Kassia Meador is a California surfer who is one of the most recognizable women longboarders. She is well known for her smooth, stylish riding and high energy personality. We caught up with Kassia to talk about her surfing and her new interest in fine-art photography.
What was your life like growing up?
It was pretty rad. I grew up in the Valley so I didn’t really grow up by the beach. I didn’t start surfing until I was 14 or 15. I guess it was a little different back when I started, especially with kids these days now being sponsored and traveling around the world. I did skateboarding and snowboarding – just doing what kids do living in the Valley. And once I started surfing, I did everything I could just to get down to the beach.
Where did you go when you first started?
I started going to C Street in Ventura, County Line, Malibu, and Leo Carillo. It was at Malibu the first time anyone took a photo of me surfing. My first photo ended up being published in Longboard Magazine. It was crazy – I was riding this old board with a single-fin, wearing a ripped up wetsuit (which was from my boyfriend at the time). I was just pumped with surfing. I never realized that photo would lead me to where I am today.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
I remember my first green wave, when I stood up on a real wave and not just whitewater. I can remember seeing the sand through the clear water and it was like I was flying! Even thinking of it now, I still get that fluttering feeling in my heart about it.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a young girl?
From surfing Malibu I was influenced by Brittany Leonard, who I really looked up to. Also, there was Carla Rowland, who was one of the older girls at Malibu when I was a grom. They both just surfed it so well.
What is your approach to surfing?
I try to surf in a way that feels right. I’m not the kind of person that likes to force things. Some might think that’s boring, but I just really like smooth surfing. Of course, if you’re trying to learn something new and you fall a couple of times it might look a little silly, but there is a time and a place to do a nose ride or a hang ten, or heels. I just try to read every wave and try to do things as they are called for, instead of forcing something in a weird way.
How important is style?
Growing up at Malibu and surfing there, I was able to see some of the best surfers in the world. I am a very visual person. That’s why I am into photography and I really enjoy films. So aesthetically, I will just like the way someone surfs, especially if they are smooth. That’s why I like how Joel (Tudor) surfs or someone like Dane Peterson. A smooth style is something that I appreciate and I want to emulate with my surfing. I really have a difficult time watching people surf when they are just “all over the place,” I just can’t visually accept it. (laughs)
Let’s talk about your photography.
I am really into photos and photo-based things. I have always traveled through surfing and I have always looked at surfing as a very visual thing and something I really like. I’m very lucky to travel to many visually stimulating places and to be around a lot of creative people. Through my travels, I have always been shooting images and through this I guess I’ve developed my own unique way of seeing.
I was showing Thomas Campbell some of my images a few years ago and he said, “These are pretty cool and you should show these.” It was Thomas who helped edit my work and show my photography at my first ever show in Japan. As a filmmaker, photographer and surfer, Thomas is such an inspiration to me. I’m lucky to have people like him that mentor me and can be someone I can look up to.
What do you look for when you shoot images?
I am looking for something that pleases me. It’s kind of like you know it when you see it. It could be the way that different things might come together or the way that they are placed. If something appeals to me aesthetically, I’ll take a shot of it. I might have a scene in mind and I will do what it takes to make it happen. There’s just a certain feeling that I get when shooting images – just like the feeling I have when getting a wave. Like knowing when to do a turn or a nose ride. It’s just paying attention to everything that is around.
I was recently in the Bahamas with Scotty Stopnik and Mikey DeTemple. We were surfing this place and there was a crazy moment when I saw something but I just wasn’t quick enough to capture it. I told Scotty to stand there and have Mikey go by again on the wave so that I could capture the moment the way I saw it in my mind.
I don’t want to take photos of waves. I am more interested in the surfing lifestyle. I just want to take photos of my friends and the vibe I get when I am surfing.
Tell us about your relationship with Roxy.
I have been with Roxy since I was 17. It’s been ten years now. They picked me up two years after I started surfing and have been such a blessing in the way they’ve always supported me. There was a time when not too many people were longboarding and everybody was riding crazy tri-fins and doing airs. Roxy has really supported everything I’ve done. They started doing women’s longboard contests just to support the movement. They’ve supported me with my surfing, my photography, and my art. They’ve given me a signature wetsuit and even a clothing line that is about to launch soon.
Are you still riding Donald Takayama’s boards?
Jeff Hakman and Donald saw me surfing out at Tea Tree in Australia, and Donald turned to Jeff and said “You put her on Roxy – can you put her on my boards?” I’m totally still riding his boards. Right now, I am really into my 9’4” [Takayama] Model T. We have been working on a refined Model T for a bit now and finally got it right. I love that board and how it glides.
Just like Roxy, Donald’s been so supportive of me. He’s been a huge mentor for me. With my surfing and with my life – he’s like my grandpa. It’s been a combination of Roxy and Donald that have taken me to where my life is right now.
Raen Optics is another sponsor I am proud to be a part of. They’re amazing. Thomas is working with them along with people like Alex Knost and Mitch Abshere. A bunch of really cool, creative, people. I’m really excited because they are really promoting my photography as well as my surfing. It’s a whole new movement we are trying to push – kind of like the “ride-it-all” gang. And to surf because you love it and not because you want to be a jock. There are two sides of surfing – the lifestyle part of it and the jock sport aspect. Raen is pushing the lifestyle part of it. And that’s the part of surfing I really love.
What’s your favorite meal?
Fresh sushi from the fish joint in Oceanside.
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
Joy Division, Electrelane, Camera Obscura, Passion Pit, Yeah Yeah Yeahs
What causes/organizations do you support?
What are you most grateful for?
My health, and my family and friends
What are you most proud of?
That I have always stuck true to my roots and did my own thing. I started out riding a single fin and still ride one primarily. There were a couple of years when I moved to Oceanside when Donald wanted to make me a tri-fin and I was surfing beach breaks when I used to only surf points. I kind of went down that trip for a while, but now I’m back to riding single fins. I will also ride fishes and other kinds of boards that I love. I’m just fortunate that I don’t have to do contests that might keep me riding stuff that I am not that into. I’ve kept true to what I love about surfing and how fun it is.