Forgiveness is Freedom


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The collision point on Swell’s hull post-repair…

Early last May around 2pm, Swell sat at anchor over my favorite sand bank in Tahiti after arriving the following evening from a year-long, 2,600 mile loop through the outer islands of French Polynesia. I was tucked in at my little desk in Swell’s cabin talking to my father on the phone…

“I’m so proud of you Lizzie! Congratulations! Navigation through those waters is no small feat!” He said.

“Thanks, Dad. What a year it was!”

Suddenly I heard yelling outside, and lifted my head to the window. A massive catamaran was barrelling straight down on Swell!?!

CRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!!! Dad, I’ll call you back!!” I yelled. “Someone just hit me!”

The 50 ft charter yacht had properly t-boned Swell, ramming its port hull into her starboard side, just above the waterline slightly aft of the chainplates. It bent some stanchions and broke lifelines and kinked my forward lower cable, too. Where the hull had flexed inward, the interior wood near the bookshelf and drawers crushed and splintered.

Shocked, speechless, adrenaline coursing, I could hardly do more than stare at the middle-aged American dude waving frantically on the bow…Raiarii, on the contrary, was foaming at the mouth, livid, cursing, and ready to leap over and tackle him. The guy backed his yacht away, anchored behind us, and then came over in his dinghy with his wife and another crew shortly after.

In the minutes before his arrival, I talked myself into being calm and kind. Surely, I’d done something as equally ridiculous as to crash into an anchored vessel in the middle of a huge open bay in broad daylight…??? Maybe not…but we all make mistakes…I pleaded with Raiarii to let me do the talking since they spoke English anyway (in retrospect I wish I’d let him handle it the Tahitian way!)

When they arrived I greeted them with a smile, and the captain, Mr. Glenn Dimmit nervously climbed aboard and ran around Swell assessing the damage. He seemed apologetic at first…

“This is completely my fault.” He said.  “I went below to do something and the boat was drifting faster than I realized and…”

“It’s ok,” I said. “What’s done is done. Just take care of the damage and lets not let it ruin your vacation.” He claimed he knew lots about boats and that the damage was minimal. But the bulbous hull of the catamaran had hit initially, then pushed Swell over on her port side, where the boat struck her a second time slightly below the waterline when Swell tilted back to starboard. The boat would have to be hauled and the rig would have to be checked to truly assess all the damage…

“Let’s make a list of the damage,” Glenn said.

It seemed like a good idea to me.

His non-engaging wife walked around Swell like it was contaminated with toxic waste, adjusting her hairdo after each photo she took of the damage.

“Honey, did you get this?” She’d say, ignoring me altogether.

He wrote out the list on a few clean pages of my notebook and then curiously numbered each page in the bottom corner…”1 of 3, 2 of 3, 3 of 3”. He then signed his name at the bottom.

“Just sign right here,” he said, “to verify that this is the only damage there is.”

“Wait?” I thought. “Something isn’t right here…? This stranger just carelessly rammed into my home, my life, my way of transportation…and he wants me to sign something? We can’t possibly know what all the damage is yet. What do you think I wanted you to ram into me??”

I recoiled and looked at him suspiciously…

“You know,” he smirked, “just in case this turns into a pissing match…”

At that, my Zen bubble was painfully popped. The magic of a year’s worth of wild open ocean, remote island beauty, and generous Polynesians had been t-boned by a conniving kook from Anaheim. He didn’t give a spit about Swell or I, he was only out to cover his own ass, knowing that his recklessness could be expensive.

“Hmmm…” I played dumb at first. “I really don’t think its necessary for me to sign anything. We can’t possibly know what all the damage is until it has been properly assessed.”

He shoved the paper at me again nervously. My good humor was melting away quickly. I’d been so nice?! He’d made such a hideously blatant error?! I’d kept my Tahitian boyfriend from crushing him into rubble!? And there he was trying to trick me into signing a some sneaky document to protect his ASSets!!?

Maybe I’d been at sea too long–adrift in my fantasy world of positivity and love…but this guy was really a douche!! He and his posse slinked away shortly after my final refusal to sign his paper. He never passed again to see how we were doing in the two days he remained anchored behind Swell. In fact, he’d motor his dinghy wide on his way to shore in order to avoid us…

I called the charter company to report the accident, which kicked off a saga of poor handling by the company’s manager. Despite the deep pockets of the international company, Dream Yacht Charter refused to pay for a true assessment of the damage by a surveyor. And in the end, Swell was repaired as minimally and heartlessly as possible.

The predator!

The predator!

Collision point.

Collision point.

Splinters and the dislodged glass tab on the starboard bunk board.

Splinters and the dislodged glass tab on the starboard bunk board inside.

This shows how flexible fiberglass is! The wood pushed out from wher ethe hull flexed.

Luckily fiberglass flexes!! Here you can see how far the wood was pushed in from the push of the hull.

Friends and strangers alike urged me to fight back. I could sue Mr Dimmit in California for my losses due to his recklessness. I could file an international lawsuit against the charter company manager, Jerome, who I watched sneakily wipe off the paint from collision point of the accident above the Swell’s waterline, and then tell the yard worker not to grind that area down (because he didn’t want to have to pay to redo the paint!?). When I ground the patch down myself, there was a large area of damaged fiberglass that would not have been repaired had I not happened to see him slyly arrive on his scooter with acetone and a rag in hand.

The whole ordeal was time-consuming, energy draining, and downright disheartening. I wrote some letters of appeal for support to Glenn and those higher up at Dream Yacht Charter. Glenn never responded at all, and the company only turned accusations and faults on me. I spent too much time feeling angry, hurt, confused as what was the best thing to do…I had always tried to do right by others…how could they care so little??

I despised Glenn and Jerome through the summer, until I realized that my negative energy for them was really only hurting me. I was taking it personally, when really, their heartless way of living was their own problem. If I felt anger toward them, I was even more of the loser.

So little by little, I talked myself into letting the whole thing go…My kicking and screaming to bring them to justice was not worth the amount of money and time that I would lose fixing Swell properly on my own. Lawsuits were plain unthinkable—the mere thought of courtrooms and paperwork gave me the jitters.

One morning, while vacationing with my family in Catalina, I made the decision to put the whole thing behind me. I must have had a karmic debt to pay, and both Glenn and Jerome would have theirs too. Nothing is wasted or lost in this universe…And a minute more spent thinking about the situation, was a minute less spent with my beloved family.

Standing under a cool blue sky on my parents boat in Catalina, I lifted it up to greater forces and handed it over…ahhhhh it felt so good!!

Prior to that moment, I feared that ‘letting go’ would hurt my pride, or render me weak, but instead, the forgiveness induced an immediate wave of freedom and serenity that washed completely over me… Suddenly, ‘pride’ and ‘losing’ seemed so pitifully insignificant! I couldn’t wait to get back to playing with my family.

Awwww...i'm free!! Photo: Ryan Levinsion

Awwww…floating in my newfound freedom… Thanks for the photo, Ryan Levinson! (Patagonia R3 Women’s Fullsuit, so warm!!)

Back to what matters...love, family, and the pursuit of good for the good of good.

Back to what matters…love, family, and the pursuit of a better world.

… I took my next breath feeling renewed, empowered, and ready to get back to much more important things like inspiring people to live out their dreams, promoting sustainability, and sharing Light and Love with a world in need! We must find a way to keep peace in our own hearts…for if not, how can we strive for peace amongst humanity?

Peace starts within...attain, maintain, and retain it!!

I’m sure the dolphins could tell us…Peace starts within…Attain, maintain, and retain it!!           (Patagonia Addie Boots)

Bring on the ‘feeling’: boatyards and expanding compassion


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Whittling away at the deck paint preparation…this is when I wish Swell was about ten feet shorter!!

Our human compassion binds us to one another–not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.”  –Nelson Mandela

I’m sitting on the bow of Swell in the yard. It’s 3pm and the sun’s heat is irritatingly persistent. Since my return from India, I’ve been up to my neck in this deck painting project. My fingers are aching and there’s a blister on my right thumb. I switch to my left hand, but it’s awkward and it bashes into the cleat as I work around its base. There’s still so much prep left to do before I can paint. I can hardly bear to look around. The rays pierce the spots that my hat doesn’t shade. The smell of resin and bottom paint wafts through the air. The nicked flesh on my hands burn. But I just keep sanding…

My mind drifts to family and friends…what they might be doing…and then keeps coming back to ‘compassion’ and ‘suffering’. “…If I never did this hard work, I could never relate to those in the world who work this hard everyday.” Amidst the sweat and fatigue and boredom, I felt connected to all those people out there working similar sorts of manual labor. That connection makes us feel richer, stronger, and more prone to making decisions that serve others and the planet.

Some of us are born compassionate; others have to work at it. The difficult situations we go through that can be turned into opportunities to expand our ability to ‘feel’ and connect to others if we choose to use them that way. Adversity can harden us and turn us inward, or it can soften us and open our hearts wider. The latter choice is scarier, but it keeps us ‘feeling’…for when we stop feeling, we’re like a sailboat without water under it—dry, boring, lifeless, and disengaged!

We must stay open to the lessons offered to us and use our hardships to empathize and understand others, in the hope that we can help heal each other. Because the truth is that no matter how happy we are in our individual lives, we cannot know complete peace and contentment when others in the world are suffering.

So yea, I hate sanding Swell’s deck, but I love the ‘feeling’ it brings me…

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The chosen chisel.

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Midday papaya snack!

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The neighborhood kids are happy I’m taking so long in the yard since they get to ride my skateboard!

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Super moon setting, 6 am. Time to start sanding.

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Poor lil spidey got dusted…:(

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Lil Temehani always finds a way to lighten the situation…

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6 hours of sanding later…contemplating a career change…:)

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Lani shredding around after only a few weeks of skating.

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Let the fun begin…

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Reward for a long day on the job…

Emi Koch: Bringing surfing to those who need it most!


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The beautiful, Emi Koch, and her big beaming heart!

Isn’t everyday you meet someone who dedicates their life to helping others, especially a surfer at the age of 24. But Emi Koch wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s brave, brilliant, beautiful, independent, idealistic, and humble almost to a fault. She was bold enough to start her own non-profit while she was a full time college student at Georgetown, and now almost 5 years later, she’s been creative enough to keep Beyond the Surface International going on a shoestring as well as a life for herself revolving around improving children’s lives across the world. After spending three weeks with her in India, I saw that her job isn’t easy, but it’s her labor of love. She sacrifices her own comforts–sleeping on floors, working odd jobs, overlooking material necessities, and spending long hours on the computer–in order to give back to the many kids that Emi serves and loves worldwide.

As a surfer who has spent more than my share of selfish hours waiting for the next wave to appear on the horizon, the sheer notion of Emi Koch is refreshing. Here is a surfer willing to give up some of that coveted water time to make riding waves possible for a whole lot of others who would be less than likely to ever do so. Her organization, Beyond the Surface International, is a platform for six coastal groups worldwide—like the Kovalam Surf Club that we visited in India—who are using surfing and ocean play as a medium for empowering underprivileged, at-risk kids in developing communities. Right now, BSI has platforms in Mexico, Peru, Chile, the Gaza Strip, India, and two in South Africa. Emi’s goal is to be able to raise funds and procure equipment for all these clubs, so that the people running the day-to-day activities in each region can focus their time on the kids…(although I’m certain the kids at each club wish Emi could be everywhere at once!)

…We pulled up to the Kovalam Surf Club one sunny morning to meet the kids Emi has been working with often in the last year. They leapt up the moment they saw her, dashing over and elbowing each other to be nearer to her. Her love for each of them was almost palpable; her good energy magnetic and therapeutic.

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Enthusiastic reunion with the girls in the surf club. Some of these girls surf really well, but as they reach puberty, cultural traditions require that they don’t associate with the young boys. Their parents want them to stay home and prepare for marriage and home life, even at 13 years-old! We got to play in the waves that day together, and they were required to wear all their clothes to swim.

The place was abuzz with stoke, as 20 or more kids readied to head for the beach. They’d just moved into a new space and it was looking sweet. Old boards of all shapes and sizes lined the wall in racks, a faded row of rash guards covered another, and a few boards under repair lay drying outside in the. Jelle Rigole, the program’s founder and director, was removing a hunk of homemade surf wax out of a jar. We were probably thousands of miles from the nearest surf shop. Jelle had obviously learned to be resourceful.

The children that the Kovalam Surf Club & the Sebatian India Social Projects (an amazing local program that Jelle’s program works in conjunction with) serve live in extreme poverty—many of them malnourished, abused, homeless or worse. In the midst of so much suffering, the club provides them some much-needed respite. If the kids attend school, they are invited to go surfing in the afternoon and on weekends. It’s a deal that keeps all parties smiling. By motivating them to achieve an education, Jelle knows these kids will have a slightly better chance of survival later on. And don’t exclude new opportunities as surfers and ocean-savvy Indians in tourism developments, as well.

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Emi and Jelle, with one of Kovalam Surf Club’s star surfers, Ramesh, who might otherwise have never known wave-riding.

These are the long-term goals, but what I immediately felt while being with the kids on the club grounds and while pushing them into waves that day, was the Club as a safe-haven. It was a brief moment to forget about their hardships, and come together with friends to laugh, play, express themselves, and take on a new challenge in the sea. I witnessed kids helping each other in the water and sharing equipment so everyone had a turn. Boys who would hardly look at me at first, were getting rides all the way to the beach, looking back to make sure I saw them, and then running back out for more. The stoke of surfing transcended our differences, and we all became fast friends.

Some of the kids were absolutely ripping!? Jelle, Emi, and 8 or so of the boys who had been surfing longest sat outside catching sets and speeding down the lines of the fast beach break waves. I had tears in my eyes more than once. Jelle had created a safe space, full of hope and wonder for them in the world, and by teaming up with Emi, they hoped to be able to continue doing so for years to come. It was beautiful to behold.

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Emi and the SISP girls, making shell and bead necklaces–fostering creativity and self expression and possibly inspiring a few with a skill for the future.

One evening Emi and I lay under the fan in our hotel room chatting before we fell asleep.

“I don’t know, Liz.” She said. “I cannot say for certain that… yes… surfing will keep these kids out of jail or off the streets or away from drugs or otherwise, but one thing I know for certain is that if they do ever end up in a dark place years from now… I know they will look back and think about the waves they shared with their friends in a fun and safe and loving space and be able to say… yeah, that was a good day.”

I remembered wishing in that moment that there were more Emi’s on the Earth…

Emi, Jelle, and the leaders of all the other programs in the Beyond the Surface International platform are not just putting temporary smiles on these children’s faces. They are building futures and fostering loving relationships with the ocean, which will remain a lifelong refuge and friend for these beautiful, deserving souls.

I could go on and on about Emi because I adore and admire her beyond words…but for now, check out these links!

Beyond the Surface International

Donate to Beyond the Surface International

Billabong Team Profile on Emi Koch

Sebastian Indian Social Projects

Kovalam Surf Club

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Jelle Rigole and some kids from the Kovalam slums, heading off for an afternoon session. Jelle is living proof of the power that one person can have to improve the lives of others…

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Jelle and the Kovalam Surf Club, a true testament of the power to effect positive change in developing coastal communities through surfing and local brother & sisterhood! YAY!

Emi, lovely as ever.

Thank you, lovely Emi, for your example of selflessness and service to the world!! Shine on!!

‘Bharat Mata’: Mother India feeds the soul…


These courageous women carry water from the well to their homes every morning and afternoon...

These courageous girls of Manapad carry water from the local well to their homes every morning and afternoon…what happens to our appreciation and connection to our water source when it flows endlessly out of a tap everyday?

It didn’t seem real until the Indian official stamped my passport and waved me toward baggage claim at the Trivandrum airport in Southern India at three in the morning. The speed of air travel still confounds my sailor’s mind…Instead of watching lights slowly appear on a dark horizon, I found myself huddled around a whirling belt of boxes and bags elbow to elbow with Indian air commuters returning from Dubai. After long flights on multiple airlines, my travel companion since Brisbane–surfing’s extraordinary ecofeminist, Lauren Hill (Check out her fantastic blog/Zine: The Sea Kin), and I were relieved to find our belongings amidst the chaos and head for the exit.

The sliding doors opened to reveal a sea of families lined upon a railing awaiting home-comers. The fluorescent airport lights eerily illuminated the throng against the black of night. Whites around dark eyes, teeth exposed between open lips, the flash off women’s shiny fabrics, ashen blessings on foreheads, and dazzling gold jewellery all blinked at us like navigational beacons on a horizon of humans. India. We had arrived!?! The air was a thick mix of humidity, exhaust, sweat, and spice, and I sliced through it with the vertical load of my Prolite Rhino Series 6′ 4″ boardbag on the airport trolley…

Where the crowd thinned we found, Uddi, our driver, holding an 8 by 11″ paper scrawled with “Lauren/Liz”. He bobbled his head from left to right and we took that as a sign to follow him. We strapped the boards atop the classic Ambassador taxi and hopped in.

The old headlights spat weak light on the right side of the oddly busy two-lane highway. Behind the wheel, Uddi was possessed–honking excessively and using the middle of the road like we were in a game of PacMan. We passed and dodged oncoming traffic in a series of what each felt like near-death incidents. My body stiffened. I clenched the velour cover on the backseat, fixing my eyes on the road from between the headrests, as if it might help us avoid collision. Twenty minutes into the ride, the fatigue of the 30 straight hours of planes and airports hit me. “Relax,” I told myself. “You’re not the captain now…” I closed my eyes and heard ‘Bharat Mata’, Mother India, whisper…

“Lesson One. You are not in control. You never really are for that matter…People come to India for many things. But what I give each of them are opportunities to open their minds and hearts ever wider…chances to grow from within…to loosen the stuck places…nourish their souls with the notion that everything is possible…Welcome, my Dear, and enjoy the ride…”

She's beautiful, unphased...barefoot and striding gracefully across the sizzling hot asphalt.

She’s beautiful, confident, unphased by the blazing asphalt on her bare feet…striding gracefully across the busy road. I followed closely, sensing this veteran knew what she was doing…

despite what seems like complete chaos amongst the mix of often overloaded trucks, cars, buses, motorcycles, push carts, scooters, bicyccles, farm animals, pedestrians, and whatever else you can imagine...somehow it all flows...It took a while to get used to the cacophony of blaring horns, as the rule is to honk before AND after overtaking, and whenever else the driver feels like it really. One hand on the wheel the other on the horn!

Despite what seems like complete chaos amongst the mix of often overloaded trucks, cars, buses, motorcycles, push carts, scooters, bicycles, farm animals, pedestrians, and whatever else you can imagine…somehow it all flows…It took a while to get used to the cacophony of blaring horns, as the rule is to honk before AND after overtaking, and whenever else the driver feels like it, really. One hand on the wheel the other on the horn!

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Young boy watches over early morning harbor scene…

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Spirituality knows no boundaries in India…Hindu deities displayed amongst tools in the hardware store.

Elephants are sacred, as they symbolize the Hindu god Ganesh, Remover of Obstacles...now if he could only remove those chains!!

Elephants are sacred, as they symbolize the Hindu god, Ganesh, Remover of Obstacles…now if he could only remove those chains!!

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Angel in Manapad.

Morning preparation

Morning duties: chai and paratha, respectively.

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There comes a moment when we are called to connect to something Greater than ourselves…

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Swell needs a cutie pie boat face like this!!

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I AM COCONUT MAN.

Wild, strong, beautiful, bold Swami woman.

Wild, strong, beautiful, bold Swami woman.

The Beyond the Surface film group...

The Beyond the Surface film crew, blessed to be together…Lauren, Erik, Dave, me, Kate, Emi, Ishita, Tushar, and Crystal!

For the last 50 years, the women of Manapad have been making livelihoods, building community, and empowering themselves economically by weaving coconut leaves into sustainable arts and crafts.

For the last 50 years, the women of Manapad have been making livelihoods, building community, and empowering themselves economically by weaving coconut leaves into sustainable arts and crafts. Go girls! Davey capturing them in action…

Emi, Lauren, Kate...catching sunrise over the lake.

Emi, Lauren, Kate…catching sunrise over the lake.

A fisherman teaching me some Indian resourcefulness. We're adding coconut leaves at short intervals along the rope to make it float!

A fisherman teaching me some Indian resourcefulness. We’re adding coconut leaves at short intervals along the rope to make it float!

Making films is hard work! Just ask Dave and Crystal!

Making films is hard work! Just ask Dave and Crystal! Ishita, Lauren, & Emi, tree pose queens.

What have we here? Morning surf check...

What have we here? Morning surf check…

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All smiles after a morning in the sea…

Ishita means 'Godess of Godesses' in Hindu. Her grandmother chose her name and she was spot on. She is a bold, beautiful, and fearless leader for Indian women today.

Ishita means ‘Godess of Godesses’ in Hindu. Her grandmother chose her name. Was she ever spot on! Ishita is not only India’s first female surfer, she is an inherently bold, beautiful, and fearless leader for gender equality in India today.

Tushar Pathiyan, Ishita's boyfriend, supports Ishitia to be the greatest she can be, and epitomizes Aloha and positivity at every turn. We're so lucky that he's a leader in the growth of Indian surf culture.

Tushar Pathiyan–Ishita’s partner–supports Ishita to be the greatest she can be, and epitomizes Aloha and positivity at every turn. We were so lucky to have him with us, and India is equally as lucky to have him as a leader of India’s young surf culture.

Crystal Thornburg-Homcy, spearheading the film project

Crystal Thornburg-Homcy, the visionary and backbone behind this special project…with Emi Koch, the founder of the non-profit organization Beyond the Surface International,which was the original inspiration behind the film.

Yogini, Kate

Master Yogini, Kate Baldwin, constantly inspired us with the vast breadth of her yogic wisdom, both physically and spiritually.

Miss Lauren Lindsay Hill, surfing's favorite eco-feminist. Smart as a whip, stoked as a grom, and lovely as butterfly.

Lauren Lindsay Hill is surfing’s favorite eco-feminist. Smart as a whip, stoked as a grom, and lovely as butterfly. Author and founder of The Sea Kin.

Master of film

Dave Homcy. He makes magic with film while always leading with his big, open heart. Chivalry is alive with Dave around!

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Filming assistant, Erik Knutson, was the king of road snacks, camera tasks, and ceaseless wit. He was never intimidated by long days or food preservatives!

Between boards and camera gear, we were not exactly travelling light! My Rhino Series Prolite bag was the perfect sizet!!

Between boards and camera gear, we were not exactly traveling light! My Rhino Series Prolite bag was the perfect size for my 3-board quiver.

Miraculously, a swell appeared when we least expected and we weren't going to miss a second of it! Sunrise at the point.

Miraculously, a swell appeared when we least expected and we weren’t going to miss a second of it! Sunrise at the point.

My Mizu stainless steel waterbottle made thousands of miles with me and reduced waste!!

My Mizu stainless steel waterbottle made thousands of miles with me and reduced lots of plastic waste!

The refuse problem was pervasive.

India’s trash problem was often overwhelming…

The local catches in Varkala were frighteningly insignificant. Most fishermen I spoke with said catches had been even lower than the last few years.

The local catches in Varkala were frighteningly insignificant. Most fishermen I spoke with said catches had been even lower than the last few years. With fish stocks plummeting worldwide, small fishing villages like this one will be the first and hardest impacted. A contributing factor into my recent turn to eating vegan.

Equipped and ready to

Yours truly, toting all my right point utensils!

It's good to be a cow in India

It’s good to be revered…Sacred cow gazing over morning harbor scene.

Believe.

There was plenty of roadside inspiration for the long bus trips…

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Ganesh in the flesh.

Street art in Kochi.

Street art in Kochi.

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Deepak was one of the people I knew I was ‘supposed to’ meet in India…

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Sab Kuch Milega… ‘Everything is Possible?’…it’s a long story, but it basically comes down to me being hopelessly gullible and painfully generous with Indian shopkeepers…Luckily I had Ishita to tell me what it really meant!

I believe the

After my short time in this amazing country, I am hopeful that the spirits, opportunities, and freedoms of the next generation of Indian women will continue to soar higher and higher…

THe lolvely crew and our beautiful experience with the women of manapad

A magical trip, thanks to the beautiful people of India and my extraordinary travel companions! Thank you all!

***Note to my travel companions: After my hopeless folding to those drum vendors on that last evening in Kerala, the drums were immediately seized by Australina customs officials!! 🙂 🙂

Sidetrip to India! Beyond the Surface Film Project…


With the Kovalom Surf Club in India.

The Kovalam Surf Club in India.

It’s amazing what comes along when you live wide open… Last year, I was sailing through the Marquesas when my sea-going friend and fellow Patagonia ambassador, Crystal Thornburg-Homcy, inquired as to whether I’d like to be involved in a film project in India!? From what I gathered it would be a combination of unique surfer women, seeking truth, sharing the joy of surfing with local kids, and practicing yoga in the land of its origin. We’d be highlighting the admirable efforts of Emi Koch, founder of Beyond the Surface International–which aims to empower impoverished youth through surfing…Mother India!! Kids! Yoga! A better world! I was IN!

Since then, Crystal and her husband, Dave, have raised funds through grassroots efforts to launch a film project with the potential to deeply inspire and bring attention to the power of self-awareness, compassion, and ecological creativity as our greatest tools for shaping a better world! Thanks to them, India is now only a few plane-rides away!! WOW!

Crystal and Dave, along with Emi Koch, Lauren Hill, Kate Baldwin, India’s first female surfer, Ishita Malaviya, and lil ol me will be traveling for three weeks up India’s south east coast looking for all sorts of adventure, learning, and inspiration in hopes of sharing it with the world!! For more info and/or to support the film project, check out: http://beyondthesurfacefilm.tumblr.com/ or follow my instagram photos by clicking the old camera in the upper right corner of the page!

Shaka Shakti!

Shaka Shakti!

Free, so Free to be Me.


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Poema and I on a surf adventure…No wave out of reach in the double kayak!

“However rare true love may be, it is less so than true friendship.”  -Einstein

A few days after my arrival back to Swell in January, Poema du Prel walked into the boatyard wearing a huge smile. Mutual friends had been long trying to connect us, but both of our rigorous travel agendas had precluded our meeting until that day. Ten minutes later I was loading my board into the back of her truck and we were off to chase down some waves…It had been a rough week for matters of the heart, but in her presence, I was promptly feeling like myself again…

In lieu of sleeping aboard Swell in the boatyard (something I’ve done enough of for one lifetime!), she invited me to stay in her home and for two months we shared meals, stories, waves, laughter, work, and dreams like old friends. She understands when I’d rather pee in the bushes than the bathroom, enjoy eating a mango more when its all over my face, need to howl at the moon, wear mismatched clothes, cartwheel in the rain, swing my machete, cut my own hair, or cut open my sunscreen tube to get the very last bit. Just like I understand when she runs through house in a beekeepers hat with a hacksaw in her hand to attack the wasp nest on the roof overhang, gets excited about diving for the kayak anchor, comes home muddy from head to toe, skateboards in circles at 6am around the house, gets overly excited about yoga with David Swanson, climbs the guava tree like a spider monkey, and brings home every sort of roadside fruit known to Tahiti. She countered the sorrow of heartache with the joy of a truly kindred spirit friendship. Never judging–just letting me be me, so lovingly!

There’s no mistake when the universe leads you to people who make you feel like your BEST you…cherish them! In fact, surround yourself with them! Poema, and all my dear and wonderful friends, thank you for making me feel so free to be ME!! Click to follow Poema’s Odyssey.

Poema, tending the vanilla plants...

Poema, tending the vanilla plants…

Rain or Shine, we're yours Mighty Pacific!!

Rain or Shine, we’re yours Mighty Pacific!!

Helmuth made a creative new handle for my teapot!

Helmuth made a creative new handle for my teapot!

Swelly got a new hat!

…and Swelly got a new hat!

More surf adventures, photo by Poema

Getting a pre-session shack in the cloud barrel with the girls! Photo by Poema

Going coconutty with Ema and Poema.

Going coconutty with Ema and Poema.

Let the sanding begin. New deck paint for Swell coming soon.

Let the sanding begin. New deck paint for Swell coming soon.

Surrounded by things I love!

Postcard living…

Boatyard sunset.

Boatyard afterhours.

Poema the anchor diving mermaid!

Poema the anchor diving mermaid!

New deck shower, yew!

New deck shower, yew!

Feeling back at home...

So happy to be healthy again…

You guys made a house a HOME!

You guys made a house a HOME!

You don't have to own it to call it home.

Grateful salutations to the SUN.

The Mighty, Marvelous, and ENDANGERED–> BLUEFIN TUNA


Mighty bluefin tuna on the move...

Tireless travelers–bluefin tuna on the move…

Skipjack tuna on Swell

Skipjack tuna on Swell.

Local with his big eye tuna catch.

Marquesan with his big eye tuna catch.

During my years of sea-faring, I’ve caught fish of many sorts. Catching and killing fish has helped me develop a true appreciation and respect for any creature that gives its life to nourish mine. I always take a moment to thank each fish and vow to do my best to carry its energy forward positively. I admire its form, marveling at each unique feature and speculating on how each help it succeed in its underwater life drama.

Each time I look over a tuna’s body, I’m struck dumb by their beauty and astonished by the details of their hydro-dynamically extraordinary design—the sleek torpedo shape, smooth & scale-less skin, perfectly flush eyes, a dorsal fin that actually retracts into a slit in its back! The deep purples on his back fade into silvery iridescent sides and then a pearly white belly. And synchronized oscillating ‘finlets’ protrude from the top and bottom of its rear half.

Taking a moment to thank this beautiful fish for giving its life to nourish mine.

Taking a moment to thank this beautiful mahi mahi for its life.

I often catch Bigeye or Yellowfin, but in all my thousands of miles of trolling behind Swell, I’ve never caught a Bluefin tuna. That’s likely a combination of my mediocre fishing skills and their endangered species status. I did see a few of them outside of a pass in the Line Islands while freediving once…As I floated on the surface, their powerful droplet shapes coasted past with stiff pumps of their crescent-shaped tails. They carried a weighty sense of purpose, sharp and wide-eyed, as if constantly poised to react quicker then their next meal…

I later learned that Bluefin tuna are one of the few species of fish considered ‘warm-blooded’ due to the way they can increase their body temperature beyond that of the surrounding waters by transferring body heat to their muscles similar to a ‘heat exchanger’ in an engine. This evolutionary advantage gives more power and efficiency to their muscles, allowing them to swim at speeds near beyond 50mph, dive more than 3,200 feet, and swim in constant migration ranging into some of the coldest parts of the oceans! Mighty Bluefin! Flawless hunter! Tireless traveler!

A few weeks after that sighting, a Spanish tuna processing ‘mothership’ arrived with its fleet. I was welcomed aboard by the captain and witnessed the ship’s gigantic fish hold, filled with thousands upon thousands of frozen tuna corpses of all kinds. The Republic of Kiribati, poor and unaided by other nations, sadly sells off its fishing rights to foreign fleets for a fraction of the fleets’ profits.  What will the locals eat when the tuna don’t return?

Globally, the Pacific, Atlantic, and Southern Bluefin tuna are the most pursued and prized tuna for eating. In January of 2012, a 593-lb Bluefin sold for $736,000 to a Japanese sushi restaurant!?! Its ridiculously high value in the Japanese sashimi market motivates hi-tech, grossly specialized overfishing. Bluefin tuna populations are near extinction, but protecting this species has not received international cooperation, likely due to its market value and the complexities of regulating the catch and fishing grounds of a fish that travels to nearly all corners of the oceans.

Fish market, Japan.

Fish market, Japan.

We can support the Bluefin tuna’s right to existence by not eating this fish! The $25 billion dollar illegal fishing industry will only lose its wind when demand slackens…At sushi restaurants Bluefin is commonly called ‘Maguro’ or ‘Toro’. All over the world, our oceans are over-fished. Not only the Bluefin is at risk of extinction. If we want our grandchildren to be able to eat seafood, we need to get informed before we make our next order at the fish counter or in a restaurant. I eat mainly vegetarian now, with the occasional exception of select seafood. A great way to make sustainable seafood choices is to download the free App for smartphones called ‘Seafood Watch’ or check out their website! Awareness is our ally in the fight to save our oceans!!

Get underwater with the bluefin yourself here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1m6IKiO26c&feature=related

EDF safe & responsible fisheries:http://apps.edf.org/page.cfm?tagID=1521

Learn about the Seafood Watch App: 
http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch/web/sfw_iphone.aspx

More:

http://www.nrdc.org/oceans/seafoodguide/

http://blueocean.org/seafoods/

http://www.seafoodchoices.com/home.php

http://www.forbes.com/sites/lindseyhoshaw/2011/10/25/top-3-sustainable-seafood-apps/

The Black Fish–A growing movement for the oceans — A conservation group fighting for Bluefin populations

!!CELEBRATE LOVE!!


Happy Valentine’s Day!!! When you follow your dreams, put LOVE in all you do, give LOVE to each person you meet, and open your heart to receive the LOVE of others, life is full of INFINITE magic!! I LOVE YOU!! <3 <3 <3 <3

To Love as effortlessly as a child...let that be our goal!!

To Love as effortlessly as a child…let that be our goal!!

We are OF the * * STARS * *


Give yourself to the moment, and watch the magic unfold…

On duty at the helm…

After leaving Puka Puka, we moved somewhat quickly through the atolls, sailing over a thousand miles in two months with only four stops. Going with the trades was blissful after all the upwind miles we’d previously covered.

We could have waited on the parts to fix the windvane or autopilot somewhere, but rather I proposed it might be interesting to steer full time, having (thankfully) never had to do it. And seeing as there were two of us to share helm duties, it would be much more feasible than when I was single-handing.

I noticed right away that an obligation to steer let me witness more of nature’s magic. It wasn’t as if I never stared at the sea and sky when the self-steering worked, but I could easily be distracted. Now I was glued to the wheel, and an active participant in the scene, as I surfed Swell down the following seas. The waves flowed past the rudder, pulling the wheel right or left. I gazed out at the ocean panorama: ever-changing, ever-wondrous.

Day or night, there were marvels of light to behold…At every incline of the sun, the rays played on the water in their own exceptional way. Sunrise and sunset usually stole the show, but mid-morning’s fresh light uplifted, high noon’s radiance overwhelmed, and mid-afternoon’s bending yellows soothed and foretold day’s end…

Dusk had it’s own charm, too. Shades of gray lined the sky from horizon to horizon, while new stars appeared gradually, as if coming on stage. And when the last remnant of the sun’s glow disappeared, perspective shifted…we were suddenly sailing through the Universe! From horizon to horizon the heavens blazed in all their glory…Perpetual, Supreme, Infinite…

I’d cover the GPS and practice steering by the stars, aligning them with the masthead or halyards. Hercules, Scorpio, or maybe the Pleiades…the chosen star cluster of the hour would hover around the mast as I pulled the wheel back and forth. Cloudy evenings made it more difficult, temporarily hiding the celestial chart. I’d maintain our angle to the wind, checking the compass every now and then…When the winds were light, I might lay back and steer with my feet a while to watch for shooting stars. And If fatigue got too distracting, I’d wake Raiarii and we’d switch for a while…

Despite being rather exhausted, I loved that being present at the wheel for so many hours acquainted me with new-found subtleties of the sea. Plus, I felt closer to Swell than I had in all the voyage. Nothing seemed more effective in learning her quirks, than holding the wheel and letting her tell me herself! Constantly applying my mind to sea, vessel, and sky 12 hours a day, I came to appreciate just how intimately and intuitively the ancient Polynesian navigators would have known their seas.

In the moments where no guidebook or Google or a GPS can tell us what to do, we must blur the lines that separate ‘Me’ from ‘That’. We must Feel as much as reason…Listen. Be Present and Ready…Open and Humble. For the Voice within speaks to all of us, though it’s sometimes hard to hear in our distracting modern world. Nevertheless, it’s always there waiting to remind us that We are of the Stars…

We had lucky timing at a few of our stops!

Never know what you might miss when you’re not paying attention!

The Navonics charts had great detail for navigation in the atolls!

Sad to take this beautiful female mahi, but what a blessing her meat was for us and the islanders at the next stop…

Brief renions with friends broke up the passages…Maheata always has a warm meal and smile waiting!!

Special Delivery: 400 lbs of fruit for Puka Puka


Swell’s forepeak converted into the cargo hold for delivering all the fruit!

Note** This story, from last year’s circle of French Polynesia, was too good not to share, despite happening nearly 9 months ago. My neck is healed and I’m back in Tahiti, catching up on some writing before heading to the boatyard…:)

March 2012: And so the time had arrived. Cyclone season over, it was safe to head southwest say a final goodbye to the Marquesas. I poured over the chart, locating the tiny, isolated atoll of Puka Puka, 250 miles straight south. Raiarii’s grandfather was the first to colonize this desolate atoll in the late 1930s. Tehani Henere Papa and his wife, Elizabeth, had 22 children there!! Two sets of twins!?! Tehani delivered each one of the babies in a tub behind their little house. They raised the kids on fish and coconuts and the fresh Pacific air. Tehani worked copra from dawn to dusk year round, and when the copra boats came to collect the dried coconut meat that he split, dried, and collected in the large burlap sacs, he could purchase sacs of flour, sugar, and rice with his earnings. Raiarii’s father, Victor, was number 15 of the 22, and left the atoll at age 17 to find work in Tahiti and had never gone back. Interisland travel is expensive and difficult for locals, with few spots on the cargo ships and high prices for airfare. So Raiarii had never visited Puka Puka, nor met many of the cousins, aunts, and uncles from his father’s side who are still living there. Upon learning this story, I decided we must try to sail to Puka Puka!

A load of bananas for Raiarii’s family on Puka Puka…

The wind was forecasted to turn north, giving us a good angle to sail there directly sailing, so we prepped Swell and collected fruit from our generous friends to bring to Raiarii’s family in Puka Puka, where the sandy, salty soil lacked the nutrients to plant food. We gathered limes, pamplemousse, oranges, bananas, breadfruit, papayas, starfruit, taro, and pomegranates! By the time we left, Swell’s forepeak was our cargo hold, carrying nearly 400lbs of fruit!

When the wind began to shift northeast, we raised anchor, and slipped around the breathtaking 2,000-foot cliffs, and pointed the bow south. I would miss the plentiful fruit, rugged mountain peaks, wild goats and horses, shaded valleys, cool rivers, and good people of the Marquesas…

Goodbye beautiful Enata Fenua!

At sea again, with both the autopilot and the monitor broken, one of us was relegated to the helm at all times. I spent hours watching the sea and imagining our rendezvous at Puka Puka. The atoll has no pass by which to enter a lagoon. The reef extends, unbroken all the way around the island, so I hoped that we could find a safe place to anchor Swell. I’d already decided that either way, I would stand off aboard Swell, while Raiarii went ashore to meet his family and tour the atoll.

On the second day out, the winds lightened and steering grew awfully monotonous, but we plowed through the hot, long day, making mile after slow mile toward our special destination.

Busting some early morning moves at the helm to stay awake, while Raiarii gets some rest…

We hoped to arrive the morning of the third day, but the light winds slowed our progress. His family had been notified of our pending arrival, so we trimmed the sails and eeked every bit of speed possible out of the hull in order to arrive before dark. Finally we spotted Puka Puka’s flat-top of coconut palms on the horizon ahead, and simultaneously, the fishing reel buzzed with a strike. Raiarii pulled in a beautiful tuna. I thanked it for its life with a prayer and quickly put it out of suffering, grateful to be able to arrive with another gift for the family…

Our excitement rose as the island grew clearer. Taking turns at the wheel, we cleaned up Swell and ourselves a bit to be presentable upon arrival. No sooner, Raiarii spotted an aluminum tinny plying the seas in our direction.

Greeted at sea by Uncle Richard, Cousin Teva, and the local policeman.

Raiarii’s uncle, cousin, and the local police officer greeted us on the sea and motioned for us to follow them around to the backside of the island. The men assured us there was a spot up ahead that would be safe for anchoring. A pod of large bottlenose dolphins led the way, crisscrossing at the bow. Soon we were precariously close to the breaking waves on the reef, but still the seafloor did not rise beneath us. “Over here,” they called in Tahitian.

I nosed Swell in carefully, and we watched the colors of reef begin to show under her hull. It was a tiny ledge of reef that stuck out 30 yards more than the rest in about 30 feet of depth, before dropping off into the deep abyss.

Raiarii took the helm, and I jumped overboard to assess the reef for the best spot to place the anchor. With our concerted effort, I directed the anchor underwater to a barren ledge, where it was sure to stay hooked and not hurt much. We also slid a stern anchor over the deep ledge in case the wind switched.

It could hardly be called an anchorage, but the combo of light northeast winds and calm south swell would let us get away with it for this special occasion. Anchors down, we began to offload the cargo. Eyes bulged as the endless train of fruit streamed out of Swell. Filled with fruit, the little tinny rode low in the water. I scurried around Swell, securing a few things and flipping on the anchor light, as they insisted we come to shore immediately to meet the rest of the family and have dinner together. As we pulled away from Swell, I sent up a little prayer for her safety near the reef…

Swell and I were rather nervous about the open ocean anchoring!

Off we went in the tinny, the dolphins again at the bow as we buzzed back toward a small crack in the reef with a dock for offloading supplies. We followed a wave into the tiny pass as the whitewater crumbled along the reef on both sides.  Uncle Richard neared the dock carefully in the surge, and a splay of arms reached down to help us out. A moment later we stood on land, cloaked in flowered welcome ‘heis’, meeting a lineup of family and friends who’d come to greet us. The kids dove for the bananas and star fruit and we wandered to the house of Uncle Taro, Aunt Patricia, and their four lovely daughters.

Upon arrival.

Raiarii, being shown a photo of his grandfather, Tehani, whose father was Dutch, hence the European features…

Honored by our visit, our gracious hosts fed us until we couldn’t eat anymore as we learned more about the history of the Papa family on the island. Almost a third of the population of 250 were Raiarii’s relations! While eating platefuls of sashimi, poisson cru, and fruit, we listened to stories and looked at old photos of Tehani and the children. It grew late. Weary from our long nights at sea, we asked to be taken back to Swell to rest up for the following day’s island tour and picnic.

Despite my fatigue, I slept little that night. The breaking waves sounded so close I kept sitting straight up and thinking we were on the reef! But by morning I felt assured that Swell was firmly stuck and safe as long as the conditions remained the same.

That morning Uncle Richard came to pick us up and the dolphins again escorted us to the dock. He told us that they loved to swim with people and were always playful and curious when the islanders were spearfishing. I hoped we’d get to swim with them later!

After an extravagant breakfast, we visited Raiarii’s grandparents’ burial site and went to the house where all 22 children were born. Everyone was so delighted by our visit, and the whole day I felt so glad that we’d made the effort to come. After helping prepare for the picnic, we set out across the island in the back of the truckbed, stopping at sites of interest and meeting other relatives along the way. The island had three separate, shallow lagoons on the east side, and we picnicked near the third and swam in the hot, extra-salty water with the kids.

On our return that afternoon, Uncle Taro asked the local mayor if they could launch the community boat so that everyone could come out and take a tour of Swell. He was agreeable, so family and friends piled in and we headed out to Swell. They told us only one other sailboat had ever stopped there as far as they knew, and certainly none of them had ever seen the inside of one. So they were delighted and awed to visit Swell and see that we had beds, sink, oven, stove, water, and all the essentials…

As we all sat aboard Swell, I noticed the waves were picking up. The sets were breaking a little farther out and I’d seen the forecast for south swell on the way. Sadly, I knew we’d have to leave before dark. It was a bittersweet goodbye, having been taken in so graciously and having to part so quickly, but we wouldn’t be safe there again overnight. Many tears were shed as all the family members crowned us with parting shell ‘heis’. Silent drops rolled down Raiarii’s cheeks as he hugged and kissed them goodbye and promised to visit again one day. We waved to their boat until it rounded the corner out of sight…

Just then a big swell lifted the hull and the boat jerked to starboard on the anchor line, reminding us of the reality we faced. The sun was setting, the swell was picking up, and we were getting dangerously close to being tossed onto the reef! We had to get both anchors up before darkness arrived and prepare the cabin for making passage again. As I dove and cleared the anchors, Raiarii pulled them up. I looked around in hopes of saying goodbye to the dolphins, but no sign of them appeared.

Anchors clear, we drifted away from the reef with the wind, readying the mainsail halyard and jib sheets. Just then, one of the dolphins launched into the air beside the cockpit, hovering horizontally for a moment and looking right at us as if to say, “What? Leaving already?!?”

Raiarii and I looked at each other, breathtaken. I jumped in and we took turns swimming with them until it was too dark to see…a magical finish to a magical stopover…

Dusk swim with the welcoming crew at Puka Puka.

We finally dried off and rounded the corner to wave a final goodbye. In the soft dusk, we could see all the family lined up ashore. They flashed their headlights and honked their horns, jumped up and down and waved madly, and we did the same. Slowly we drifted farther and farther away with the wind. We were both sad to have to leave so soon, but grateful that the weather had afforded us those precious 24 hours spent there. After half an hour had passed, we saw the lights of the cars heading home and turned to take on the passage ahead.

As the excitement dwindled, our exhaustion surfaced, and with no self-steering we decided to heave to and sleep for a few hours while Swell drifted away from the atoll on the open sea. I lie there for a while in the cockpit under the stars, spilling over with gratitude and joy. I would never forget our ‘fruitful’ visit to Puka Puka…Time with family is a precious gift! Regardless of our lineage, I hope we will learn to treat each other like the One Great Human Family that we are!! One Love!

Goodbyes are never easy.