SWELL by Liz Clark


A Sailing Surfer's Voyage of Awakening
by ; illustrated by photographed by
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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.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-938340-54-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Patagonia
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2018


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