Water People That We Love! - Emily
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your relationship with the ocean?
Growing up between Cornwall and the Middle-East, the ocean has been a backdrop of most of my life. The Cornish coastline is rugged and raw and the place of cherished memories rock-hopping with my grandad, fishing, swimming and sailing. Moving to the middle-east when I was 10, I found a distinct sense of home by the ocean. Working at the first surf and SUP school in the UAE from the age of 13, my teenage years revolved around the water and the community it harboured in that pocket of the world. I think once the ocean becomes a consistent part of your life it's almost impossible to live without it. It's this intrinsic thing that connects you to yourself and other people and mother earth. It's a place to play, but also a place that can bring you back to life's realities. It's also how I've connected with the vast majority of my tribe - so I have a lot of gratitude for the ocean's place in my life.
What was your first experience with the ocean? Was there a particular moment in time?
Honestly I can't remember. Both my grandad and my dad sail, and the women in my family are proper Cornish lasses, so my earliest memories of it are south coast beaches, wooden dinghies, rockpools, cornish icecreams and being rolled in the white water with armbands on.
Tell us, what does sustainability mean to you?
To me, sustainability is kind of a pledge to mother nature. It is a means of how we operate in the world with as little detriment to the environment as possible; how we can work with it and eventually give back to it.
Getting into the ocean/sustainability can be overwhelming to say the least. What tips have you got for others?
In terms of 'getting into' the ocean the only real advice I have is to go and play. Of course, you need to respect the ocean and never underestimate it's power, but do just go and spend time in it. Body surf, swim, surf, dive, do whatever it is you want - I find sunrise swims or surfs are pretty awesome for the soul - but don't take yourself too seriously. Oh, and run a yarn with the people around you. Sustainability-wise, make conscious decisions. My first real taste of true sustainability was working on regenerative and biodynamic farms / properties in Australia. All of a sudden I was hyper-aware of where my food, water and power were all coming from; where my waste was going. Just increasing your awareness can help you make more sustainable life choices.
Every water/sustainable person has a journey that isn’t complete without it’s share of challenges and obstacles, were there any that you wanted to share with us?
Challenges and obstacles.... opportunities for growth? Ahaha sometimes. I would say learning to surf was actually a pretty big challenge for me, and now pushing myself to improve - it's almost an ego thing, I get embarrassed because I only ever see room for improvement with my surfing. So thats a constant call for growth which is challenging but rewarding each time I overcome it. I also live in my van, and consistently have a low income. This is a challenge that I adore when I pull it off, but the stress of having a couple of digits in the bank and rego due, or when something blows up with the van can be difficult to overcome at times. I've had to work some pretty random jobs, dumpster dive and sell a lot of my belongings along the road.
What were the unexpected rewards or highlights?
Survival ahaha, meeting some of the most beautiful souls, finding myself in places I never would have expected. When I was driving down the east coast of Aus in 2019 I had to sell my board and a whole load of clothes to pay for my rego. I rolled up to Angourie and the back beach was perfect - 2-3ft A-frames breaking cleanly the whole stretch of the beach - and this older man came up to the van and asked me where my board was. I explained my situation and he came back 10 minutes later with a board and piece of paper with his number on it , telling me the board was mine until I leave and to give him a call when I was ready to keep travelling south. Re-instilled faith in humanity is definitely a great highlight.
Surfing can be unpredictable and lead to moments of self-doubt. Is this a part of your story? And if so, what does this look like for you? How do you overcome it?
Ahh, life throws an array of challenges in both my relationship with surfing and working in regeneration/sustainable practices that fuel the self-doubt train. I already mentioned the ego in surfing and pushing through that in sessions when you fully kook it, but I think one of the biggest challenges that leads to self-doubt in regards to sustainable living is the magnitude of the environmental crisis. When I started working in biodynamics and regenerative ag it was crippling to become aware of just how wasteful and ignorant much of the population are. Particularly people of power who are capable of creating change. When I started studying conservation and land management I became painfully aware of how little influence, at least in Australia, environmental groups really have in terms of industrial development. It has been and continues to be a constant battle between big business and the environmentally conscious. So it's easy to become doubtful of the change you are trying to achieve. In times of doubt like that I remind myself that we're part of ground-roots movement, and the power of community and small-scale projects can be something to behold. I am also fortunate to be surrounded by inspiring creatives like you guys with Eco Hair Ties, a girlfriend in the UK who makes sustainable wetsuits, friends in the UAE who make bikinis out of recycled fishing nets, crew who have transformed properties and regenerated the most degraded land. And being surrounded by this energy definitely helps to overcome times of doubt.
By contrast, what are dreams and goals for starting your journey with surfing– how do you hope the world or yourself benefits from it?
In terms of surfing, this is a super personal endeavour. I never really actively started my journey with surfing with goals or dreams, I kind of fell into it and out of it then back into it again. It's been a fall-back since my early teenage years but only in the last year or so have I really had the opportunity to pour a lot of energy into improving. I would love to overcome my fear of bigger waves, and that's definitely a self-confidence, capacity sort of thing. My journey with sustainability... I really hope that I can inspire people to connect with the earth and live more sustainable lives. I think that in the age we're living in we don't really have much of a choice here, and the longer we make unsustainable choices the more drastically we will have to adapt our lives to cope with the consequences of those choices. I'm still in the process of working out how to best achieve that. Connecting myself with the environment by surfing and learning more about regen, making more conscious decisions and having these kind of conversations with people is where I'm currently at.
What are the key relationships in your life that have been fundamental to your journey?
Honestly, there are too many to list, I'm constantly being inspired, challenged, taught and supported by so many incredible people. Currently I am surrounded by some hell-cat females who share a connection with ocean alongside a vast array of creative capacities - they are definitely fundamental to my entire being. The Surf Dubai family - my bosses, colleagues and the surf community in the UAE - all of whom have been pretty key figures - really showed me the value of playing in the ocean and teaching people how to surf. The farmers, activists and tree growers I have met since being in Australia who introduced me to, and showed me the power of regenerative and biodynamic practices. A dear friend, surfboard shaper and big wave surfer who constantly challenges my perception of fear and pushes me to explore my creative capacities. Mum and dad, who listen to my ramblings about the state of the world and support me in my life choices to galavant around it. The list goes on and on so I'll probably stop there.
Our ethos at Eco Hair Ties is encouraging balance. How do you incorporate balance into your life?
Surfing really balances out my life. When I work I work super hard, and usually burn the candle at both ends. I'm also a pretty social being so surfing is a really beautiful way to disconnect from the frantic energy of the social and working realm. Practicing yoga, hiking and journalling also help me invite balance into my life - staying connected with myself and the natural world I guess.
What advice would you give someone wanting to start their own thing?
I guess it's different for everyone and totally depends on the thing they're starting but generally I would say start small, stay true to your values and try to establish some community around your 'thing'. The most valuable of ventures are those that go beyond the 'product' and act as a positive force among those involved.