Easkey Britton is a professional surfer, scientist and creative. Her latest film explores the relationship between biological cycles and the sea.
10 words about your creative work…
Creative expression and connection to the sea and natural cycles.
How did you begin this work?
I’ve been a surfer for as long as I can remember. Born into a pioneering surfing family in the NW of Ireland and standing on a board from the age of four. In a way, surfing is my creative process. As a woman who surfs, I naturally move with the tides. Cycle awareness has always influenced every aspect of my life. I was born on a new moon and an awareness of the lunar cycle and its influence on me and my environment was instilled in me from an early age. My inner cycle is also inextricably linked to the sea and the ebb and flow of tides. Beginning to chart my menstrual cycle alongside my experience of surfing this last winter was profoundly powerful – noticing when and how the outer seascape might mirror my inner cycle. became a vehicle to give this creative expression in the form of an abstract short film combining surfing, dance and poetry. Making the film allowed me to explore what would it be like to let the energy of the different phases of my cycle express itself through how I surf.
Who / what inspired/ motivated you?
I’m most interested in understanding the relationship between people and the environment and facilitating (re)connection with nature, especially water. As women we have this incredible in-built intelligence system that directly links to the natural cycles and rhythms of the world around us. And yet for so many of us, we remain unaware of the power of this potential. We live in a society where the natural rhythms of our cycles are suppressed in order to ‘perform (conform) well.’ I increasingly see examples of disconnect not just from each other and our environment, but our own bodies.
As a woman who competed in professional sport (surfing), a scientist in academia, a pioneering extreme sports athlete (big wave surfing), I’ve often felt the demand, pressure and expectations to push extra hard in these male dominated worlds to be seen and heard. This, combined with a culture that rewards ‘busyness’ and the need to always be ‘on’ can put extreme strain on physical and psychological wellbeing. The constant drive to create change, or make a difference, often led to burn-out. I noticed I was going through a pattern where I’d reach the mid-point of each year (around June) and my physical and emotional health would start to crash and burn, because I’d been in ‘doing’ mode constantly all year. To break the pattern I began to track the moments in my life when I felt most alive and full of energy. What were those moments when I was left feeling drained or exhausted?
I wanted to experiment with ways we might open up more space to explore and have deeper conversations about how we experience the world around us through our bodies. And what impact water, in particular, might have on our bodies, our sense of self and connection to the more-than-human world. A chance meeting last year with an incredible woman called Ruby May (creator of , opened me up to the whole idea of menstrual cycle awareness.
How has your work developed over time?
What I see now as underpinning themes across my work and projects are ‘cycles’ and connection. Slowly, I’ve come to understand the importance of cycles, and most importantly the power of my menstrual cycle. I was never taught how to better listen to my body by learning about my cycle. It was a revelation (and at the same time a shock) to realise that my body tells me when it’s time to act and when it’s time to rest. I’m beginning to develop a greater awareness of my cycle and it has had a profound effect on my work-life balance and energy levels. It helps me understand my own inner ebb and flow, the high cost of always being ‘on’ in a society that rewards ‘being busy’, and the equally important need for stillness and reflection.
As someone who has been active, outdoors, and an athlete I thought I was very body aware. This new awareness of my own cycle has awakened a spark of joy in me that there is so much more to learn. At first I was angry that this had been kept from me, that I didn’t have access to this knowledge sooner but it also excites me that there is so much more to discover, and the wisdom is within me. A lot of my work is cross-cultural and I have found cycles to be a unifying experience shared by all women that can create a sense of sisterhood, and yet, our experience of it varies wildly and is greatly influenced by societal and cultural rules and norms and social justice issues. When I think about what it is that connects all women across borders, beliefs, time and space, it is the wisdom of our bodies.
What’s your proudest achievement?
This is not my ‘proudest achievement’ but what immediately flashed in my mind when I heard this question as a moment at the beginning of the year that somehow feels like it will be revealed as a major turning point when I look back down the line…I was having a pretty tough start to the year. Nothing was flowing and I felt completely stuck and exhausted. Without understanding why, I spent an early morning in February chasing the full blue moon as it set through squalls and weather fronts, all the way from the hill where I live down to the shore. Moon bathing. Later, I learned that exposing ourselves to moonlight, especially during menstruation, can greatly regulate our hormones and cycle. It also broke me out of what had been a vicious loop of negativity and an unbearable sadness. It felt like a completely new beginning from that moment onward.
That, and climbing a sea stack on a freezing cold day in the depths of winter in Ireland, with a mix of rainbows and sleet, fingers numb and rocks slippy (not ideal, given my total lack of climbing skills – although I had a great guide and mentor, Iain Miller from with me). It later became the closing shot in the film. And by the end of it all (after feeling physically sick at one point!), I felt like a sea-bird.
How do you hope your project will evolve in the future?
As a lifelong surfer and someone who has such a sea obsession, I’ve also wondered how it would be if we could learn to move with the tides in and out of the water, honour our inner ebb and flow. In all that I do, I’m motivated by a desire to understand how might we live more intimately with the world around us and come to know our rhythms more deeply.So, next year I’m joining the feminine leadership programme. Increasingly in my work, especially holding space for circles, women are sharing experiences of their cycles and are excited by the potential of greater body-nature awareness. I’d like to deepen my own understanding as much as possible to be able to facilitate more of this kind of sharing and learning that enables us to better trust and explore the wisdom of our bodies, and to feel supported in that journey.