self-steering on the final passage, and Tahui and I had traded off steering for 3 days straight in strong trades to get Jianca back to where she could catch her plane. Making this trip was already a stretch for me after being so heavily focused on finalizing the book’s writing for the first half of the year. Swell’s maintenance had been pushed down on the list, and we lost the starter motor on the first passage, as well as the transmission control!? It was the wrong time of year to be going against the trades, plus Swell’s short-wave radio was not working properly, EPIRB battery and liferaft packing well out of date…but there was no time to get everything perfect, we buddy boated with some friends to increase safety, but it was definitely an adventure!

Anyway, back to the cover shot… So Jianca had a vision … she asked me to put on a weight belt and stand under Swell’s hull underwater. I didn’t really get it, but I followed instructions. We both took a deep breath and went under. Somehow in that moment she captured the essence of all that this sailing dream has given me–strength, confidence, humility, my own unique femininity, the courage to rise again, and the knowledge that anything is possible when you truly believe in it.

Thank you, Jianca and Patagonia Books, for believing in my story, and giving your all to this book.


The book’s designer, Mary Jo Thomas, even had a dream that I looked like Venus in the classic “Birth of Venus” painting by Botticelli in the cover photo.


Swell underway with her new 3di North Sails , shot by Jianca Lazarus, from the s/v Moondog, thanks for the escort, Quintin & Macy!


Tropicat and me in our happy place. Photo by Jianca Lazarus


After 3-days of hand steering in heavy trade winds. Taped hands and weary eyes on the approach to landfall. Photo by Jianca Lazarus.


Swell wins GOLD Living Now Book Award!!


Speaking about my journey on the Swell book tour in Torquay, Australia. Photo by Jarrah Lynch.

Swell Book Release & Tour!

It’s here!! I received my first copy of my book! It feels pretty wild to hold the culmination of a lifetime of dream-chasing and three plus years of writing in my hands. I’m proud of the manuscript, but the way it came together artistically just blows me away! I can’t give enough praises to my team at Patagonia Books–illustrator, Daniella Manini, designer Mary Jo Thomas, photo editor Jenning Steger, director Karla Olson, and editor Sharon AvRutick, along with many others at who gave such expertise and attention to detail to make this book turn out so beautiful.

I hope that sharing my personal story will empower others to follow their hearts and dreams, to love their own flaws and imperfect stories, to take their own adventure no matter how small or how big, and seek to feel connection with all life. I read Tania Aebi’s Maiden Voyage as a young woman and it opened my mental horizon to the possibility that I, too, could be a captain and sail the world. The greatest reward for sharing my story, will be to see where the next generation of young sea adventurers, especially the ladies, will sail.

If you’d like, you can order my book here. And/or you can come to one of these book tour stops next month!! I will be showing the book trailer video, talking story, reading passages, and signing books. There will be limited edition posters & cups (free), T-shirts, and of course books available!



Weds 3/28 – Patagonia Honolulu 

940 Auahi St, Honolulu HI


Time: Doors 6:00PM, Event 6:30PM


Thurs 3/29 – Patagonia Haleiwa

66-250 Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa HI


Time: Doors 6:30PM, Event starts at 7:00PM


Mon 4/2 – Patagonia Cardiff, San Diego

2185 San Elijo Drive, Cardiff CA


Time: Doors 7:00PM, Event 7:30PM

Live Music & Book readings


Tues 4/3 – Hobie Surf Shop Laguna Beach
294 Forest Ave, Laguna Beach, CA

Time: Doors 7:00PM, Event 7:30PM



Wed 4/4 – Shoreline Yacht Club

386 E Shoreline Dr, Long Beach, CA 90802
Time: Doors 6:45, Event 7pm
(562) 435-4093
Hosted by Women’s Sailing Association


Thurs 4/5 – Patagonia Santa Monica

1344 4th St, Santa Monica Ca


Time: Doors 7:00PM, Event 7:30PM


Fri 4/6 – Patagonia Ventura

235 W Santa Clara St, Ventura CA


Time: Doors 7:00PM, Event 7:30PM


Sat 4/7 – Sandbox, Santa Barbara

414 Olive St, Santa Barbara, CA

805) 770-8177

Time: 7pm

Art show, Live Music, & Book readings


4/8 – Bang the Drum, San Luis Obispo

950 Orcutt Rd, San Luis Obispo, CA

(805) 242-8372

Time: 4pm

Live music by Carmine Terracino, and the Turkey Buzzards, Brick oven pizza


Tues 4/10 – Patagonia Santa Cruz

415 River St, Santa Cruz CA


Time: Doors 7:00PM, Event 7:30PM


Thurs 4/11 – Proof Lab Surf Shop
244 Shoreline Hwy, Mill Valley, CA 94941

Time: Doors 7:00PM, Event 7:30PM



Weds 4/12 – St Francis Yacht Club, San Francisco

99 Yacht Rd, San Francisco, CA

(415) 563-6363

Time: 7:00PM


Fri 4/14 – 4/15 Gerry Lopez Big Wave Event, Bend OR

Details TBA


Mon 4/16 – Patagonia Portland

1106 West Burnside Ave, Portland OR


Time: Doors 7:00PM, Event 7:30PM


Tues 4/24 — Patagonia Austin

316 Congress Ave, Austin TX


Time: Doors 7:00PM, Event 7:30PM


Weds 4/25— Patagonia St Paul

1648 Grand Avenue


Time: Doors 7:00PM, Event 7:30PM


Thurs 4/26 – Patagonia Chicago Mag Mile

48 E Walton St, Chicago IL


Time: Doors 7:00PM, Event 7:30PM


Mon 4/30 – Patagonia Pittsburgh

5509 Walnut St, Pittsburg, PA


Time: Doors 7:00PM, Event 7:30PM


Tues 5/1 – Patagonia Bowery

313 Bowery, New York, NY


Time: Doors 7:00PM, Event 7:30PM


Thurs 5/3 – Farias Surf & Sport – Ship Bottom
2800 Long Beach Blvd, Ship Bottom, NJ


Time: Doors 7:00PM, Event 7:30PM


Fri 5/4 – Cinnamon Rainbows
931 Ocean Blvd, Hampton, NH 03842


Time: Doors 7:00PM, Event 7:30PM




So Hard to Say Goodbye


As many of you already know, I lost my dear ‘furst’ mate & feline soulmate, Amelia aka Tropicat, on the first day of the year. She was attacked by a dog two days earlier, and didn’t survive the wounds. It’s been almost two months now, and I still miss her every day. The grief process feels like trudging through deep mud–there’s no way to hurry to the other side. But losing a loved one forces us to connect with our faith and the deeper questions about what life is about. It has reminded me that I must be sure to continue using my voice for good, and to spend my precious days here on Earth for my passions and for service to the world.

Although missing her hurts, I feel a bit of solace knowing that I did my very best to give her a life of love, fun, and freedom. We climbed mountains together, literally! She was such a fierce, courageous soul, and I feel so lucky to have shared the time we had together. I believe souls are eternal, and that there is so much more to this life than we understand. And so I will try to carry on in her spirit, knowing we will meet again somewhere, somehow…

Tropicat always reminded me to:

  1. Ignore people who don’t see your magic.
  2. Be brave and try new things.
  3. Trust and go for it when it feels right.
  4. Carry yourself nobly.
  5. When in doubt, be fierce.
  6. The only limits are the ones we put on ourselves.
  7. Express your truth clearly and directly.
  8. Do what you love with presence and intensity.
  9. Surround yourself with people who understand you.
  10. Let your needs be heard.
  11. Be proud of who you are.
  12. Get plenty of rest.
  13. Don’t lose your cool. But if you do, express yourself boldly then put it behind you.
  14. Make people laugh.
  15. Stay wild.

I created an animal welfare fund in her honor, and Tahui and I have already been working towards launching a spay/neuter/free vet services project in French Polynesia. You can donate here if you’d like to give something in her honor. Thank you to all of you who already donated!

Amelia’s Animal Welfare Fund

A video by Teva Perrone, in honor of Amelia:

Miss you wild one… Photo by Jianca Lazarus

Here is a letter I wrote to Amelia 11 days after she passed:


My dearest kittybaby Amelia the Tropicat,

It’s been eleven days since Tahui and I buried you on our favorite sunset point, and I still can’t believe you’re gone. My best friend, my precious furry soul mate sista, my wild ball of teeth and claws—why does it have to be this way?

I don’t understand why you had to go so soon. I miss you like hell. I would give anything to rewind time and change the events of that fateful morning. Why did you have to be so fierce in the face of that dogbeast? Why didn’t you stay where you were safe? And why didn’t I just pick you up and take you inside instead of letting you strut around like you were the boss and let you get yourself into trouble? I guess I respected your ability to make decisions for yourself, because you always made wise choices on our adventures. Except that time you ran under the car on the way to our forest office, that was really stupid, but you never did it again. It wasn’t like you don’t know about mean dogs. Practically all our friends have mean dogs that you’ve had to avoid on visits to their houses over the years. This was no exception. Why weren’t you more careful? I’m so sorry I got in the middle of things, maybe I made it worse by shooing you away from him. I’ll always wonder.

I’m so sorry for the pain you suffered in the aftermath. I cry every time I think about your face in those last awful hours. In theory I believe that we are all spirits, and will all return to the other side and be reunited. And that maybe we have already lived fantastic lives together, or something mysterious and wonderful like that. But right now it doesn’t make up for the silent void, the emptiness in my broken heart as I’m left trying to figure out how to go on without you here in the flesh. I’m so lucky Tahui has been such a rock for me, like he always was for us. Thank you for bringing him into my life. I know it’s not the only reason you ran off for 42 days on that islet three years ago, but it sure was a wonderful outcome and made up for the grief you caused me wandering through the mosquito ridden jungle lonely and calling your name for weeks on end. But thanks to your long absence, Tahui had time to convince me with his helpful gestures and company, that he was the sweetest, most sensitive guy in the world who could understand my love for you and angst that you were missing. I’m happy I said yes when he asked me out on a date for Valentine’s day that year. And I feel lucky that he got to know and love you and that I have someone to reminisce with about you and your antics. It’s amazing that your enormous personality fit inside a small cat body.

How spoiled were you when Tahui caught fish for you. Remember all those nights, when he would sit on the aft deck and jig for your dinner after a long day of hard labor and then cooking dinner for me while I was still at the computer writing my book? I can see the two of you out there under the stars, him waiting for a bite, and you poised peering over the edge, watching enthusiastically. And when he caught one he would let you bat at it, and then cut it up into small bites just how you liked it. He misses you too.

Along with bringing Tahui into my life, the amazing thing that came out of your disappearance on the islet was when I was so desperate to find you that I contacted the ‘pet psychic’ or ‘animal communicator’. The extraordinary Jonquil Williams was able to contact your spirit. She told me what you were thinking and why you’d run away. The details she knew made me understand that it wasn’t a hoax, and when everything she said about your eventual return to me panned out absolutely like she said, I knew that I had to learn how to telepathically ‘talk’ with you on my own. When you came back, I kept my word about making your needs for land time a priority. Tahui helped me build the desk in the forest where I could write and you could play. It was the perfect solution and I’ll never forget how you would hop out of the dinghy, cross the street, and climb up to our spot on the hill all on your own. Sometimes I’d look up to see you sprawled out at high altitudes in the mango tree above me, pleased and feeling superior.

Those excursions weren’t always easy though because when it started getting dark, you wanted to stay on land and I was ready to go home. The mosquitoes would be out and you wouldn’t come to my calls and I would sit and practice telepathic communication with you. The mosquitoes biting me didn’t make it any easier, but I learned to quiet my mind and listen for you—not just for a rustle in the brush, but for some communication with you though the cosmic pathways. I never knew if I was really hearing you or if I was just making it all up in my head. And I was never all that good at it, but these meditative moments always brought you back to me. Sometimes I thought I’d clearly hear you tell me something. Sometimes I would wait and wait and hear nothing. But through those many hours trying to become my own ‘pet psychic’, I broke through some of my own limiting beliefs and walls in my mind. You’d give me a little clue, just a single word or image flashing through my mental projector–enough to make me puzzled yet always enough to help me find you. Being open to this marvelous idea that I could communicate with you in something beyond the physical plane changed the whole way that I saw the world. I’m forever grateful to you for this. I know that I should be able to hear you now, but my sadness is still so loud that it’s difficult. People will think I’m crazy, but I think what’s even crazier than learning how to talk telepathically with animals is shutting ourselves off to the infinite possibilities that life can hold when we move beyond solely taking things at face value in the physical world. And accepting common beliefs without question. You taught me that anything is possible with enough love and time.

But even then, I’m filled with a wad of regret right now. This last year was so busy and I wasn’t able to be as present with you as before. The sickening irony is that I lost you the day that the book project was finally over, plus I had spent the few days prior sulking over a small detail on the cover that didn’t matter nearly as much as spending time with you. I’m finally finished with the book and now you are gone. It makes the ending to this tenuous work of my soul so bittersweet. In spite of all those long hours I spent writing and dialing in the manuscript aboard Swell this year and the years prior, you stuck by me. You reminded me to take some deep breaths when you would lay across my hands as I typed, or try to take up half my little desk space aboard Swell with one of your sprawling naps. Only when I didn’t get up for too many hours in a row did you ambush me to let me know we were long overdue to stretch our legs. You were the boss. I clearly never convinced you of my dominance, but I did convince you that you would be safe if you stayed near me and that I always had your best interest at heart. I know you loved me in your own way. I know you know that I understood your need for freedom and adventure.

Remember our first ‘walk’ together? Remember the beaches we explored and the mountains we climbed? And the first time you saw the wide open horizon at sea, tipping your nose in the fresh salty air? Remember how you’d lay in the middle of the pool table at the local restaurant? And the only time you’d cuddle me at night was on overnight passages because you were scared? And how seasick we both were on that first long passage together? Remember when you fell in the water for the first time and got so mad you spit and hissed? And when we hit that rope with the dingy that night and you launched off the bow into the dark waters? I never saw an animal swim faster, not even a fish. Remember the time you jumped back into Tearenui’s car when I wasn’t looking, and went back to the party with him? Or the time we laid in that field and you chased dragon flies for hours while I watched the crescent moon setting? And when you caught your first fish off the foam board? Or when we walked all the way to the airport that day to pick up a package? And when we camped on the motu and you caught rats way up at the top of the palm trees. And when we would go paddling together in the canoe? And dance under the full moon. And watch sunsets from our favorite rock.

You didn’t give your affection easily. I had to earn it—to learn and understand you. But those moments when you would jump up and lay with me briefly, or the early hours of morning when I’d feel you kneading in my hair–they were worth all the frustrating hours trying to look for you in the bushes when you’d run off, and all the bloody scratches from your crazy pent up energy attacks. And even the two times you sent me to the doctor with Cat Scratch Fever. Oh god remember that day after Tahui and I picked you up from your 42-day excursion and you jumped out of the car when we stopped to say hi to his friend and we drove off without you!? And that day on the main island when you swam out to the dinghy because you were scared of the dogs scavenging in the trash cans and I looked everywhere for hours and thought I’d lost you? Or those nights you spent wandering in the city when we were tied to the docks in Papeete. Remember our rides on that motorbike? And when I would lift you up in the dinghy and then Tahui would carry both of us to land when we didn’t want to get our feet wet? Or how you learned to climb up and down the ladder in the boatyard. And had every cat in 10 miles waiting longingly for you below Swell in the yard. And what about when you scratched the cat-sitters dog’s eye so badly that you got kicked off their boat while I was away and you found yourself another lady who adored you in the boatyard?

I know living on a boat wasn’t the ideal life for you, but I admire you for making the best of our floating life. I know you hated surfing because you hated being left alone on the boat, but I hope you will now ride waves with me in spirit.

After so many adventures, you still trusted me. You still came back at the end of (most) forays and jumped into the dinghy on your own. I was lucky to have your brave, regal company for the time that I did, and I hope that this great mysterious Universe will bring you back to me somehow. I do feel your spirit, and I hope you can stay near. But know that you have my deepest blessings on your next journey, wherever it takes you, and that what I truly want for you is whatever it is you want for yourself. I see you in my mind’s eye wherever I go. I know what you would be doing at any given moment, and what every sprig of your fur, and whip of your tail, arc of your whisker, and pad of your paws would look like. It helps but it hurts at the same time.

I know I must be patient and have more faith. And trust that your loss will seed new beginnings. That your leaving is making room for something else. That this will expand me and open my heart even wider, like my other hardships. But damn, right now I don’t want anything but you back at my side. I know that the freedom and respect I gave you finally led to your parting, but even in this heartache, I don’t regret it because I know you wouldn’t have been happy any other way. Loving you so deeply, albeit wishing it could have been longer, feels like the greatest kind of gift. You blazed in and out of my life like a shooting star, and I can only be grateful for the bright, magical ride we shared.

Be free wild one. I know you will be in the sparkles on the sea, in the wind that brushes across my ears, in the rainbows, and the moonbeams. And my heart will always be with you. XOXO




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.

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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! http://9for17.wixsite.com/9for17/goals 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 Avasol.com! For international inquiries, email info@avasol.com.


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

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!