Ocean Connection

By Chris Woodfield

How can we introduce more flow and connection into what we do at TYF?

As an ethical business focused on inspiring change through outdoor adventure and wild ocean play, whether this is coasteering, sea-cliff climbing, surfing, paddle-boarding or kayaking, how can we take this to the next level to foster a deeper connection to the ocean? This is the question I have been asking myself since starting work here at TYF back in July. TYF’s mission is to help people fall in love with nature and lead long active lives of curiosity, adventure and positive impact. 

What does this look like in reality? Where do we start?

For me, it starts with connection. Another important question is how can we all contribute? All of the staff here have a variety of different backgrounds and skills to bring to the team. For myself, I was eager to share my own experiences and background in nature connection. In August, we organised a staff training session focused on exploring this connection to nature and specifically the ocean.

In August, we organised a staff training session focused on exploring this connection to nature and specifically the ocean. This centred on a beautiful evening walk along the coast here outside of St. David’s, the main site we use for coasteering, our most popular activity. 

Coasteering, along with our other outdoor experiences, is often associated with adrenaline and fast-paced action. Therefore, the challenge for me was to explore how we can introduce a sense of flow and connection into this. It starts by slowing down and being present.

Flow can be described as “being fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement and enjoyment in the process of an activity” from Positive Psychology’s Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (known as the Father of Flow). Most surfers, artists, or musicians will tell you they experience flow even if they do not know what it is, or the fact how time goes very quickly or they’ve been doing what they love for hours without even thinking about a single thing; this is flow. 

How can we consciously be aware of this and use it to strengthen our connection to the ocean? This is where slowing down comes in. 

“As we slow down, we become more present and feel ourselves here, instead of trying to get somewhere else”

Whilst walking along the coast we explored this slowing down by experimenting with an activity called “fox walking”, i.e. slow walking consciously placing our feet in smooth deliberate movements, being aware of how our feet touch the ground and the texture beneath our feet. This was combined with a range of other nature connection exercises which tapped into our senses, for example, “owl eyes” and “deer ears”. 

These exercises facilitate our connection to the landscape through our senses and open up our awareness to the World around us, as well as each other. For example, the sound of the waves crashing against the coast, the texture of the grass or plants on the edge of the cliffs, the smell of the fresh sea air or the way the light reflects across the surface of the ocean. 

Noticing these small but beautiful things is the first step to connecting and fostering a sense of awe and wonder. It is this subtle but powerful slowing, noticing and being which we can connect with “doing” to provide a holistic ocean connection experience. This is our aim here at TYF. As our coastal ocean connection walk continued, we explored more nature connection exercises, stories and quotes and gave ourselves time to talk, listen, think and be. We touched on different challenges the ocean is facing and how we can introduce these into our work in a way which fosters curiosity and a solutions-focused approach. In addition, we explored Blue Mind and connected with our breath and learnt how more than half of the oxygen we breath comes from the ocean, i.e. every 2nd breath, for example, this oxygen coming from tiny marine plants called phytoplankton which photosynthesise and release oxygen.  

“We cannot protect something we do not love, we cannot love what we do not know, and we cannot know what we do not see, or hear or sense” 
-Richard Louv, The Nature Principle

The evening finished with closing reflections and a story of hope combined with a magical opening of the clouds to reveal the moon shining across the sea. A perfect shared experience to end the session.  

So, what’s next? For me, itis about using this meaningful connection to facilitate positive and purposefulaction, and where better to do this than our beautiful coastline here in WestWales and through our awe-inspiring adventures. These “edge” places, the intersectionbetween land and sea, is where real change can flourish.

“Putting people in nature fosters love and love motivates a change in behaviour”

We’ll be exploring this as we move forward and how we can offer a tailored ocean connection experience through all that we do here at TYF so people leave with a sense of purpose and motivation to best the best they can be whilst solving the real-World challenges of our time. What are we waiting for? 

A note about the author: 

Chris Woodfield started working at TYF in July 2020. He is one of the founders and directors of the not-for-profit social enterprise, Aber Food Surplus, based in Aberystwyth, West Wales and has worked on environmental and community grassroots activism projects, including for Surfers Against Sewage and Friends of the Earth. He studied an MSc Sustainability and Adaptation at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, Wales, where he explored the relationship between nature connection, green health and pro-environmental behaviour. Information about his recent project Ocean Flow can be found here.

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