Chasing a dream is never easy, but if you go far enough, it will set you free.
Captain Liz Clark spent her youth dreaming of traveling the world by sailboat and surfing remote waves. When she was 22, she met a mentor who helped turn her desire into reality. Embarking on an adventure that most only fantasize about, she set sail from Santa Barbara, California, as captain of her 40-foot sailboat, Swell, headed south in search of surf, self, and the wonder and learning that lies beyond the unbroken horizon.
In true stories overflowing with wild waves and constant challenges, at the whim of the weather, of relationships sweet and sour, of nature's marvels and colorful cultures, Liz captures her voyage in gripping detail in this memoir, sharing tales of sailing in high seas, of solitude and surprises, of finding connection to the earth and commitment to living in harmony with it. She witnesses how her dream leads her to understanding the unity of all things.
More than ten years, 20,000 miles, countless adventures, and one cat later, she's still out there.
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About the Author
When Liz Clark was nine, her family spent seven months sailing down Mexico's Pacific coast. After returning to land life in San Diego, she dreamed of seeing the world by sailboat one day. While earning her BA in Environmental Studies from UC Santa Barbara, she fell in love with surfing. After college, she turned her voyaging dream into reality, sailing south from Southern California through Central America and the Pacific Islands. For more than a decade, she has kept her nomadic ocean lifestyle going through writing, blogging, photography, representing conscious brands, and earning recognition as a surf adventurer, environmental activist, and captain. She hopes to inspire people to live their passions and reconnect with nature and our inherent oneness. She was featured in the film Dear and Yonder (2009), and nominated for National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2015.
A series of serendipitous events, a generous mentor, and lots of hard work made it possible for young Liz Clark to fulfill her childhood dream of sailing and surfing around the world. But sailing Swell out of San Diego and watching her loved ones blur into the hazy winter skyline, she questioned the wisdom of undertaking a journey that would test her on all levels, and maybe even break her.
On dark nights alone at sea, Clark was often saved from a descent into depression by the beauty and sacredness of the life around her--in the poor fishermen who shared their catches with her, or a group of dolphins trailing phosphorescence in their wake. Physical, mental, emotional, financial, and relationship difficulties would bring her near collapse, but then her spirits would be lifted by the sea's vast horizon, the amazing rush of surfing, the smile of a friend, or the belief that she could somehow make a difference. She who used to panic at the thought of spending a Saturday night alone came to find solitude delightful, satisfying deep hungers.
There were violent storms with wind, waves, and lightning that rocked her to her core; she cooked at a 65- degree angle while stuck on a sandbar; she survived a scary, abusive relationship; she struggled with boat repairs; she panicked at the end of her sponsorship agreement; and she had a near run-in with Colombian drug runners in Panama. Material poverty was everywhere, as was pollution amidst the beauty; she pondered the ability of humans to destroy that which sustains them.
In mastering the discipline needed for a journey where "one lazy decision can mean losing everything," Clark came to love herself just as she was, and to know that, in choosing love, she would never feel lack.
One woman takes to the waves on a journey of self-discovery. Named by a surfing magazine as one of the "World's Most Committed Surfers," Clark chronicles how she captained her own boat in the pursuit of big water. She had considered going pro while majoring in environmental studies in college, but she found the pressures of competing disagreeable and dreamed instead of pursuing "more nature-saturated surf experiences." Soon after finishing her undergraduate studies, the author received a happy windfall in the form of a 1966 Cal 40, a seaworthy 40-foot sailboat given to her by a dear mentor, a retired professor who was seeking to travel vicariously through her. Preparations to rig Swell for its new, 5-foot-4-inch, 110-pound captain took more than two years before Clark set sail from southern California, heading down through Baja and over to the South Pacific. "To the north: light, familiarity, comfort, safety, family. To the south: dark, unknown, doubt....It's not the rogue waves or pirates I'm worrying about--it's the thought of failure," she writes, revealing her quest to be as much an interior journey as one driven by the desire to experience remote parts of the world. While for Clark "there's nothing like the sensation of skittering down a water mountain," much of her account centers on the trials and rewards of commandeering her own boat--from reckoning with unforgiving elements and near-constant equipment failures to navigating the challenges of being a woman traveling solo in the male-dominated world of cruisers--i.e., those "living and travelling on small boats for extended periods of time." Throughout, the author clearly, if unexceptionally, describes her many experiences at sea and at more-and-less idyllic South Pacific ports of call, and she relies on copious color photos to set the stage and spark the "imagination" as to "what is possible." Introspective and enlightening, Clark's seafaring memoir offers a rare glimpse into the solitary worlds of sail and surf. -- Kirkus Reviews
"Readers -- surfer, sailor or not -- will be hooked." -- Honolulu Star Advertiser
"I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to everyone -- not sailors, not women, not young people, everyone. I loved it." --Michael Robertson, Good Old Boat magazine
"Swell is a beautiful ode to [Clark's] time on the open sea, the people she met, the cultures she embedded herself within, the surf she scored, being vegan, living sustainably, the companionship of her late cat Amelia, the health of the planet and so much more. Simply put, it is the collection of more than a decade of sailing around the world by oneself." --Adventure Sports Network
"Liz carries us along, on a voyage that is about much more than sailing and surfing and exploring. The threads that are woven through are based on relationships, significantly with her mentor, her mother, her father, friends, lovers, and most significantly, herself. By the end she and the reader understand that its these relationships, good and bad, that allow everything else to matter at all." --Good Old Boat Magazine
"[Clark's] story is one of the most entertaining and affecting in the genre of extreme sojourning . . . refreshingly candid." --Honolulu Magazine
"Swell is a book for the senses. It will invite you to breathe the breeze, feel the water, and witness the beauty of the water world from a sailor-surfer perspective. . . . [It] ticks all aspects of the modern surf book. It fuels the desire to explore the planet, and it encourages us to become better persons. . . . A diary of the unexpected; a highly detailed log file of life out at sea. . . . an inspiring surf travel testimony that may question the course of your life. You will be invited to appreciate the rare opportunity to live and discover our world." --Surfer Today
"On paper, Clark's adventure seems like one of those badass trips you daydream of at your cubicle every Monday morning. But in Swell, Clark paints a much more realistic picture of what a 12-year, transoceanic swell chase really looks like. From the high points (scoring remote reef breaks with no one out) to the low (almost getting struck by lightning, having to repair a broken engine, getting a rare fungal infection, etc.), the experiences laid out in Clark's autobiography are worth the read." --Surfer
"Patagonia is on its way to becoming one of the most exciting surf publishers on the planet." --Surfer Today
World Oceans Day is Friday, June 8, and purchasing this beautifully illustrated, wonderfully inspiring book at patagonia.com/shop/books-by-patagonia would be a fine way to celebrate. Better still, get two and give one to your favorite young sailor or surfer! -- WindCheck.com
"Clark tells her voyage in great depth, with gripping details about the constant challenges of such an adventure. Moreover, you'll find a unique take on the power of exploration, from someone who has done a lot of it." --Business Insider