Easkey Britton

Easkey Britton is the first Irish woman to be nominated for the Global WSL Big Wave Awards. Her parents taught her to surf when she was four years old and her life has revolved around the ocean ever since. A scientist, academic and social activist, with a PhD in Environment and Society, her work is deeply influenced by the ocean and the lessons learned pioneering women’s big-wave surfing in Ireland and the sport of surfing with women in Iran, which led her to be invited to give an inspiring TEDx talk: Just Add Surf. Her latest book, Ebb and Flow: Connect with the Patterns and Power of Water, is an exploration of water’s power to heal us, inspire us and offer us spiritual meaning. This is a feminist reimagining of the meaning of power through the lens of water.

Describe the nature around you at the moment.

The Atlantic tide is ebbing in the bay and the new moon is growing. The sand martins have arrived and have made their nests in small burrows in an eroding sea cliff known as the ‘Blue Bank’. The sky is bright blue but the air still has a chill even though the whitethorn bushes are in full bloom. The sea is calm and has been this way for over a week now. Without the waves to smooth the sand the beach is a pattern of snaking ruts and ridges and the seaweed is piling up in the corner of the shore.

Where do you feel most at ease?

Here, by the sea. Especially this slice of the north Atlantic Ocean in Donegal Bay where I first learned to stand on a surfboard from the age of four. I need to be near water. If I arrive somewhere new I always seek the nearest body of water out. Once I’ve located it I feel I can better orient myself. I feel most at home when I am immersed in saltwater.

What was the inspiration behind your latest book EBB AND FLOW?

Being so steeped in a connection with water my whole life, especially the ocean, I'm always seeking ways to deepen that conversation and understanding of our relationship with water. As well as exploring how psychologically restorative water can be for us, I wanted to look at water as its own entity, its own life force, rather than just turning it into another commodity for our consumption, enjoyment, recreation and health kicks.

The book also has a lot of stories about restoring our relationship with water, and outlines what that could look like so we can put it into practice in everyday life wherever we are. At the end of each chapter there are embodied practices, or invitations, as ways to deepen that connection with water, both individually and collectively.

What lessons from surfing have you learned about nature?

Surfing is an active participation with the more-than-human, living world - the ocean that breathes us all into existence. The sea shapes our experiences and feelings through its own powerful, non-human agency. This shaping effect is what creates a sense of becoming. To surf is at once to be both fully engaged and to let go. We surrender our sense of groundedness and solidness to floating free and being at the mercy of untamable, changeable currents, flows and more-than-human environments.

What rituals do you practice to keep you grounded and connected to the outer world?

My go-to is to remind myself to connect with my breath. It’s such a powerful yet simple way to connect with the ocean, wherever you are. Every second breath we take comes from the ocean, from oxygen released by microscopic plants called phytoplankton. We are always connected to the ocean through our breath, which mirrors the ebb and flow of the tide, and calms our nervous system. Being still by myself sometimes feels difficult but I always find it easier by water.

One of my favourite ways to honour my ebb – at times when I feel the pull to go inward, to be alone, when I just want to feel like I am able to land fully in my own body but can’t quite figure out how to get there – I practice my “sit spot”. I go to my nearest body of water and take 5-10 minutes to just sit and be still without focusing on anything at all, letting any thoughts or feelings that arise wash over you like a breaking wave and tune into all of my senses while observing the water.

Which song, book or poem inspired your relationship with water or nature?

Pablo Neruda’s poetry collection ‘On the blue shores of silence’, and Rachel Carson’s ‘The Sea Around Us.’

What kind of ancestor would you like to be?

A heart-led mother and ocean lover who practiced a state of interbeing

What does regenerative leadership mean to you? ( Question from #TheNatureKind interview with Galahad Clark)

For me, regenerative leadership means cultivating relationships of reciprocity with the living, breathing, more-than-human world, moving like water - cyclically, honouring our inner ebb and flow.

What question would you like to ask to the next person on #TNK?

How well do you know your water - can you name your nearest body of water and how well it’s doing?

And could you suggest someone else or other organisations you admire that we could approach for #TheNatureKind?

The incredible team behind Sea Sisters Sri Lanka, transforming the sea into an inclusive, healing and empowering space - seasisterslk.com

Find out more about Easkey Britton: @easkeysurf and www.easkeybritton.com

Find out more about her latest book 'Ebb and Flow: Connect with the Patterns and Power of Water' here.

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