Irish surfer Easkey Britton has something to say about caring about our seas in the Canary Islands and beyond.
"Something that is not loved cannot be cared for." These are the words of Irish surfer and ocean health activist Easkey Britton, co-founder of the NGO Waves of Freedom, which uses the power of surfing as a means for social change, and spearheads the first global Surf for Social Good Summit in Bali (Indonesia). "My activist side is mainly focused on reconnection, on reconnecting people with the ocean, because most people live with the thought that it doesn't exist," Britton explained in a conference as part of the Fixing the Future conference, which took place at the Centro de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) [Contemporary Culture Center of Barcelona]. "Only when you have a deep connection to a place will you feel the responsibility to act: it is precisely the lack of connections between people and nature that is the root cause of the environmental crisis." Global Surf for Social Good Summit in Bali (Indonesia). "My activist side is mostly focused on reconnection, reconnecting people to the ocean.
These are the concepts that summarize, broadly speaking, the philosophy of this tenacious and brave woman, who has traveled half the world by surfing – including the Canary Islands – and is now dedicated to promoting, through activism, the need to protect an environment that has given her so much joy. An environment, the ocean, which nevertheless currently hosts more than 8 million tons of plastic, a figure that, if not reversed, will lead to a scenario that may be irreversible by 2050: the sea will contain the same volume of plastics as it does fish. It was precisely these data, in addition to those related to overfishing and the rapid disappearance of marine species, that led Britton to hunker down to work on the task of educating the population to "recover the spiritual connection with the oceans," something that in places like the Canary Islands, with almost 30,000 km2 of sea compared to 7,000 km2 of land, is especially necessary.
Winner of the Irish National Surfing Championship for five consecutive years, Britton was the first Irish woman to be nominated for the Billabong XXL Awards for being the first to successfully surf Mullaghmore, Ireland's biggest surfing spot with gigantic waves, popular with the pros. Also known for being one of the first women to surf the great Aill na Serrach wave at the Cliffs of Moher in 2007, she has always stood out for her activism in environmental and gender issues, which she has combined with an impeccable sports career at the highest level. She is currently collaborating with SOPHIE (Seas, Ocean & Public Health in Europe), a research program that aims to protect the oceans and enhance their health benefits. "You're not a drop in the ocean, you're the ocean in a drop," Britton points out, referring to "that unparalleled feeling of being isolated, connected to the environment, alive... in short, of feeling like ourselves, which you can only get in the ocean."
"Beyond awareness campaigns and environmental education, spiritual work regarding the ocean is necessary: to stop living with our backs turned to it, and feeling it as something that belongs to us is the only way we will be born to take care of it."
The sister of longboarder Becky-Finn Britton, the surfer is aware of being a woman in a man's world, and always remembers that "the ocean never discriminates, it's people who do." This vocation led her, among other things, to lead a project in Iran in 2010 with director and cameraman Marion Poizeau, Iranian surfer Mona and diver Shalha, to introduce surfing in Iran and denounce the compulsory wearing of the hijab on the beaches. Recalling that experience, Britton states that "the ocean is purity, honesty. It is tough and fierce, yes, but always honest." It is, therefore, feminist, "it never separates us, but quite the opposite: the ocean connects us," Britton concludes.
"Beyond awareness campaigns and environmental education, spiritual work regarding the ocean is necessary: to stop living with our backs turned to it, and feeling it as something that belongs to us is the only way we will be born to take care of it," says the surfer, who invites the population to make small gestures such as "spending a few minutes to remember those feelings we had upon contact with the water: how the sea relaxes us, reduces the heart rate and sends us to a multisensory environment leading us to a connection that goes beyond the physical." In addition, Britton urges users to make small gestures to gradually change their relationship with the oceans. "When we reach the beach, spending just a couple of minutes looking at the clouds and concentrating on the air we breathe, as well as cleaning the sand around us: these are the small details that can change the world."