Ten Tuamotus Days – Empowering the sisterhood
By Liz Clark
Last year I got to meet fellow Patagonia ambassadors Kimi Werner and Léa Brassy for the first time. Patagonia kindly arranged for all of us to meet upon the waters of some remote atolls in French Polynesia that have come to be my beloved backyard and playground. From all that I knew about them, I expected we’d have an enjoyable time but I never imagined that we would connect in such a way that, by the end of our time together, it felt like I had gained two sisters.
All three of us enjoy very similar things—wilderness, wildlife, waves, conscious eating, etc.—but I feel like it was our open minds and hearts that made this time together so genuine and so special. Whether we were diving, sharing waves, giggling under the stars at night, wandering on the motu looking for coconuts or just watching the seabirds circle and dive, it was like they saw exactly what I saw: divinity, freedom, peace, respect. Being with Kimi and Léa in nature felt like being completely understood.
Above: the four-video series documenting Liz, Léa and Kimi’s time together in French Polynesia. Videos: Patagonia
Kimi shines in and out of the water, but being underwater with her was like swimming with a real mermaid. She’s completely in her element down there. Kimi dives with a beautiful combination of feminine power, humility and wisdom. She’s excited but calm, confident but cautious, and so very present and aware of everything that’s going on around her. She doesn’t try to control what happens. She lets go and stays open to whatever comes, something that I have had to learn as a sailor. She honors the process of fishing from start to finish, everything from prepping her equipment to cleaning her catch. You can tell she sees the whole as a sum of each part, none more important than another and all sacred.
Kimi explores the reefs of French Polynesia. Photo: Jody MacDonald
One of the most beautiful dynamics of our time together was how open and excited Kimi was about teaching Léa to spearfish. Léa is a powerful lioness. She’s fearless and has the kind of drive and fortitude that makes her successful at anything she wants to do. She’s a natural athlete and powerful waterwoman. Instead of seeing Léa as a threat or taking up her time, Kimi embraced Léa’s desire to learn completely and wholeheartedly.
So often our society trains women to compete rather than cooperate and we end up losing out on so much. When we come together and help each other to be our best, it opens up channels of new power within us and enriches our lives beyond measure! Their relationship was a beautiful example of this. Léa’s respect for Kimi, and the patience and joy with which Kimi imparted her wisdom and passion to Léa, were absolutely inspiring to witness. Under such loving and gracious tutelage, Léa excelled quickly and brought back some gorgeous fish.
@simplevoyage earned the very unofficial nickname of underwater Rambo on this trip. She was the Luke to @kimi_swimmy 's Obiwan. It was cool to watch sensei and student go out everyday. all the girls on this trip were amazing, truly one of a kind each and every one. Totally inspiring. As a dude you have to check any and all ego at the door because these girls can destroy most guys in all around water knowledge. 100% independent badass women. It is a pleasure and an honor to have them represent us. #tentuamotusdays @patagonia
Léa stayed aboard Swell longer than Kimi and we sailed together for a few more wonder-filled weeks. She was so helpful as crew. She wanted to learn everything, carry the heavy loads and experience the dirty work. The way that she looked out at the open horizon or the empty lineups, it was like she understood exactly why I do what I do. We felt so free.
In those wild corners of the Pacific, with no one around, we could howl at the moon, wear any sort of odd ensemble and go a week without brushing our hair. We made no plans. We just flowed with the weather and swell, enjoying series of magical experiences together: bathing in turquoise sea rivers, cooking over a fire on an empty beach under a zillion stars, underwater backflips with mantas, morning yoga, flawless surf, holding hands while swimming with humpback whales.
At one point we got into some pretty messy seas on a passage. We were both wind-chapped, salty and seasick, but loving it! I never thought someone so seasick could be so happy. Even if it meant nausea, sleeping in the rain, exhaustion or uncertainty, the freedom and the adventure was worth it and Léa was game for it all.
There’s something about having these kinds of adventures with girlfriends that’s so empowering and nurturing. My time spent with Kimi and Léa really helped validate who I am and where I’m headed right now. Every moment we shared was positive, authentic and encouraging. We cooperated with one another, learned together and supported each other. Our hope is that this journey will inspire other women to come together in similar ways. The steps we take toward chasing our dreams are steps taken not only for ourselves, but for the rise of the collective Sisterhood too. So, go sisters, go! Break the mold, follow your heart and be who you truly want to be.
After college, Liz Clark departed Southern California in her 40-foot sailboat, Swell, enchanted by foreign waves and cultures. Nine years and 20,000 nautical miles later, Swell is still her floating home and transportation. When she’s not surfing perfect reef passes in the South Pacific, she’s working to raise environmental awareness through writing and photography. Look for Liz’s book, published by Patagonia, about her journey aboard Swell, coming in 2016. More at swellvoyage.com and @captainlizclark.