WOMAN ALMIGHTY SEVEN: LAUREN HILL
I'm so inspired by those who have a deep connection and unity with the sea. The ocean is so beautiful, so incredibly powerful and commanding, these people who dance with her undulations and emanations are the alchemists of the sea.
Lauren Lindsey Hill is one of these special people, who have just enough vulnerability, whilst simultaneously possessing so much strength. I'm inspired by the free-surfers of this world, who are just that...free
Lauren is one of these magicians.
Lauren is a woman after my own heart, she is in unity with the ocean as a free-surfer, an activist, a word alchemist, a feminist. Some of the more valued -ists out there.
She isn't restrained by the theoretical constraints of the primarily patriarchal world she inhabits. Rather, she is alchemising a voice and platform out of her own experience as a talented, intelligent, open-hearted, commanding and beautiful woman in a male dominated world. Every thing she seems to do is effortless and so eloquently put, her Instagram is dotted with cosmic wonder, organic gardening, universal consciousness, animal activism and female collective consciousness, which perhaps (for me at least) is a recipe for pure harmony. She is placing emphasis on valuing the feminine, bringing that divine energy into balance and highlighting that being a feminist permits us to see the world in a way where this sacred energy is honoured and valued by ourselves first and foremost, and of course, men.
Whilst I haven't had the immense pleasure to bask in the glow of this wonder woman in person, I felt a resonance when we first began our communication and knew her voice was that of an Alchemist, a strong and complex woman, through and through. Our meet up fell through when I was in Byron this past January, where time seems to flow like the tides, and you lose it in an instant. But just like the tides return to those sandy shores, I will too and I trust we'll connect soon.
For now, bask in Lauren Hills wondrous, insightful words.
Ondine: What do you call yourself?
Lauren: Depends on the day! Today: surfer/writer
O: Zodiac Sign?
O: Would you describe yourself as a classic Libra?
L: I definitely love finding balance.
O: How do you define Alchemy?
L: Alchemy is a combustion of seemingly ordinary substances that coalesce into something magical.
O: What do you do and why do you do it?
L: I’m a surfer and writer. I started surfing when I was 13 -- I had lots of guy friends who surfed and after an especially vivid dream about surfing, I knew that I had to try. I started competing within 6 months of learning to surf, and went on to a pretty successful competitive surfing career.
I gave up professional surfing to go to university. It was a difficult choice at the time, as travel was a very tempting option straight out of high school. But the reality of professional women’s longboarding is that there’s not a whole lot of money in it. It’s a stretch to make a living wage at the bottom of the surfing totem pole. Mostly though, I chose school because I love learning and living in a learning community. I’m so grateful for my time at Stetson University, because it gave me a whole wealth of theoretical understandings of the world that I probably wouldn’t have ever gotten just by travelling. Travel and formal education compliment each other pretty nicely.
O: Where did The Sea Kin come from?
L: The Sea Kin’s first incarnation was as ‘Mersea Beaucoup’, a blog that I started straight out of university when I couldn’t get a job amidst the global financial crisis. Since I couldn’t fulfill the role that society expected of me post-university (get job, climb work ladder, get mortgage…etc) I decided to just do what I really wanted to be doing anyway: surfing.
So I started writing about my passions for surfing and environmental science and vowed to surf every single day during that experiment. I ended up getting a number of writing gigs and new surfing sponsors because I was putting what I loved and cared about into the world.
Anyway, Sea Kin is the product of many experiments in doing what I love. It’s a place to share stories about the ocean from different perspectives than what I tend to see in most surfing media. Sea Kin is about creating culture for ourselves.
O: I've been incredibly inspired about this idea of a 21st century Alchemist, someone who is creating change in the world and alchemising their own lives. Was there a specific moment when you knew you had to be an Alchemist in your world?
L: I’m not sure that there was a single defining moment, there have been many, but initially it was like life presented me with this blank slate of time while I was working menial jobs to pay off my student loans. I had to really consider what I REALLY wanted to be doing with my life, what I was passionate about, what made my heart sing.
There weren’t any ads seeking a surfer/writer to come and fill a desk job position, there wasn’t a template for how to make that into a career, so I had to blend my passions, limited resources and time and alchemize them into something that suited the way that I wanted to be engaging with the world: spending lots of time in the ocean, asking big questions and writing about surf culture, feminism, environmental issues, and traveling, too. So I just started working hard and surfing as much as possible.
O: A lot of people freak out about this idea of change, but as alchemists, we have to embrace it. How has change played a role in your life and your work?
L: Dealing with change is purely attitudinal. Change is an inevitable part of living within a living, breathing ecosystem. Sometimes its scary --- really scary --- but how boring would life be if everything were the same, day after day? I guess that’s kind of what industrial mechanized cultures are moving toward; eliminating the lively, spontaneous, unpredictable variables. Like in cities, the streets are paved, the buildings are sealed from the external environment and artificially homogenized, so people can go in day after day and clock in their 9-5 and repeat that same schedule for most of their lives, despite what’s happening all around and within them. Because I know that’s not for me, I have to accept that the alternative is embracing the idea of change. Sometimes that means less money, sometimes that means less surf. But it’s always worth it.
O: My mother grew up in Hawaii and moved to Sydney's Northern Beaches in the late 70's. Although I'm no surfer, the ocean has played an integral part in my life and how I've grown up, I can't imagine a time when I didn't hear the waves lapping at the shore. I'm always so interested how people gravitate towards the purifying and vital ocean. What role has the sea played in your life?
L: The ocean, and surfing in particular, has led me to almost every single amazing thing that has happened in my life. It’s been my playground, solace, psychologist, and greatest teacher. It’s led me to love and education, to travel and a career.
O: I call the women I see who are strong, capable, complex and epitomise all aspects of a woman, Girl Almighty's. When have you felt most like a Girl Almighty?
L: There’s actually a specific moment that this happens for me: when I’m paddling. To feel the complex interaction and integration of bones, muscles, and tendons propelling me through the water as I sweep one hand after another into the ocean is a pretty empowering feeling. In those moments of mindful recognition of the simple magic of paddling I feel totally connected to my body and to the world around me.
O: When did you first become aware of inequality towards women? For me, I played the drums and at the time I experienced a level of inequality from boys. It was just assumed I was incapable of drumming for the mere fact that I was born female. That was pretty trippy for me as a little kid who felt extremely capable and competent. I can imagine that women in the surf industry experience a magnified version of this - as I fortunately wasn't treated as a sex object.
L: I grew up amongst a crew of surfing boys. I grew up with the ideas that girls are catty, competitive, petty, vain, unpredictable, bad friends, etc. Conversely, boys were meant to be logical, fun, care free, physical, smarter and definitely better surfers.
I’m not even sure that those ideas came from the boys that I hung out with, but just from the culture around me in general. Surf culture had a very clear message about the value of women: it had everything to do with how we look, not what we’re thinking or doing in the world. More specifically, women were depicted as objects for the male gaze; sexy accouterments to male rip-shredding in surf magazines. Who would want to align with girlhood when it’s culturally defined in such negative terms?! So I kind of just considered myself one of the boys.
That is, until the sexualization started getting projected onto me. I remember being at this surf event in Florida, I was walking around this big room, an awkward 14 year old with braces, just a full on surf rat, and this guy says to me “hey -- Nice nipples.” It was cold, so I guess my nipples were hard. I was so mortified. I don’t think I’d even said the word ‘nipple’ at that point. Way too embarrassing. I kind of remember feeling, in that moment, that I wasn’t actually just one of the boys. I was different, and not in a good way. There was a predatory edge that I started becoming aware of …. Nothing overtly aggressive, just kind of subtle things – like old guys checking out my bum as I paddled by, or making remarks about my breasts. That made me feel embarassed.
But at the same time, I was surfing all the time, competing and winning lots of surf comps and I was really proud of what my body could do, so it didn’t get to me too much.
I feel like I was well on my way to being socialized as a female chauvinist, like so many women are, because that’s what our culture encourages us to be. We’re told lies about what it means to be a girl and what it means to be a woman. We’re pitted against one another and taught to compete instead of supporting one another. We’re told that our bodies need to be cleaned up, altered, reduced in size. So we turn our backs on so many of the magical parts of womanhood, because we believe the lies.
But I had this super progressive friend, Holly Fee. She was one of my soul mates, for sure. We’d have conversations about feminism and she helped me see the patterns of inequality and discrimination woven into everyday life. We protested the Iraq war with this great local organization, People for Peace and Justice. It felt so empowering to have an outlet to voice concern about what was happening in the world.
I followed this path into university, took lots of gender studies classes, got involved in activist groups there….so I couldn’t ignore the vast inequalities I was learning about. I still can’t.
O: When I discovered your amazing work and awareness you're generating about prevalent issues surrounding women, I felt a great connection to you as we both share a passion for women and Mother Earth. Where did your desire to look after the oceans and the earth come from?
L: From surfing. It’s quite selfish, really. I love surfing and I love the ocean, so of course I want to help protect the place that brings me the most joy (not to mention the fact that the oceans produce 50% of the oxygen we breath).
It’s easy to talk about how much we love surfing and love the beach, but love is a verb that necessitates action.
O: Who is your Girl Almighty? Living or otherwise?
L: Gloria Steinem. Oprah. Helena Norberg-Hodge. Linda Murphree.
O: I just described, on one hand, people inadvertently honouring the power of the waves and then on the other hand, humanity continues to pillage the ocean, polluting, killing and destroying the life force contained within it. This infuriates me (a long with Genetically Modified Food, Factory Farming, Inequality for Women, should I go on?) What makes your blood boil?
L: I’m with you – all of those things are infuriating.
We live in a culture that values the dominating, aggressive, hyper-masculine above all. And so we’ve come to value systems that reinforce these ideals: we dominate each other (in warfare, in gender-based violence, in racism, in economics) and we dominate nature (GMOs, factory farming, destroying the Great Barrier Reef to export coal, e-waste). And a clear hierarchy emerges that places man on top of everything. More specifically, often white men.
I don’t know how to undo the last hundreds of years that have led to this crazy global culture of domination, but it feels like starting with my self, even with my own body, is the logical beginning point and working out from there. Asking questions like ‘in what ways have I been dominated?’ or ‘In what ways do I perpetuate systems of domination on others? And how can I be more compassionate?’
Our great feminist foremothers taught us that the personal is political, and that the best place to begin healing is within our own intimate circles. And then keep rippling out from there!
Then there are the institutions and global corporations, which are more difficult to change --- but worth our effort. Since we’re defined as ‘consumers’ and not as ‘citizens’ anymore, then voting with our dollar becomes imperative. Where you spend your money is a vote of confidence. Getting involved in the political process and collaborating with like-minded folks to change legislation and create new systems that are more inclusive are also vital tasks.
I guess the key is finding where your passion is, and letting it lead you so whatever you’re involved in is personally fulfilling. That’s crucial.
O: Regardless of the travesties that exist on the planet, my perception is that Alchemists need to herald compassion, love and actively be the change they wish to see in the world. Anger and resentment won't get us or our voices very far. To me, when we are compassionate there is a space for the world to wake up. What are your thoughts on the importance of compassion?
L: I agree, compassion is crucial. I get the feeling that we’re probably not going to treat strangers, other species, etc. any better than we treat both ourselves and our loved ones.
It seems like, in order to heal the many desperate social and environmental issues, we’ve got to develop the qualities personally in order to apply them politically. For example, how can we expect to have equality in the world when 1 in 4 women are still physically or sexually abused? Equality starts in the home, in each and every relationship we have, and ripples outward. So, we have the opportunity to create more equality in every single relationship we have, where we get to be both teacher and student.
O: What are you most passionate about?
L: Making a beautiful life that doesn’t take living for granted. And creating alternatives to the social and environmental pollution our species has created.
O: What excites you and makes you happiest about tomorrow?
L: That we live on a planet where every day is different; that we get to evolve and learn and play and explore. The ocean is the ultimate expression of that; every day the elements are interacting in different ways, so it’s endlessly fascinating.
O: I love women. They inspire me daily, which is why this segment of my blog exists, as I love the wisdom each woman can impart on the world. What quality do you most admire in a woman?
L: I really admire women who know what their gifts are, and they’re busy giving them to the world. Especially women who can toe the line between living in a competitive, aggressive and masculine world, and still maintaining a sense of softness, cooperation and the ability to listen. I guess it comes down to that Libran pursuit of balance between masculine and feminine internally.
O: Similarly, what quality do you most admire in a man?
L: It’s the same, really.
O: To finish, if you had a moment when the whole world was listening to you- what would you say?
L: I’d introduce the world to Helena Norberg-Hodge, and let her explain the concept of Localization and how it presents some of our greatest solutions for social, economic and environmental repair.