“I’m just looking forward to the first fight,” says Liz Clark as she sits diagonally across from fellow UCSB graduates Shannon Switzer and Mark Schumacher on her 40-foot vessel, dubbed the Swell.
“Mark will throw me overboard,” she jokes.
As the three finish loading up their seaworthy home, docked at the San Diego Yacht Club, Schumacher laments their cooking situation.
“I just found out there’s not a microwave,” he says, making it his only complaint, as he is about to set sail on a journey down to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico in search of surf and relaxation.
While Schumacher plans to head back to the states after reaching Cabo and Switzer will stay on for a few more legs of the journey, Clark will continue traveling around the globe – almost exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere – for the next three to five years.
“I’m 90 percent sure I’m going to pull it off,” Clark says, dangling her legs over the starboard side of the Cal-40. “But 10 percent of me is still scared.”
Taking off from nearby Santa Barbara Airport yesterday at around 10 a.m., John Goerke flies San Diego-bound with business partner Kevin Bourke to join a dozen or so of Clark’s family and friends at her send-off.
Traveling at about 500 feet and 200 miles per hour, Goerke and Bourke – owners of one of Clark’s sponsor companies, Santa Barbara-based Hair Raiser Coffee – start talking about her upcoming journey.
“A lot of people would like to go do what she’s doing. … [Although] you can lose your life [on a trip like this],” Goerke says, referring to bad weather and the threat of pirates. “It’s dangerous stuff.”
Hair Raiser, however, is far from Clark’s only sponsor. The former collegiate women’s national surfing champion has been picked up by companies like Patagonia, Gallaz clothing company, J7 Surfboards and Da Kine.
In addition to the corporate sponsors, on her personal website – www.swellvoyage.com – 25-year-old Clark thanks the support of the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, whose board members include UCSB Professor Emeritus of Environmental Studies Barry Schuyler. Schuyler helped Clark obtain the Swell.
Clark, who graduated in 2003, was herself an environmental studies major. Her background will be reflected in her trip, as the mission statement listed on her website includes a section on promoting “environmental awareness” through both her written accounts of what she observes and through the environmentally friendly lifestyle choices she makes.
Like the mission statement suggests, Goerke says later in the day that Clark is not looking to make a buck on her dream trip around the world. As proof, he points to the humble send-off party at the dock, saying that she could have easily had an entourage of 300 people.
“If she was at all a promoter, there would be people all over,” he says. “It shows you how genuine she is.”
About an hour after the flight began, Goerke’s four-seater Beechcraft Bonanza V-Tail starts its descent towards San Diego International Airport’s lone landing strip. The air-traffic controller advises Goerke to hurry his approach, as a Boeing 757 is only half a mile behind him.
“You can tell it in his voice, ‘get in here quick,'” Bourke says, commenting that the controller sounds worried.
“Yeah,” Goerke replies.
“You’ve got a big plane on your butt,” Bourke copies the controller’s voice.
Russ Clark, Liz Clark’s father, uncoils a rope across the deck of the Swelland preps the vessel for its long journey. A seasoned sailor himself, Russ Clark recounts the story of how his daughter decided years ago that she would set on her current adventure.
“The dream started when she was nine years old,” he says, continuing on to detail how, when in fourth grade, the family took their boat -Endless Summer- on a 5,000 mile, several-month trip along the coast of Mexico.
“By the end of the trip she could navigate, she could stand watch,” he says, continuing to put ropes in their proper place. “She got back and told all her classmates, ‘Some day I’m going to sail around the world.'”
Since then, Liz Clark has continued her education in sailing, including living on and the Endless Summer during her senior year at UCSB and working on another boat post-college.
As for her dream trip, she said she started preparing two years ago, working at Santa Barbara’s Endless Summer Bar-Caf