Berry Liberman on Lauren Hill
Some people you can know for a lifetime and they have little impact, others enter it for a moment and the lessons come thick and fast.
Within the first hour of meeting Lauren Hill, I was deeply moved by her ideas around meaningful play, leaning into depth when faced with challenges (“surface chop” in surfing parlance) and spaciousness as a quality for living. These ideas are not merely a philosophical approach, but a lived experience. Her views on spaciousness in particular opened up my mind to a way of being in the world that isn’t pursued by agendas, lists, dos and don’ts.
Spaciousness invites breath and movement, presence of body and mind, connection to oneself and others. It also invites silence—the good kind. The kind that echoes through your bones, brings perspective and clarity, and makes you grateful for the day.
Lauren is, among many things, a feminist surfer. Despite embodying the ideal surfer girl image, her passion is to highlight the authentic stories told outside of the narrow, hyper-sexualised and competitive realm of women’s surfing. Unable to ignore the environmental degradation her beloved sport imposes on the coastline, nor the sexism defining her place in it, Lauren brings a fierce intellect to a felt experience. She has been compelled to use her platform to change the status quo, and sees her role as pushing the boundaries of what is revered, what is sacred and what it is to surf.
Raised in Florida by a single mother, Lauren’s childhood was spent training in gymnastics at the local gym while her mum worked long hours. The pull of the surf came in the form of a powerful dream she had as a teenager. Within months, she was in local surf competitions, at first enjoying the thrill of her achievements, but then finding herself uneasy with the commercial circuit and the paradoxically rigid stereotypes that came with it.
Unsure how else to support herself as a surfer, Lauren took a break from the ocean to study environmental and social sciences. She graduated from college during the financial crisis, leaving her without any job prospects—a crisis which proved to be a major opportunity. Lauren returned to the water, and, as an outlet for self-expression, began her blog “The Sea Kin” through which she shared often-excluded perspectives on community, equality and activism in surfing. She found a hungry audience. This dual role, of surfer and commentator, brought Lauren back to the attention of the big brands.
There is a deep wisdom inside surfing culture if you know where to look. For Lauren and her partner Dave, the lessons they have learned from the ocean are constant and deeply nourishing. In her own wise words: “maybe the fall you’ve experienced on one wave is going to set you up to be better on the next wave or 50 waves from now.” It’s a reminder that when we engage in a conversation with nature, and truly listen, it can teach us everything we need to know about being human.