Uncategorizable and one-of-a-kind, Leah Dawson smashes preconceived notions. She speaks with the wisdom and humility of an elderly soul, yet has a childlike wonder, awe and hope of the world. Back in the 2000s, she became known for her career as a women’s longboard division competitor, but today the all-around waterwoman is addicted to getting barreled while riding weird vintage single fin boards that would confuse thruster devotees.
Originally from Florida, Leah now calls the North Shore of a Oahu and a mermaid-shared “hen house” her home. When she's not surfing her face off and championing for environmental and health causes relevant to the islands, she goes where her passion for creating music, visual media and experiencing new waters takes her.
We met Leah through the global sisterhood of lady surfers and have admired her uninhibited and powerful surf style from afar. The more we got to know Leah and her dedication, intelligence, mindfulness and generous spirit, the more we love her.
We caught up with Leah before she headed off to the Noosa Festival of Surfing to learn more about this inspiring child of the sea.
What are your first memories of surfing? What keeps you surfing and making it an essential part of your life?
When I was three, my dad put me on the front of his board. I remember it vividly. I remember being amazed by the natural playground of the ocean, and that the earth made waves for us to play on.
This admiration of the ocean has only grown, and it has remained the most influential aspect of my life. I know myself more, because I talk to the sea, I laugh with her, I learn from her. I have learned respect. I have learned to ask permission. I have learned that there is order in chaos, and to predict the unpredictable is magic. My love for the ocean, and the connection it gives me spiritually to my surroundings keeps me falling in love with life every time my toes touch the water. And with surfing, there is no end to evolution. There is always growth and change to be made. For that, I continue to seek my wildest sea dreams :)
My surf routine changes all the time but the two things that always remain consistent is that I have to drink water and I have to stretch before I surf. The few times I have gotten injured, I've forgotten to stretch before I paddled out and so I've made a commitment to myself to always use the time right before I surf to unite myself with the ocean, ask for permission, and get my body in tuned with the water in front of me. I love putting my feet in the sand and doing a series of five stretches or so that warm my shoulders, hips, knees up. But more so it connects my soul to the ocean and gets me ready for the dance.
If I'm home at the henhouse with my roommates we have a surf routine of always dancing in our living room before we go surfing. It's our way to get our spirit ready for the ocean — to unite ourselves and our sisterhood. It always reminds us that surfing is our celebration.
What do you always have with you when going to the beach?
The most important thing I need that I always take with me to the beach is water and sunscreen. I also love to ride many boards so I really like to bring a quiver of boards down to the beach whenever I'm going someplace other than the break outside of my house.
When you’re not surfing, what are your passions and pursuits?
I think the most important passions I have is loving those around me, loving the world around me, loving my life, and seeking happiness. I do that in a myriad of ways: surfing, playing music, filmmaking, writing, practicing yoga and practicing bodywork, to name a few.
I am pursuing a dream to positively impact the world around me. Our global environment is screaming out for help. We live in a time when awareness is critical, and change is mandatory. I feel responsible to be an agent for that change.
What are some of the environmental projects that you are passionate about sharing?
At the moment, I’ve been working on a short film series called The Sea Appreciation Project that speaks to inspiring appreciation for the ocean, because without appreciation for something, how are we supposed to take care of it?
As surfers, it is our DUTY, to be the caretakers of the ocean, to clean our beaches, to make daily choices that speak towards healing rather than destroying our environment. Surfers are connected to the ocean in a way most humans aren’t. The ocean gives to us, constantly. We must give back. Every single day, the choices that we make affect our seas. Awareness is key. Appreciation is vital.
Tell me about your other passions — music, filmmaking, yoga and bodywork. How does each one fulfill you?
I love playing music because it's an endless canvas open to our heart’s creation. Playing music with others is the only other language that I know, but it’s a universal one. Music is in everyone.
I love filmmaking because it's impactful and it's a platform to express myself and my love for the world. I believe media is the most effective way that we can create change in our world so I dedicated myself to pursuing a career in filmmaking and media making with the foundation of making positive empowering content.
Yoga has helped me to be the person I am today. Learning about breath, oneness, patience, and flow have correlated to all aspects of my life and given me a deeper understanding of what it is to be human.
Practicing bodywork has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. Touch has always been my favorite sense. I feel a magical energy when I place my hands on a receptive body. I learned when I was about 20 years old that I could create energy with whoever I was working on, and that I didn’t have to utilize my ‘own’ so to speak. In the future, I look forward to studying under a master who has been passed down an ancient technique. After that, I’ll consider it as a profession. But for now, it is my favorite way to give to those around me. Because I realized, that when I give, I receive the relaxation, and oneness within myself as well.
You used to compete in surf contests. What were the most rewarding moments of your surf contest period of life?
I compete very little these days, only when I am invited to a special event, or when an event takes place at a surf break that I want to surf with no one out! I competed in surfing consistently from age of 7 to 25, and then I lost the desire to want to be judged on the thing that brings me the most happiness. Surfing is my spiritual food. The most rewarding moments of my contest period were that of camaraderie with the other girls. Competing introduced me to some of my best friends in the world, and contest always felt like a family reunion to me. Definitely getting barreled in contests has always been my favorite moments, though they are few in numbers. More so because there were never barrels in contests, but maybe that’s why I don’t do many contests any more too!
What do love/hate about surf contests? What role do they play in surfing?
I love contests because it brings people together with common interests. I don’t like contests because you then have to compete against your friends. I love striving to surf my best, but not in comparison to others. It’s not about beating other surfers, or winning contests, it’s about performing at your own very best for yourself, pushing yourself, and your limits of what you think you can do.
Contests are important to some surfer’s careers because it allows industry folk to see you, but it more connects you to the current surfers who share the same passion as you. We elevate our own surfing by surrounding ourselves with other surfers. Competing naturally makes you strive to elevate.
What do you love about surfing with fellow women? (and men too!)
I love surfing with other women because there is an extraordinary energy a woman exudes when she is in the ocean. Women, historically, are elegant. When we see a woman embody this elegance in the sea, it is breathtaking. She makes it a dance. She moves with the waves, not always looking just for the maneuver, but enjoying each moment of the ride.
Women together in the ocean are often laughing, and conversing, while often lineups are normally quiet, serious, and competitive. Women in the water exude their natural joy.
How did you find out about Seea, and how have you felt wearing Seea?
I have been seeing Seea around the surf world for the last few years, admiring their clear respect for modesty and expressing innate feminine beauty. Seea is different because unlike other companies in the female surf industry, their ethic to create products and advertise them in no way exploits females as a sex symbol, but rather accentuates her beauty in a fashionable, functional, modest manner.
Seea is committed to their morals, and the company is seeing that there is a large community of female surfers who are so in line with their same message. I don’t worry about Seea ‘selling out’ to make smaller and smaller suits, because their foundation is built from the desire of inner respect to shine outwards.
My favorite suit is the Gaviotas suit because I feel elegant in the water, like I’m always winning the ‘best dressed’ award, which never happens on land! But besides the beauty of the suit the functionality allows me to surf in any wave, without worrying that my suit will fall off. I love the neoprene over the body, and the rash guard arms because I believe that covering up is the best sun protection we can give ourselves. Stay warm, keep your skin healthy, and feel beautiful, that’s why I love the Gaviotas.
Thank you Leah for your kind words! You are an inspiration and we are honored and excited to welcome you to the Seeababes family! Check out Leah at work and in motion in her latest video, "Julune: A Surf Dream in Indo."