With the Wind at Her Back and a Cat by Her Side, She's Been Sailing Around the World

Capt. Liz Clark.

Liz Clark grew up in San Diego, sailing with her parents. When she was 9, the family undertook a yearlong project sailing around the Mexican Coast, and Clark was hooked. After graduating from the University of California, Santa Cruz, she started putting together the pieces of her dream. She spent months fixing up a sailboat that had been given to her by a friend and, in 2005, she sailed out of Santa Barbara Harbor solo.

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With her kitty Amelia the Tropicat by her side, Capt. Clark has been manning her trusty 40-foot sailboat Swell ever since. She's never looked back. She writes on her Captain's Log blog: "I eat and shower and live under the sky and stars. The warm clear Pacific never gets boring — exploring remote islands, surfing uncrowded waves, playing in coconut trees. Aside from boat work, missing family and the occasional food craving, it’s pretty dreamy."

Clark spent the latter half of her 20s and the early part of her 30s sailing solo, though her first year she often sailed with the help of friends, down the Mexican and Central American coast. When she announced that she would be sailing to French Polynesia for the first time, her mom accompanied her for the cross-Pacific journey. But after the three-week crossing, her mom let her take over: "I spent the next year exploring French Polynesia and Kiribati mostly on my own. I enjoyed the contrast of traveling alone — indulging in the freedom of solitude and making choices based on weather and swell forecasts rather than itineraries," Clark writes. By 2011 she had sailed more than18,000 nautical miles on Swell.

An accomplished surfer as well as sailor, the 34-year-old Clark has been named by Surfing Magazine as one of the world's five most committed surfers. She was a college women's surfing champion and keeps 10 different boards on her boat, so she can ride whatever conditions the locale serves up.

"Plans are almost as useless in sailing as they are in surfing — both require adaptability to be enjoyed to their fullest. I’ve learned that the more flexible I am, the more I luck into a good surf and find a rhythm with the right winds and weather for passages," she writes.

Clark is passionate about ocean conservation, and regularly posts about various initiatives, like establishing protected areas and in support of ocean wildlife. She's especially dedicated to raising awareness about plastic waste, and she's posted several times about the Take3 campaign, which encourages beachgoers to pick up three pieces of plastic. (If everyone did that, there would be a lot less plastic in our oceans).

"I plan to continue exploring in the Pacific, not only for waves but opportunities for personal growth. Proceeding work on local environmental projects, make presentations on pollution and conservation issues in schools. I wish to continue writing and documenting the voyage in hopes of inspiring others to live out their passions, face fears, discover the unlimited benefits of self-awareness. Let us explore our connection to all of life on Earth," writes Clark. You can keep up with her adventures on Facebook, Instagram and her blog.