Lydia Meester

I’ve always grown up in and around the water. I have fond memories of sailing with my family along the coast of Oman, where we took our boat Nidali out almost every weekend into crystal clear and turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. We’d glide into thin crevices tucked between dramatic fjords. I’d grab our picture book of Oman’s underwater treasures and marine life, thrilled to have seen an exotic sea snake slithering through the water in front of me, and identified it in the book. Terrified too; the water I dove into without hesitation was filled with secrets unbeknown to me.
 
I spent my childhood summers wading around in seaweed and jellyfish infested waters of the North Sea in Sweden, where the Skälderviken bay sheltered our summer house from stormy waters. When we moved to The Netherlands, I was shocked by the long expanses of beach you could walk through uninterrupted, often left exposed to intense onshore winds. There were more frequent appearances of seals, too. These literal dogs of the sea are curious, ruthless, and not afraid to approach you for a playdate in the water.
 
Things changed for me when I moved away from the sea and unpacked my bags in London for a few years. Albeit I was focused on my degree and metamorphosing into a young adult, I do not doubt that being surrounded by grey infrastructure and high rises took a huge toll on my soul and everyday wellbeing. Even knowing I didn’t have easy access to nature as a refuge was tough; needless to say the River Thames doesn’t count, considered to many a ‘zombie’ river and closed off for recreation.
 
In 2019, I pulled myself out of the hole and went on a soul-seeking adventure, and I began with what I knew worked. I was certified as an Advanced Open Water diver in Belize; my first time being completely immersed in the beautiful waters of the Caribbean Sea. I learned then that diving is a form of meditation, it forces you to focus on breathwork while being completely immersed by surrounding coral reefs. Plus, we were in for a real treat that day. We heard strange, high-pitched and ethereal whistles underwater, and a few moments later were surrounded by a pod of bottlenose dolphins, swirling and twirling all around us. It was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life. My instructor later said, “Encounters like that happen only once in a blue moon.” And there I was thinking I’d greet my dolphin family every time I re-entered the water.
 
Luckily, I’ve found other hobbies that mimic those incredible feelings. I took up surfing that year, with the unpredictable flurry of the ocean on my radar. Surfing is an escape from everyday life. For me, it’s a way to feel completely and effortlessly connected to the forces of nature and the universe. With absolutely no distractions, surfing is a workout for your mind as much as it is for your body. It’s also something that’s practised on most coastlines of the world, so it’s convenient to pick up – all you need is a board and some waves (and some neoprene if it’s cold). It also comes with a community of humble and like-minded people. I have connected with myself, others, and nature like never before through surfing.
 
The brilliant marine biologist Sylvia Earle once said that water covers nearly 71 per cent of Earth, yet we know more about deep space than the deep ocean, and that is what continues to spark my curiosity today. I guess if I could share just one message, it would be to spend more time in the water, in whatever way you can. When I look at the ocean, I think about the greater connectivity of life. It’s what makes our planet so unique.

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