Environmentalist, feminist, humanitarian, Billabong team rider and David Rastovich’s girlfriend, Lauren Hill travels many roads…
Above: Lauren Hill. Photo courtesy Billabong.Morgan Maassen
Lauren, tell us about the humanitarian and environmental causes you support?
I’m interested in drawing lines between some of the major social and environmental issues of our planet and showing how they often stem from similar systems of human thought: separateness, domination, or indifference, for example. Basically, trying to heal the pollution that we’ve created ecologically and socially (like racism, sexism, etc.).
I’m really excited about a project that I’m working on with WEDO, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization. They work in the realm where environmental sustainability and women’s rights overlap.
Women still tend to make less money than men, about .75 cents on the dollar in the U.S. (look at the surf industry, for example). For poor or disadvantaged women this makes them disproportionately susceptible to ill health and even natural disasters. Women are 14 times more likely to be killed by a natural disaster than men because of access to resources like education and personal income.
The amazing ladies at WEDO and I have the mutual feeling that changing women and girl’s lives will ultimately change families, communities and our planet. We are working on a project to use surfing as a source of empowerment and play in places where women are not afforded such things.
I also help Dave out with Surfers for Cetaceans campaigns. We were just in New Zealand working to raise awareness about the Maui’s dolphin, of which there are only 55 remaining in the world. Learn more at: www.lets-face-it-dolphins.com
And I’ve just started my own organization called Sea Kin. We’ve just put together a ‘zine that’ll be available later this year. Check it out at TheSeaKin.com
Does it come easy to you, have you always been concerned about these things?
I have an incredibly fortunate life. A good portion of that good fortune comes from the fact that I was born into a relatively free, democratic society as a white woman in a middle class family. But it also stems from staying true to my love of the ocean and surfing.
Being a surfer has given me automatic compassion for things affecting the place that I love to play. Surfing gives you the opportunity to take time and observe. To just be. Sitting, watching, feeling. It can cultivate such deep reverence for life. Who wouldn’t want to protect the places that they love?
Growing up I was witness to a few instances of domestic violence in my family, so I saw women were being treated very differently than men. And I saw how that violence affected the rest of their lives. At Stetson University I started volunteering with VDAY, an organization that benefits victims of domestic abuse, and started learning about the systemic patterns that make violence against women so pervasive. I was studying environmental science at the time, learning about ecological destruction (violence), so it was easy see the similarities between two seemingly disparate social problems.
I feel obliged to spend the blessed life that I have sharing surfing, the ocean and trying, though mostly in small ways, to make the freedoms that allow me such a joyful existence more readily available to other beings.
You were Girls US Longboard champ in 2002. Do you see yourself competing in any more contests?
Competitive surfing was great as a young girl, but I don’t really enjoy it anymore. There’s one contest that I still do most years though. It’s called Sisters of the Sea. It’s in Jacksonville, Florida and is the most amazing day of women getting together to enjoy surfing and camaraderie. And the entry fees all go toward breast cancer research.
You’ve studied environmental science, focusing on surfing and sustainability. Do you think it’s possible for surfers to be more environmentally friendly, and if so how?
We can all lessen our environmental impact. As surfers it is important to take responsibility for our own coastlines. We probably spend more time there than anyone else. Pick up rubbish, make it a safe place for the myriad species that call it home, protect it from runoff and oil exploration. Treat it with reverence. We all talk about how much we love surfing and being in the ocean. Let’s prove it.
What makes you happy?
Mostly simple things: logging tiny wavelets, a healthy dose of sunshine, learning, waking up with my favorite person right next to me, sharing stories, and the combination of macadamia nut butter with maple syrup.
Do you think there’s enough happiness in the world?
There’s infinite happiness in the world. It’s our choice whether or not to choose it.
So how’s it going with Dave Rastovich – you two are the perfect eco couple!
Life has never been sweeter. I feel incredibly fortunate to have such an amazing, compassionate, kind, gentle and loving person to share life with. And spending time together in the water is just amplified fun!
What song lyric best describes the way you feel right now?
Well, it’s the first rainy day here in Byron in about three weeks. The sky is gray and our little cabin is cool and quiet. I just feel like daydreaming, staring out the window at the veggie garden and watching the cucumbers suck up the rain. Thus, Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘What a day for a Daydream:’
“What a day for a daydream
Custom made for a daydreaming boy (well, girl)
And now I’m lost in a daydream
Dreaming ’bout my bundle of joy
And even if time is passing me by a lot
I couldn’t care less about the dues you say I got….”
Describe your perfect day?
A long, hot summer day. Awaking to warm sunshine through the window in the morning. A little cuddling. Yoga. Shortboarding. Laying in the sand. Burritos filled with veggies from the garden for lunch. Reading/ Gardening/Crafting/Writing. Sunset longboard sliding at The Pass. Laughing and sharing stories until bedtime.
Which three people would you invite to your dream dinner party and why?
Oprah Winfrey, Alice Walker, and Rell Sunn.
If you could have a superpower what would it be and what would you use it for?
Teleportation. I’d be able to immediately travel between my two hometowns (in Byron Bay, Australia and St. Augustine, Fl) infinitely for free and without carbon emissions.
This is the longer version of an interview which appears in the latest issue of SurfGirl. Subscribe here to get the magazine delivered to your door!