Lizzie Welborn is an accomplished professional Surf Ironwoman who, outside of competing, studies Environmental Science at Sydney University. We caught up with her ahead of International Women’s Day to talk about her passion for protecting our precious oceans.
You’re a huge advocate for protecting our oceans and beaches. How did it all start?
Since I can remember, I’ve felt strongly about caring for the environment, but my passion for the ocean really came to life a couple of years ago.
I train at Bondi beach most afternoons year-round and being such a busy beach, it’s a massive vacuum for litter. The younger me didn’t think much of the rubbish, it was just part of the picture, but one day something clicked, and I saw clearly just how much litter collected on the beautiful sands. It terrified and disgusted me.
I couldn’t, and still can’t, bear the thought of the generations after me not being able to experience the beach in the same way I have. So, I decided to do something about it.
(Photo credit: Trent Callaghan)
Tackling plastic pollution in the ocean can seem like such a huge and complex task. What are some simple things people can do to help?
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed at the enormity of the problem but remember, every small habit you change really does count.
Start by cutting out the big 4 single use plastics: plastic bags, straws, coffee cups and drink bottles, and replacing them with one of the easily available long-lasting alternative products. Talk about plastic pollution with your friends – it gets people thinking and might persuade them to make changes too.
You’re fast becoming a positive role model for the next generation of up and coming athletes. What’s your message to these aspiring young people, especially young girls?
I try to use my position as an athlete to inspire the next generation to understand the fragility of our oceans. I speak and teach at many schools and clinics, helping people understand the reality of what’s a quite confronting situation. My goal is to get people to experience that click moment, like I did on the beach those years ago, where they feel motivated to do something.
I encourage young people, especially girls, to feel the passion for an issue or a goal, act on it and not hold back. In the future, I want to make a big impact on our ability to protect our oceans, before it’s too late. It might be a massive ambition, but I’m not afraid to dream big.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter. Do you see a healthy balance of men and women in your sport? Or is there more that needs to be done?
I’m lucky enough to be in a sport where there’s an equal balance between men and women, though it hasn’t always been that way. I’m proud of the women in our sport who aren’t afraid to level it up with the men. We’ll go out in the same conditions and, while we may get rocked around by the big waves a bit more, we’ll give it our best shot – just like I will when it comes to protecting our oceans, my happy place.