Leah Dawson is a California surfer/musician originally from Florida. She later travelled to Hawaii to ride the hollow waves of the North Shore and studied filmmaking at the University of Hawaii. Leah is also the recent winner at the Surfing America Championships held at Trestles. We caught up with Leah to learn more.
What was it like when you were a child?
I grew up in Orlando, Florida, an hour and a half from the beach. My parents, who grew up surfing in Southern California, always dreamt of owning a beach house. When I was 7 they bought a house a mile north of the famed Sebastian Inlet. So on the weekends, my family would pack up the truck and head to the coast.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
I fell in love with surfing at the age of 3 when my dad put me on the front of his longboard. I remember always feeling a connection with the waves that I didn’t feel anywhere else.
When did you get your first surfboard?
I think my first board was actually a prop from the Mickey Mouse Club. My dad was the producer for the show, and I think once he saw my love for surfing, he was quick to swipe it from the set! It was a huge clunker of a shortboard, full 80s style. I rode that for a few years until I got my first custom board by Doug Deal when I was 7.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a young girl?
My parents have always been my first role models. I always knew I was lucky to have parents that could put a ski on edge and throttle to the floor… Surfing wise, I was always a fan of Slater because of the Florida spirit, as well as Lisa and Frieda.
You seem to have a hand in a lot of things. How do you manage such a busy life?
I’ve never had a shortage of passion in my life, and it seemed once I graduated college, opportunities to pursue all of them presented themselves. Surfing has been the main gateway to what I have been involved in. Between riding the waves, filming the life around me, playing music with incredible artists, and pushing my athletic limits as much as I can, I have found a life free of boredom. Managing everything so that I can sustain myself financially is challenging, but I am confident that it is only a matter of time and dedication before I combine all of my passions into a lucrative lifestyle. I like to think of it as being in the business of making dreams a reality.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
Right now, Tahiti tops my list. Not only is it home to some of the most challenging, epic waves in the world, but there is a way of life and appreciation there unlike anywhere else I’ve been.
Who/what inspires you?
I draw my inspiration from those I surround myself with. I’ve been lucky enough to become friends with a plethora of world class action sports athletes who encourage me to achieve my highest sports goals. I’ve found surrounding myself with élite athletes pushes me to focus on maintaining a healthy, strong lifestyle.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
Ready to get deep? Actually to me, it is quite simple. When I was a senior in college, my new roommate had the following quote on the fridge, “The greatest illusion is that mankind has limitations.”- Robert Munroe. Once I truly understood what the capacity of this idea was, I embodied it and anything I have truly desired has manifested. We are such powerful beings. And when I realized that when we think that we can’t do something because it has been believed by numerous others that it is impossible, we immediately cut off the possibility. But anything is possible…
Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
Besides messing up on a couple great waves, I don’t have any regrets, because anytime when I feel the equivalent of a regret, I appreciate it as a learning experience.
What are you most proud of?
That I am surrounded by spectacular people who inspire me to dream. I’ve got an incredible family that fills my mind with joy, and a group of friends who live with unconditional love. I hope everyone in the world gets to experience type the joy I get from my relationships.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
Surfing is my way of connecting with myself at a very spiritual level. It allows me to express myself, be creative, physical, and utilize my dreams of progression. It has also introduced me to a very special group of people.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
There is nothing that makes me happier than making other people smile.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
Kelly Slater should be named as the innovator. Carissa Moore is a phenomenon and is setting a new bar for women’s surfing. Longboarding wise, it’s hard to say. The beauty of longboarding is that there is such an array of different shapes and styles, that no one is better than another. I absolutely love the open playing field of longboarding.
What is your favorite board? Your favorite surfspot?
Favorite board – that is difficult to say. Right now, I absolutely LOVE my Noah Comp 9’0 High Performance longboard, as well as my quad Scorpion that looks like a mini longboard. But if I am surfing a wave like Pipe or Teahupoo (which I recently got to surf!), a standard shortboard is my way to go. But, as with all walks of life, I thrive on being able to ride any board on any type of wave. I am inspired by my friend Kassie Meador to start sliding on Alaia’s too!
What’s your favorite meal?
There’s nothing better than fresh sushi, with lots of wasabi!
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
I have the honor of having some of my closest friends also be world class musicians, Kellen Malloy, Cindy Santini, and Marc B, so a great deal of what I listen to is their music. I have also been playing the ukulele with all of them quite a bit, and have found that music is just as cool of a personal expression that surfing is.
What are you most grateful for?
My breath and my awareness of it. It’s from that there everything spawns. My family, friends, my passion to love unconditionally, surfing – the list goes on forever.
What’s next for Leah Dawson?
I am headed to France in July for the World Longboard Championships. After that, I’ve got a surf trip planned to Nicaragua with a few friends. I just started a company with some friends called I Love My Life Productions. We are focusing on music promotion through multimedia, and creating a positive outlook on life.
Leah Dawson rides for Hawaiian Pro Designs. Her website can be found here.