If you were to stand on your desk one day to recite “Oh Captain! My Captain!” aloud in a late 80s Dead Poet’s Society frenzy, and you wanted to direct it at a literal captain, you couldn’t do better than Liz Clark (@CaptainLizClark). First of all, she decided at ten that she would sail the world, and she is. How many people are able to pick a legit exciting future path before they exit grade school and then go on to do it? Moreover, she’s sailing with a cat named Amelia the Tropicat. And she has traveled nearly 20,000 miles in a vessel called Swell, a Cal-40 built in 1966. It’s layer upon layer of rad. And, we haven’t even covered her surfing. Guess who learned to surf at 15 and went on to be named the 2002 College Women’s National Champion at the National Scholastic Surfing Association’s nationals? Yep. Badass “Oh Captain, my captain” Liz Clark.
Most people are impressed by a world traveler. But, if that doesn’t do it for you, her commitment to a goal and her ability to manifest an unconventional life is unarguably inspiring. Clark is a practitioner of relentless positivity and loving kindness — which she truly thinks can change the world. She writes about her travels, conscious eating, and making a better world on her website. But, people who are interested in her life and want more are in luck. Patagonia Books asked her to write a book, and one 100,000+ word manuscript about her voyages later, it’s happening. In April of 2018, Swell: A Sailing Surfer’s Voyage of Awakening will be available everywhere.
This week, Clark took time from life at sea and the daily work of finalizing a book to speak with us about her travels, how to finance living on a boat, and the loneliness of being a solo sailor. You are challenged to read this interview without wanting to hang out with her on Swell.
You’ve been sailing nearly your entire life, right?
Correct. My family never went inland; we didn’t do any camping. We always took our weekends and vacations on the sailboat. There was a period of six months that I spent in Mexico with my family cruising on their sailboat. So, yes, I have spent a lot of time on the water since I was a little kid.
What takes you from just sort of a weekend or vacation sailor to being like, “I’m going to sail the world?”
When I was nine, we sailed for a little over six months down the coast of Mexico, and it was more of a lifestyle than just a weekend thing. It was just so eye-opening for me to get out of my little bubble of a Southern California life and see a new culture and see all the wildlife and things that we discovered via the ocean. In my little nine-year-old mind, I created this big dream to go see the world by sailboat someday. After that, I came back to normal life, and I went to middle school and high school and college and I hung onto that dream through all of it.
I think another big part of it was that I studied environmental science at UC Santa Barbara and a lot of what I learned in my classes showed me how we were a little off course as a society in terms of living in harmony with the planet. I think I had this idea of going out to kind of just live lighter and do it my own way. I didn’t want to have to participate in the economy and way of life that I didn’t believe in. That was another big motivator for me to make it a long-term thing versus just going for a short period of six months or a year.
Then, when I left I didn’t really know how I was going to pull it off. I didn’t know how I was going to financially support myself, but then little by little, I earned some sponsorships and I earned the respect of different people that have done this and know how much work it is and how challenging it can be, so I was able to garnish enough earnings to keep going. Once I realized I could pull it off, I just saw no point in coming home because it was just a fun adventure.