Saltwater in the Blood: Surfing, Natural Cycles and the Sea's Power to Heal
Guest Blog kindly presented by Petra Kerkhove
Saltwater in the Blood
When this book was mentioned to me, I was unaware there was a surfing scene in Ireland. I am not someone who ventures into the sea often, and in all fairness, I have difficulty dipping my toes in the sea even on the hottest of days. The water feels always cold to me. But the sea is right outside the door, the air briny, especially at high tide, and I am fascinated by this largely unexplored ecosystem. I was intrigued by the book, but afraid that I might not be able to relate to Easkey and her experience of the sea, seeing she is spending so much time in, on, and around water.
How wrong was I…
Growing up in Donegal, the sea has always played a big role in her life, and coming from a family of surfers, it was only natural she was drawn to it. Her grandmother was a hotel owner in Rossnowlagh who brought, in the 1960s, surfboards back from California for her hotel guests to use. However, her sons started using the boards instead. And that is how her family’s love with surfing started.
Easkey was taught surfing when she was 4 years old. She eventually started competing all over the world and won several awards, being now one of the most influential female surfers in the world. She also uses her expertise to explore ways to educate and make a difference where it matters most. She introduced surfing to women in Iran in 2013 and enabled the women there to create a bond with the sea. She went to Papua New Guinea and helped promoting gender equality in surfing. She is an ambassador for Finisterre, and amongst other projects, she helps on the Seasuit project, designing comfortable wetsuits that cover the full body. This a great option for women who for religious or other reasons are not be able to wear traditional wetsuits.
The book has 6 main chapters which are divided in several smaller sub-chapters, and in the introduction to the book the overarching theme of the book quickly becomes clear:
The sea connects us all.
In the first chapter, through concise paragraphs which almost read like separate anecdotes, Easkey introduces us to her life: where she grew up, what her connection with the sea is, and you get a good sense that the sea isn’t ‘just’ some water to her. It is in her, it is her.
She mentions several childhood memories. She tells of her time spent in the rockpools, catching big waves, submerging herself in secluded pools, but all have one thing in common: they bring her back to the important aspects of her life, how to get back in touch with herself and her place in the world.
In further chapters, she describes her travels to Iran, and Papua New Guinea, and about returning back home after being on the road for so long. She mentions all the wonderful people she meets and who have a major influence in her life. She also describes how important her art, her painting, is to her.
In later chapters she talks about the state of the sea: how we have lost the connection, and how this is leading to a disregard and deterioration of the ocean’s health due to pollution.
In the last chapter called ‘Home’, she describes what home means to her, and it brings us essentially back to where the book started. Home is the sea.
It is so easy to fall in love with this book.
As someone not so apt at expressing herself on paper, I marvel at how much of a connection Easkey makes with her audience.
She addresses important issues and gives us sobering facts on the state of the ocean. She highlights the important role it plays in providing oxygen to the planet, and how much damage is being done by pollution. It is easy to pick out the negative undertone in these chapters, yet I feel that the book in essence is uplifting and positive. Regardless of the big picture, what we can do to make a difference to ourselves, and the planet, is to interact, acknowledge and educate ourselves about the sea. We need to play, get in touch, be in awe. It will benefit us, and in return, it will benefit the planet. Or as Easkey says it best herself:
“I felt it was time to create a new connection between my body, brain and heart, one that embraced the entanglement of body, mind and nature, recognizing the flows between and through my body-environment; to pay more attention to the mirroring of my outer and inner worlds, to my body’s response to the natural, living world and its response to me.”
This book is a must-read for everyone. Not just people living next to the sea, or surfers, or environmentalists. It is a beautifully written, deeply personal book, yet universally relatable.
Suppose I will gear myself up for a dip at Blackrock after all.
 All illustrations ©Easkey Britton
 Finisterre designs functional and sustainable apparel for sea lovers
 Saltwater in the Blood, p122
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