The science- and mindfulness-based activities suggested in Easkey Britton’s 50 Things to Do at the Beach (illus. by Maria Nilsson; Princeton Architectural Press, May)—think seabird watching or rock pooling—come in an accessible format conducive to quick dips. PW caught up with the scientist and big-wave surfer, who grew up on Ireland’s North Atlantic coast, at the end of a cold day in her homeland, when she’d already been out in the water.
Why did you choose an illustrated format for 50 Things?
As a marine social scientist, I’ve experienced the challenge of not being able to communicate to a much wider audience the wonder of the ocean and how it’s linked to our well-being, so it’s to broaden that reach. Each piece is stand-alone, but there’s a flow throughout. Visually, it’s a lovely way to break it down and create a softer entry point. The illustrations bring the text to life, it’s less word-heavy, and has a playful quality even as it addresses the research I’ve been doing.
What led you to become an ocean conservationist?
I’ve been lucky as someone who was born into a family with a sea connection through surfing. It’s been a really powerful force in my life. The northwest part of Ireland has these amazing beaches, and when I was a child it was a wild, unfamiliar place. I developed a wider awareness of tides and weather. The more people who have a direct emotional connection to the sea, the more will value it. It’s been a lifeline for so many people during a time like this.
How can the ocean give a sense of wellness and focus?
There are so many tools on mindfulness and meditating, yet it’s hard to create that state. The ocean starts to soothe and regulate our nervous system without us even having to try. If you do some of the activities in the book around mindfulness, it has an even more profound effect. The ocean is multisensory in a way that makes us feel more alive, helps restore our attention, soothes our nervous system, calms the heart rate, and lowers stress. It makes it easy to self-connect and be more mindful. Our health is directly affected by how the ocean is doing, and its capacity to heal and restore us. But how do you make accessible its transformative healing power for those who need it most? It would be great for that to be more mainstream.
How can the ideas in your book benefit readers not near a beach?
We live on an ocean planet, and every action we take anywhere we are on the planet has an impact on the ocean. Our bodies are 70% water. A type of phytoplankton releases tons of oxygen responsible for our breath. The warmer the planet gets, the worse it will be for the ocean. You can reduce your use of plastics or do a litter pickup in a city—cigarette butts go down the gutters and end up in the sea. There’s a lot you can do without having to physically be there.