Makenzie Lowe is a second generation wave charger, living the California dream: Out in the water whenever she can, dedicating herself to an environmental non-profit she believes in, and working as a freelance photographer and stylist for brands she can get behind. We chatted with Makenzie about her work, family, and Mother Earth.
When did you first start surfing?
My dad taught me to surf when I was about 8 or 9 years old. He grew up surfing along the southern coast of California and had a collection of incredible photos from surf trips with buddies down to Baja California and Hawaii. He would share stories of how he surfed and skated with the “Lords of Dogtown” in Venice and drove down to Scorpion Bay to stay and surf for weeks with his best friends. It was very much a part of him and something I looked up to and was excited to make my own.
I grew up in Riverside, California, which is about an hour from the ocean, so to practice for the real thing, he set up cushions and pillows in the backyard and laid his surfboard on top for me to stand on. My mom, dad, and brother stood on the sides of the cushions and pushed and pulled to help me practice my balance. It’s such a sweet silly memory that I hold very close to my heart. Soon after we went to the water, and I learned in the ocean.
What do you do when you’re not in the water?
This winter has been particularly rainy in San Diego, which has kept me indoors more than usual. So lately, I’ve spent time in the pottery studio with my friend Megan, dance studio Culture Shock, rock climbing at The Grotto and Vertical Hold, and cooking big warm dinners with loved ones. But when the weather is nice and I’m not surfing, I love anything that keeps me moving and in the sunshine - hiking, yoga, biking to the farmers' market, painting, writing and reading on the beach, or spending time with friends.
Tell us about your non-profit work.
I currently work at a grassroots non-profit that advocates for environmental justice and human reproductive rights. These causes may seem disconnected at first, but once we see that providing families, and women in particular, with access to family planning and education around sexual reproductive health, they are able choose and plan for the family size that works for them. This, in turn, result in a healthier planet because we can be more conscious about our resources and able to plan for the future we really want.
Protecting our planet and ensuring all women have the fundamental human right to choose what they do with their body is very important to me and has been one of the things I’ve worked to fight for since I was very young. I’ve been called to advocacy for as long as I can remember. At age 10, I designed and passed out flyers to my neighbors about how to conserve water at home and by age 11, I was participating in a “free wild elephants” protest. In 8th grade I was nominated to travel to Europe as a student ambassador to represent the US youth and learn about foreign policies and our relationships with other countries. Then, throughout college, I interned and worked for multiple socially conscious companies that gave displaced women in developing countries an opportunity to combat poverty through selling their native regional art in a transparent production line in the US.
I think your 20s are a time when we can be very hard on ourselves about where we are or what we should be doing, but even answering this question and looking back on that time, I feel very proud of myself for always letting my heart lead me. In a way, I realize I’ve worked my whole life to be where I am now, and I feel so lucky to get to advocate alongside so many people for these causes every day. I look forward to what will come next on this journey.
How do you think being in the ocean and having constant interaction with nature informs the work you do?
When I am in the ocean, I feel the most connected to this planet and my place in it. I can’t help but feel light and undeniably happy. It’s a feeling of unexplainable gratitude for everything around me and everything nature provides. For me, it’s a reminder that everything I have or will ever need, I can find in nature or through gratitude. It feels impossible to interact with nature this intimately and not advocate to protect her.
With your freelance gigs, who inspires your style?
I truly love working with artists - those who create because they feel like there is no other way to live. I am so inspired by people who are passionate. And of course I love working with companies who have a business model that gives back or has a transparent production line.
Style-wise, I think I’m inspired by my mom when she was my age. She is such a natural beauty and always had fun with her outfits! She has always encouraged me to wear whatever makes me feel most me and has always been great at celebrating my brother and my uniqueness.
Do you have any advice for women just beginning to surf?
It takes time, so be easy on yourselves. Leave all judgments at the sand and just have fun and be kind to those in the water! Sometimes it’s helpful just to sit on the sand or float in the water and watch the waves or the women surfing to help you learn to read the water and how others move comfortably on their board.
What are three things you must have when you’re going out for a day in the water?
Is it ridiculous that the first thing that came to mind was snacks… for a day in the water. Haha.
Sunscreen, a smile, and my board.
Where is your dream surf destination?
Anywhere where the water is super warm. But lately I’ve been dreaming about Batu Bolong, Bali and the Maldives.
Check out Makenzie’s freelance work @ makenzielowe.com