I learned to sail at seven years old in San Diego, California on a little red sailing dinghy. At ten, I completed a 5,000-mile, 6-month cruise in Mexico with my family on our sailboat, The Endless Summer, experiencing a different culture, the freedom and beauty of sea travel, and opening my mind to horizons beyond my hometown reality. I credit the origin of my environmental concern to my exposure to the contrasting landscapes of grave pollution and radical natural beauty in Mexico.
Albeit very young, this trip profoundly impacted me. Two things were clear when we returned to San Diego in 1990: I wanted to protect the natural world from human destruction and, one day, I wanted to be the captain of my own sailboat.
At fifteen, my love of the ocean and natural athletic inclination led me to try surfing. Soon after, it was all I wanted to do. Determined to excel in the sport, I spent all my free time in the water and eventually started competing. I surfed in private contests and for the UCSB surf team while studying at UC Santa Barbara. My competitive career culminated in a win at the NSSA Nationals, making me the 2002 College Women’s National Champion. Although I enjoyed pushing my level of surfing through competition, I was more inclined to chasing nature saturated,
exploratory surf experiences. I enjoyed surfing most for the adventures leading to remote breaks, the connection with the elements, and the opportunities for self-discovery. I was full of bigger questions that needed answers.
I began taking surf trips during summers and school breaks to Barbados, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Hawaii, Mexico, Nicaragua, and a ‘study abroad’ trip Australia. As I finished up my degree in Environmental Studies, I remember feeling frustrated by the direction the world seemed headed. Our distance and apathy for the natural world and failure as a country to seek and promote environmentally sustainable living left me disappointed and frustrated. I clung to my dream as a ‘way out’.
My surfing obsession further fueled this fire. The pressures of increasing crowds and urban pollution made the idea of a freeranging life on the sea seem even more appealing. After graduation, I crewed on different boats to gain experience for about a year, and then spontaneously came upon the chance to become the captain of my own sailboat. Thanks to the generosity of my friend and mentor, Barry Schuyler, along with suppor from my family, Swell and I were united.
Through this stroke of serendipity, my intense determination, and the generosity and advice of innumerable people in Santa Barbara and beyond, Swell was converted into an ocean-worthy vessel. For almost three years, I worked with local professionals–mechanical, rigging, sail repair, radio, fiberglassing, and others, learning and overhauling each of Swell’s vital systems in order to prepare myself and my ship for sea. Only having sailed the boat a handful of times during this busy preparation period, I honestly didn’t know whether I would be capable of a captain’s tasks and responsibility. Although the uncertainties ahead petrified me, the alternative of not going seemed even more unthinkable. And so in October of 2005, I pointed Swell’s bow south from the Santa Barbara harbor.
Over the 20,000 nautical miles of ocean I’ve sailed since, I’ve discovered that the most important sort of exploration happens within. The enormous sense of fulfillment I’ve gained from following my dream, delving into self-awareness, and living a simple life close to nature motivates me to continue sharing my experiences in hopes of the same for others.
A few powerful lessons I’ve learned along the way:
- By using the challenges and adversities in life as opportunities to grow and learn, something positive can come out of almost any difficult situation.
- Instead of pointing fingers or placing blame, it’s always more useful to look within for solutions.
- Practicing relentless positivity and loving-kindness has the power to completely change one’s reality.
- Nature, humanity, and all life on Earth are inextricably and fantastically connected. Abandoning the idea of Self and seeking to understand and participate in this Greatness is not only a path to immense personal fulfillment, but also to healthy, peaceful planet and a populace that could exist in harmony with nature!
- A life of voluntary simplicity can be surprisingly fulfilling and might allow others in our world of limited resources to ‘simply live’.
- There’s always more to learn!