Leah Dawson Explains Why It’s More Fun To Ride With Love
Leah Dawson is one of the rare surfing talents of our age. Her style is so classic yet she is pushing her surfing into incredible new ground. It kind of makes you step back and look at how romantic and smooth the ’60 and ’70s styles were and makes your mind float in the eras of the past where the focus was on enjoying each ride and not ‘attacking’ the wave as she puts it.
So we couldn’t publish this week’s clip of the week without giving you an insight into Leah’s world. It will inspire you and get you out there, dust off and uncover old boards and really feel and love the ride.
Leah was born in Southern California, raised in Orlando, Florida and now calls the surfing mecca Hawaii home. At 32 she’s achieved a lot and takes advantage of every day that passes.
THE MERMAID SOCIETY: What occupies your days besides surfing and mermaiding around? LEAH DAWSON: I love being creative and making something come to life out of visions, imaginations, and then hard work. This desire manifests in many forms in my life from filmmaking to writing, photography and playing music, yoga and cooking creatively with optimum nutrition. I love spending time in nature and have a strong desire to get very involved in linking nonprofit work with my filmmaking and surf career.
TMS: Your board Peanut Butter is from 1971. Do you have a particular liking for older boards, what is it about them that draws you in? LD: Old boards have soul baby! The art of surf craft making is that it’s a functioning sculpture. Riding boards of all eras has taught me a deep respect for the sport of surfing itself, and the endless opportunities that are available to surfers to ride all sorts of equipment on different waves.
Old boards are special because they have stories imprinted into them. If someone is a bit of a spiritualist, like myself, then it’s pretty easy to feel the powerful energy that forever stays in anything that is made. Some boards have more ‘mana’ than others, maybe it has to do with the shaper putting their love and time into their unique creation.
TMS: You have such a unique and amazing style similar to the 60/70’s era guys, do you think this is something you’ve developed by using so many different boards and loving the older styles? LD: Riding Single Fins single-handedly transformed my surfing.
Prior to riding these more old school boards, I was a competitive longboarder, stuck between needing a light enough board to hang-ten and then do a roundhouse on the longboard. When I hung up my desire to compete on a regular basis, it was about the same time that my friend Rochelle Ballard let me use a couple of her Tudor single fins. I was immediately hooked. It slowed my surfing down and became the perfect blend between the long boarding and short boarding worlds I never quite felt in my element in. I found my element with alternative equipment because suddenly, I was riding boards that allowed me, or rather demanded me, to draw different lines on the wave. I ws no longer attacking the wave.
Just striving to become a fluid part of it. Once I realized how feminine our hips are when we surf with them, riding waves started to feel like a dance. Now that’s all I want to do really, dance on critical waves, perhaps in big perfect barrels.
TMS: The clip is really moving, why did you decide to make it about Peanut Butter? And who did you work with to make it? LD: I had been daydreaming about finding an old school single fin under a house, and after a few weeks of those visions, I found a board at the house I was moving into, that looked exactly like my visions. I dusted it off and took it out at Sunset on a solid 6-8ft day.
We had the most fluid session of my life at Sunset, and therefore our bond was forever created. I named the board Peanut Butter because of its obvious colour, and its smooth qualities in the sea. I started filming the board in the water with an intention to put together a visual montage of my new friend Peanut Butter.
I showed an early version to a dear friend Michael Franti, who is an amazing musician and master storyteller. Per his excited suggestion, together we came up with the story in the sand so to speak. Our goal was to portray Peanut Butter’s point of view and the unspoken connection between board and surfer and to clearly state that boards have soul.
TMS: Do you think this could be the start of a series profiling boards? LD: Yeah for sure! It’s a dream of mine to profile boards, show them being ridden by different surfers in different waves, with different shapes and funny names. I now have a thing with naming boards, after Peanut Butter came along, I realized giving a board a name connected me deeper to the soul of the board.
TMS: Any advice for girls looking for an older board to play with? Anything you should look for when looking around? LD: Yes!! Old boards are amazing, especially when we don’t expect them to ride well, we are often surprised!! It can be hit or miss, but I can usually tell if a board is going to be magic for me by the rail design, and how it feels under my arm.
“I believe all crafts can be ridden…”
They may not all be able to manoeuvre in the same way, or the way we want them too, but that’s what makes it fun. We get to adjust our surfing and our muscle memory to the dynamics of that particular board and what it needs to perform.
Make sure the board isn’t water logged and is of a weight that feels comfortable to you. Usually, if a board is really heavy in their old age means they’re carrying water damage too, and the ‘pop’ of the board may not be where we want it to be. Feel the rails, ask yourself if they feel good to you.
“If it’s a down rail 70’s single fin, get it!”
*This video and interview were originally published by The Mermaid Society in 2015 with the release of Peanut Butter and republished for your viewing pleasure.