The Broadcast / Ebb & Flow: The Patterns & Power Of Water

Ebb & Flow: The Patterns & Power Of Water

Easkey Britton is a surfer, writer, artist and marine social scientist. Taught to surf at the age of four, she now channels her passion for the sea and surfing into social change. Ahead of her new book tour, we caught up with Easkey to find out how our sacred relationship with water is essential if we are to heal the waters of the world – and heal ourselves, too.

Tour dates and tickets here.


8 min read

Interview by Sam Bleakley

Images by Andy Hill & Crossing The Line Productions

Shaped by the coldwater aloha at the Atlantic edge of Ireland, Easkey Britton’s blue heritage runs deep through her bloodline. In surfing, academia and writing she has an incredible ability to draw us all closer – both inside our bodies and the bigger body of the world – to water as healer and teacher. And in her fascinating new book ‘EBB & FLOW: A radical guide to restoring our relationship with the planet’s waters’, Easkey writes “My body is my ocean-going vessel” thus identifying self and sea. This is a must-read, and a prescient reminder of our duty to conserve the fluid ‘wild’. Easkey speaks of our necessity to ‘surrender’ to waterscapes as an appreciation of their beauty that precedes conservation as ‘reciprocal restoration’. Her attunement with open waters is deep and purposeful, rich and wise, yet wonderfully gentle and always immediate. Leaving her ‘fingerprint’ upon the ocean is seen as an ethical gesture that returns the gift of the ocean’s fingerprint upon her; self and sea as one. Easkey asks the reader to do the same in a beautiful book that goes beyond blue health to call for a healing of the heart, mind and body of our collective water planet.

Ebb & Flow: The Patterns & Power Of Water
Ebb & Flow: The Patterns & Power Of Water

What was the driving inspiration to write Ebb & Flow?

Being so steeped and immersed in a connection with water my whole life, especially the ocean, I'm always seeking ways to deepen that conversation and understanding of our relationship with water. Yet although I have this intimate connection with the ocean, there's still so much mystery, and I realised how little I actually know about water in all its forms. So I wanted to break out of what we know and delve deeper. Scientific disciplines and society tend to silo everything into separate parts and even reduce something as complex and beautiful as the water cycle into a flat graph. So, I wanted to research and write this book to go deeper into that and also to deepen my own knowledge of our changing human relationship with water and how we might restore our connection with it.

The other drive is the fact I've been immersed in this field of research into public health for well over a decade now, and although there's incredibly fascinating work coming out on the benefits of our connection with blue spaces and the psychologically restorative aspects of water, it often ignores the ancient wisdom and knowledge people have about the power of water as medicine. I’m a huge promotor of nature connection and the benefits of blue health, but a lot of the research done in the western world is looking at what water can do for us, rather than what we can do for water. So, I wanted to look at water as its own entity, its own life force, rather than just turning it into another commodity for our consumption, enjoyment, recreation and health kicks.

And further I wanted to deepen conversations with some amazing people who are working with water in so many different ways. The book also has a lot of those stories about restoring our relationship with water, and then outlining what that actually looks like so we can put it into practice in everyday life, wherever we are. At the end of each chapter there are embodied practices, or invitations, as ways to deepen that connection with water, both individually, but also collectively.

Why is preservation and restoration of our waterways and waterscapes such a pressing demand?

That’s another inspiration to write the book - this urgency around our need to restore relationships with water because we're seeing such rapid deterioration of waterscapes, water environments and water bodies. In fact, they are the most degraded of all natural environments. So, what does that say to us as society if we are poisoning and polluting our water bodies, yet water is the source of all life? Water is our medicine, so we need to be water protectors.

You have an incredible ability to write in a rich and purposeful style, that is both poetic and immediate. Who has most inspired you as a writer? And do you like to read other authors while working on a book?

I'm definitely one of those writers who probably reads more than writes when I'm working on a book. What I write is very influenced by whatever book, or books, I'm immersed in at the time. I'm really drawn to those writers that bridge worlds between the scientific and practical way of looking at the world with more ancient wisdom and knowing. This includes Rachel Carson, whose work is still so relevant today because she gives a voice to the ocean in such an evocative way. And Robin Wall Kimmerer from the Potawatomi Nation, who weaves together her scientific and botanical understanding with her indigeneity in a really powerful way. I reference and draw on her work throughout the book, especially her concept of reciprocity and restoring those reciprocal relationships with nature and ourselves. Also, Irish writer Kerri ní Dochartaigh and her book ‘Thin Places’ is a beautiful memoir mixing nature writing and social history and confronting difficult emotions and the human condition, but also the healing power of water. There are so many others I reference and draw upon, yourself included and how you translate mindfulness to the metaphor of surfing. And I also want to mention Wallace J Nichol’s book ‘Blue Mind’, which is a seminal work in this area, and he's been a really great mentor and supporter of mine.

Ebb & Flow: The Patterns & Power Of Water
Ebb & Flow: The Patterns & Power Of Water

Why is writing and book publishing such a vital art form?

It's one of the ways that we can give meaning and a voice to more than the human. So, when we write about water and the ocean we can bring some of that wonder that's felt and experienced when we immerse ourselves in those places that maybe not everyone has access to. And for those that can’t access those places, maybe we are able to bring some of that essence back with us and put it onto paper in the form of words, so that we reach many more people. This might then inspire others to engage and connect with the world around them. So, that, as a catalyst for change, is really important. And then stories really matter. As Dan Burgess says in his ‘Stories For Life’ project, it's how we story the world around us that determines how we relate to the world around us. And the dominant story in our modern society is one of separation and disconnected power over nature, and of water as a commodity. Look at what happens when we tell those kinds of stories. I think there’s a responsibility and power in the stories that we tell, and it's high time for some new stories, and also recovering and restoring those stories that have always been told, and still exist in our mythology. These might be stories of interconnection, interbeing, the power of the feminine energy, the mother energy of life, the force of water. So those stories need to come back, and new stories need to be shared.

How will your creative writing process evolve, adapt and be enhanced now as a mum?

I think it's going to be altered forever! For the first few months of being a new mum I questioned if I would ever write again! I just had so little energy. But now that my energy is coming back, I feel that creative buzz again. But everything has changed, so how I look at and experience the world, and what even pulls me to go surfing, and my desire to be in the water, have all altered. All those kinds of motivating forces have changed. I’m not sure if I’ll be chasing crazy heavy waves or trying to throw myself over the ledge. At the moment it feels more about the moments of flow and connection, which is interesting. It’s like a softening and letting go. You can really learn lessons around surrender and letting go as a new mum. And those things influence the creative process. And then of course being in a relationship with these two babies, these lifeforms growing before me, is so powerful. Starting to see the world through their eyes is incredible. And I’m also feeling everyday such a deep love for them. But when it comes to my love of the ocean there is also a sadness and grief that kicks in knowing how much is already being lost and what they might never experience. That was part of writing the book as well.

If you wanted readers to distill one key message from ‘Ebb & Flow’ to take into their own journeys, what would it be?

I think this feeling that we are water, that we are bodies of water immersed in other water bodies, and that it is all connected, and through that lens we should honour our own inner ebb and flow, and to recognise how that mirrors the natural ebb and flow of life all around us. This is in the seasons, the tides, the lunar phases, the movement of water as it flows. And we should honour the ebb state as much as the flow. There isn't much space given to that, so the ebb is the importance of finding stillness, in pacing ourselves, in rest, in allowing ourselves to feel the full spectrum of what we're feeling, especially through emotions like grief and loss, and the strength and power we can find within those. That’s what I hope somebody takes away from reading Ebb & Flow. But I hope you will find a very multi lyrical book, with many voices and ideas. I imagine that each person who reads it may connect with it in a different way and take something different from it. But yes, I do have this longing that we may all find a more ecological way of being in relationship with ourselves and the world around us.

Ebb & Flow, published by Watkins, is available now.

Grab your copy here or from any Finisterre store.

For a sneak peek, check here.

Easkey will also tour the book in May. Dates and tickets here.


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