Born in Ecuador, Pacha (short for ‘Pacha Mama,’ meaning mother earth) began competitive surfing at age 15 on the Gold Coast, Australia. Like many of us she came to a crossroad in 2020, deciding to leave the professional surfing circuit to follow her passion and focus on work with environmental campaigns like SurfAid. Currently taking a carbon neutral journey around Australia, we had the pleasure of chatting to Pacha about following her heart, the causes she supports and what a day of life on the road looks like.
Read on to hear Pacha's five sustainable book recommendations and the greatest lessons she gleaned from her mother, who's also an environmentalist.
You’re on the road at the moment travelling around Australia, carbon neutral, with your partner Nash and dog Ashitaka. What inspired the trip?
Even with the uncertainty we knew we had a greater calling to re-connect to this sacred land, paying respects to First Nation’s Peoples as we travel through Country. We wanted to live freely and tread as lightly as possible… That included our transport. We offset all of our carbon emissions through planting SeaTrees with mangrove, kelp and coral regenerations all over the world. We had a rough outline of our route but knew that we’d be open to new paths as they came up- that the journey itself was the destination, as long as we walked our talk and stayed true to our intentions.
“Surfing has become more sacred, more of a spiritual connection to the ocean and back to myself in ultimate expression.”
Could you share what a typical day of troopy life looks like?
When we wake up, we peek through the curtains to say good morning to Taka who sleeps in the front seats and watch the morning light up our surroundings. Sometimes it’s thick forest and sometimes its rugged coastline. We let Taka outside and boil a pot of water for some tea or coffee. We either check the waves in our area or just take in the environment- reflecting on those who came before us and paying respects to Traditional Owners. Each night before we sleep, we ask the land for permission.
If the waves are on, we are clambering up to the roof and hauling wetsuits, boards and fins down to get them set up for a morning in the ocean. If we aren’t sea-side, we go for a walk and explore local lakes, forests and rivers. Being surrounded in nature always feels like the best way to start the day.
When living in the car, most days orbit around the outdoors and I feel like it really ignites more exploration — there’s definitely space for down time and pure relaxation but there’s something special about having the most beautiful sights at your doorstep.
We cook up a big pot of oats for breakfast and check the to-do list, usually compiled with combinations of emails and work on the car — always having something to add or modify.
We check the waves again and if it’s not working we sit down for an early lunch and hang out in the warm midday sun. Afternoons are spent walking along the beach and throwing the ball for Taka, picking up plastics and sneaking in another surf while watching the sun set.
In the twilight we cook up dinner and pile into the troopy, setting up the couch and putting on a movie.
What’s your favourite thing about living on the road and, what do you find most challenging about living in the troopy?
To be able to live each day with complete freedom is the most incredible feeling… Going with the flow and adapting to each situation that arises. We are really lucky but I do encourage others to follow yearnings of a different, more mindful way to travel and to live, responsible for everything you consume and dispose of, on a closer scale.
We’ve had our moments of feeling cramped and wishing for easy access to a hot shower and space to move but when needed we check into either a campsite or a cabin for a reset and refresh.
The biggest challenge of our journey has been sudden border closures and restrictions on states we really crave to explore. We were supposed to head off to South Aus this month but with a calling back North we decided to wait out the cold winter and patiently prepare for the right timing for the next chapter of travel.
You started surfing competitively at 15, how did that journey start?
Ever since my surfing journey began I was always surrounded by contests and competitive surfing. I was 10 when I started entering the local boardrider's comps with fun entries to state rounds. It wasn’t until I was 13 when I moved to the Gold Coast, home of the contest surfing mecca and the world famous super bank, and signed up for Snapper Rocks Boardriders Club which had groomed surfing legends with the likes of Joel Parkinson and my hero, Stephanie Gilmore. Surfing in those club rounds gave me motivation and training for other comps and as training began, I saw how many people came together to enjoy high performance surfing. I definitely had a fire inside and even if my personal beliefs in how far I could go was small, improving, working hard and dedicating time into surfing made me happy. My mum supported every dream I had with 100% investment and helped me in any way she could and would drive us to the surf every morning before school and after. She supported my decision to leave school in Year 11 to chase the World Qualifying Series.
“A beautiful lesson that really resonates with me today is the idea of deep ecology, an understanding that all living things are interconnected and that there is no separation, no ego between the earth and ourselves.”
Why did you decide to leave the competitive surf world?
I had always loved doing more, whether that be learning about the history and exploring the country I was in — stepping out of the surfing bubble to connect in a different way. I was born in Ecuador, South America so I have been travelling with my family in a slower and more mindful way for as long as I can remember. I had always tried to weave this in, especially looking for ways to give back and help in environmental campaigns, but felt like I reached a crossroad early 2020 where we could all take a pause to really listen to the heart and follow something bigger than just contests and rankings.
Has your relationship to surfing changed more recently?
Surfing has become more sacred, more of a spiritual connection to the ocean and back to myself in ultimate expression. The ocean has stuck by me with teachings that continue to inspire and unite people from every background and culture. I have always loved the joy and life it brings — this next chapter is simply a different way of feeling it.
I read that your mother is an environmental activist. What would you say is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from her in terms of sustainability?
My mum really paved the way in standing for what you believe in and never losing hope… A beautiful lesson that really resonates with me today is the idea of deep ecology, an understanding that all living things are interconnected and that there is no separation, no ego between the earth and ourselves. We are the earth and the earth is us. I think it really gave me a loving relationship to conservation and environmental activism, taking care of our Mother Earth.
You’ve recently started working with SurfAid, could you share a bit about your connection to this cause?
We’ve always travelled with a mission to give back as much as we could and Surf Aid really shared this view on a big scale. To honour the role that all surfer’s have when visiting remote communities in search of waves is a very important one — just a couple of spare surfboards or sharing time with schools and communities. Inspiring the next generation to find joy in the sea or paying respects and supporting Elders.
SurfAid are now organising a fundraiser for vulnerable communities through ‘Make A Wave’ logging surfs throughout the month of September. You can learn more through their website.
Do you have any favourite book recommendations on the topic of sustainability?
My current favourite reads are weaved in with wisdoms of Indigenous peoples and their connection with the land, learning and inspired. I’m lucky enough to be raised surrounded by incredible professors and philosophy but here is a list of inspiring work.
- Local futures by Helena Norberg Hodge
- Slow is Beautiful by Keibo Oiwa
- The Sacred Balance by David Suzuki
- The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible by Charles Eisenstein
- The Time of the Black Jaguar by Arkan Lushwala