Linzi works alongside Easkey Britton & Carolina Pereira to co-host Wavemakers - where social innovation & creativity meet the sea. Wavemakers is a global gathering of 16 leaders, founders, and Wavemakers from around the world. Using surfing as an immersive and experiential journey, the annual retreat is hosted in the World Surfing Reserve in Ericeira, Portugal and combines nature connection, impact driven work & social good to redefine what it means to be a leader.
Where social innovation and creativity meet the sea
Surfing doesn’t just happen when you’re in the water. Lessons I’ve learned surfing are massively applicable to the way we move through our day. As a life metaphor, understanding and trusting in the power of the process is so important. Surfer and environmental activist Leah Dawson describes this process as, ‘the ability for humans to feel and create anew, with incredible pleasure and a deep connection to something else than only ourselves.’ Wave-riding and what that really means is to be fully present to whatever unfolds.
But is it ok to not know where we are going in this competitive, outcomes-oriented world? What happens when instead of focusing on the outcome we are guided by our purpose? What happens when we create a space that allows us to fully be who we are without an agenda (or at least leaving it to one side), able to let go of our assumptions and be open to the unexpected?
There is a growing trend in experiential, nature-based learning and the power of nature as an embodied learning experience for leaders is also being recognized. The Wavemaker Collective, established by myself and two fellow ‘wavemakers’ Linzi Hawkin and Carolina Pereira, runs a social impact focused leadership retreat every May in Portugal, recognising the benefits of being immersed in nature, especially the sea, can have on our creative thinking. We love to explore how we might build a global community of exceptional, passionate wave-makers who inspire and empower each other to create a more beautiful world.
We’re really curious about what it takes to make waves, what it means to be a good leader and how to do good better. One of the very first exercises we do is a ‘2 minute beach clean’, followed by what we call ‘wave play’. Basically getting everyone (a complete mix of abilities and backgrounds) into the shore-break to bodysurf. Bodysurfing means to ride, glide or float on the crest of incoming waves without using a board.
For me, the ocean is my playground. When I want to shift my perspective or when I’m struggling with a creative block, I jump into the sea. Bodysurfing or ‘wave play’ allows me to be without any agenda. I surrender myself to the power of the waves, feeling the energy of something far more powerful lift and move my body. It’s a bodily way of learning and knowing. I learn to embody the meaning of resistance, letting go and flow. As a shared experience in a group setting, it’s a complete leveller. Everyone’s guard drops and egos are left on the shore. It’s a powerful way to connect, build trust and immediately embody the concept of flow and the power of failing fast, as well as the value of play for out-of-the-box thinking. And, simply put, it’s FUN!
I now look, listen and feel the salt water in a different light. Occasionally taste and smell too! All my senses are heightened by the power and serenity that the ocean offers humanity. It’s a metaphor for life and connecting this to social change initiatives created by energetic and enthusiastic people inspired me to learn and contribute. - Martin McGeough, Founder & Director of Firefly and Wavemaker participant, 2016 & 2018.
As much of the learning space as possible is outdoors. With a strong emphasis on learning from nature, be that how to shift perspective and gain new insights on a particular work-related problem or project challenge or build inner resilience through mindfulness-based practices for when we meet those challenges.
WHY WATER & THE SEA ?
In the words of Sylvia Earle, “Everyone, everywhere is inextricably connected to and utterly dependent upon the existence of the sea” (In ‘The World is Blue’, 2010). And yet, our fundamental connection with water is often overlooked. This might explain why our relationship with water is often broken, why the world’s oceans and waterways are more degraded than any other ecosystem.
While we live in an increasingly urbanised world, we must not forget that we live and share space on the blue planet, with three-quarters of its surface covered by water. The majority of the world’s populations live on or near coastal areas and waterways. During the Wavemaker retreat, we seek to highlight the interconnections between healthy blue space, especially our ocean, and healthy people and communities.
In a world where we are expected to be always on, where growing stress and anxiety are linked to the fact that we’ve become disconnected, being immersed in nature and the sea can help us be fully present in an effortless way, and to be more in sync with our environment. For example, ‘Wave Play’ is not only a powerful life-metaphor, but an embodied learning experience that helps bring abstract leadership lessons to life. The sea is unpredictable, we have to leave our need to control behind and be open to the unexpected; it demands our total awareness and presence to the moment, along with a willingness to let go, flex and adapt, and exposes us to a force far greater than ourselves. Engaging with an ever-changing environment like the sea also helps us move from an analytical to intuitive mindset, feeling the water or the wave through all the senses. It’s dynamic so you’re always learning. Different coasts, winds, currents, tides, seasons mean you are constantly adapting, which has considerable health benefits for both body and mind. It’s also about learning to break patterns of resistance; why being exposed to an environment we can’t control, like the sea, matters. It forces us to allow the experience to happen, to feel the fullness of that moment without trying to control or pass judgement.
What if we could train our intuition? What if we could train ourselves to be more in sync? It’s not something that just happens, I believe if we apply greater conscious awareness it’s something we can tap into at will. Wavemakers is an immersive experience that can bring profound shifts in the way we think, listen, feel and create in our life and work.
Small is the new big. The retreat is an intimate gathering of 16 leaders, founders, wave-makers and seekers from around the world. Using the sea as an immersive and experiential journey, we explore how to make waves of change. A tailored, small-group experience, designed to stimulate and focus passion, increase a sense of presence, resilience and connection, and an ability to trust in the process. It provides access to a way of being in flow and acts as facilitator for each person to explore their own process of empowerment. We spend 5 days and 4 nights by the sea with a diverse mix of individuals from business, public and social worlds who share our values for social good. Like-minded change-makers, with common threads but different ideas. Similar values but diverse experiences. Through the practice of experiential learning (where the sea and surf becomes our teacher and playground), we dive deep on the issues that matter most to us, challenge the way we think, uncover where we meet resistance and find flow in how we live and lead.
There are no lectures, no pitching, no distractions. Instead, it’s a unique opportunity to explore, share, create, collaborate in a playful environment. A process that creates the space & energy to dive deep on doing good better. Through peer-driven co-learning, creative open space sessions and inspiring conversations we share the positive impact of leaning into what we love in order to help others. We explore what happens when we think and act with open minds and hearts and what it takes to create a future where “social good” isn’t just an add-on. The incredible energy of positivity is balanced with deep critical thought, challenging assumptions and questioning our own narratives. What skateboarder, academic and peace-worker Sophie Friedel describes in her book, The Art of Living Sideways, as the ‘courage to engage.’
As with surfing, with a greater sense of self-awareness we are able to open our senses to our environment and our capacity to better connect with each other across so-called boundaries. A critical skill in this age of growing disparity, competition and exclusion. This takes trust — trusting in the process especially when the outcome is unclear. By the transparency of our actions and what motivates them, we give ourselves permission to step out of the comfort zone. Initiating this process, like the act of catching a wave, is a point of no return, there is no going back and no knowing for certain how the ride will end. Like riding a wave, it’s the ability to be detached from the outcome yet still single-mindedly focused on what needs to be done.
What wave will you choose to ride?
WRITTEN BY EASKEY BRITTON
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN ISSUE 05 OF OCEANOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE