LEAH DAWSON: Spreading Positive Vibes and The Feminine Spirit of The Sea
“No matter what, if we are riding a wave, we are communicating with nature, in a very complex, yet seemingly simple manner. Our simple acknowledgement of this, is where the consciousness part comes in, and can cultivate vast wisdom.” -Leah Dawson
Leah Dawson’s surfing is smooth, spontaneous, and full of soulful stoke. Her dedication to approaching the art of wave riding on her own terms is ever apparent in her stylistic flow in and out of the water.
Whether Leah is getting deep tubes in Indonesia, making film shorts to share her positive vibrations, practicing Yoga, spreading awareness of the environment that we are all intrinsically part of, or emanating the spirit of the divine feminine; she does so with poise, a child-like exuberance, and an almost unmatchable happiness.
I caught up with Leah to pick her brain a bit on a few subjects, it turned out to be some of the most interesting and inspiring words related to the act of surfing that I have heard in some time.
Read on and enjoy the light that is Leah Dawson.
What initially brought you to the ocean and riding waves? Can you recall the first time you ever rode a wave and describe it?
Both of my parents grew up surfing in Southern California, and too, were both avid water skiers When we moved to Orlando, the land of lakes, they put me on a boogie board behind the boat and I stood up immediately. The next weekend they took me surfing, my dad plopped me on the front of his board. I’ve got memories of us riding together for sure, whether it is my first wave at 3 years old I am not sure. But I do know from as long as I can remember, I’ve been in love with the water, and the feeling of riding waves.
Surfing holds different meanings for different people, so beyond the act of riding waves it’s hard to put a solid definition on the pursuit. That said, what meaning does surfing hold for you personally?
Surfing is a way to physically find harmony with the earth. Waves are spontaneous moments of time and riding them takes the ability to conform our bodies to the movement of the sea. To predict the unpredictable. For me, wave riding is my spiritual food because it is my constant reminder that I am a part of this world, and when I focus on becoming one with my surroundings, magic awaits. There’s personal meditation, communication with nature, and a community of like-minded individuals that often instantly turn into family solely based on the commonality of an adoration for the sea. Surfing can teach us grand morals if we slow down and recognize the lessons laid before us.
Oftentimes when people think of professional surfing and soul surfing, or surfing for the pure enjoyment of the act, they see two things that stand in stark contrast to one another. You have been able to successfully blend a life as a professional surfer, while keeping connected to and nurturing the soul surfing. What do you attribute your success to?
I’ve always been a surfer in love with the sea, participating in the sport because it gives me an opportunity to test my capability to unite mind, body, and spirit with the ocean. At times, I’ve been challenged by wanting to identify myself as a professional surfer, with the inability to find a sponsor to pay me and actual earn the title of a ‘pro’. I’ve always strived to excel in my surfing and take my abilities to the world class level, yet with no sponsors for most of my career, I’ve felt on the outskirts of the surf industry, observing it, yet not totally in it.
When I stopped competing on a regular basis, my perspective shifted, as I was no longer pursuing surfing a certain type of way to score points, I began always surfing from my heart, allowing my soul to guide my movement.
I benefitted from not having a sponsor in that I was always able to maintain the purity of my image, my desire to surf, and an observant perspective on women’s surf culture. Now that I’m growing up, I know I have enormous passion and desire to be a caretaker of women’s surf culture, to reestablish awareness that women surfers have the opportunity to have a positive influence not only on surf culture, but sustainable world culture as a whole.
Keeping this feeling of duty in perspective, I continue to seek more abilities in the water, in effort to further understand myself, and create a platform to be a voice for change. In this way, I do strive to be a professional surfer whose soul shines through every action I take, in the water and on land.
Yoga is huge now, people are trying more and more to stay physically fit, mentally sound, and spiritually based. We also see a big connection between the world of Yoga and that of surfing. Tell us about your own Yoga practice and how you feel that connects to your life as a surfer?
Yoga is an incredible practice that can infiltrate into every moment of waking life. Utilizing the breath brings awareness to the most vital energetic intake we have available to us, opening a world of increased health, longevity, as well as giving us the conscious mind to “Be Here Now”. When we are aware of our breath, we have to be in the moment, which can be uncommon in our current world’s society.
Yoga has forever changed my life because it continually teaches me that I am in charge of me; of my body, my mind, and my spirit. Not only does yoga keep our bodies physically in their optimum shape, it too, if used properly, will bring peace, raise consciousness, encourage humility. Yogic philosophy sets a course for eventual enlightenment, if the practitioner desires and commits.
Surfing is very similar to yoga in that it simply allows the entire being to be focused on the moment, to quiet the minds chatter, to dust of the layers, so we may see and know our higher self (the version of ourselves of which we strive to be). Not all surfers are spiritually driven or feel connected to the sea, but for those who are, many derive grand lessons from their time in the ocean.
Yoga demands a process for improvement, as does surfing. To do the full splits in a day is unheard of, so too is the path of learning to surf in a day. But in all things in life, when we appreciate and enjoy the process of learning and growth, we find bliss on the path. Yoga teaches us to breathe with ourselves, surfing teaches us to breathe with ourselves and nature.
With the definition of Yoga as a practice which links the practitioner to the divine, would you consider surfing a Yogic practice in and of itself?
If yoga is a practice which connects practitioner with the divine, then yes, surfing is undoubtably a yogic practice, if the practitioner recognizes the ocean and the sea as part of the divine. For if we do not see the ocean as the energetic offering that it is, then one cannot utilize its power to the extent of which it can be available to us. To feel peace, we must be open to it. To feel joy, we must be open to it. For surfing to be a spiritual or yogic practice, we must be open to it. Leaving a provincial mindset behind, if our perspective allows for the unseen forces of the world to play a role in our daily lives, a world of possibilities awaits.
Aside from surfing and Yoga, tell us about your Sea Appreciation Project and the films you make under that moniker?
The Sea Appreciation Project began as hub concept to produce short and long media content that all tied back into the theme of raising appreciation and gratitude for the ocean, and the rest of our environment. As I grow in my filmmaking, I seek to tell stories on all our changing formats, creating content that tells the female surf story from the female point of view, as well as media that shines light on the service work that is done to make our world a better place. The goal is to make tv shows, web series, and feature-length films, all geared towards enlightening its viewers to a healthier future.
Most recently you produced a film entitled “Julune” while on a dream trip to Indonesia. Tell our readers about the impetus behind the film and it’s overall message?
Julune is my visual representation of living a dream come true. My goal was to reveal the gratitude I have for the ocean, and somehow capture that the experience often took my breath away in awe, in overwhelming joy. Ive always dreamed of traveling to the Mentawais on a boat trip, yet I have always waited because I wanted to go when I wasn’t a total rookie, and actually have a chance at making it out of some tubes! So I spent my 28th birthday in the tiny islands catching some of the best two weeks of surf of my life. I pinched myself constantly to stay present, I knew it wouldn’t last, and I would again stay dreaming about this boat trip in Indo. Julune does its best to show that women love the barrel as well, and we feel connected and appreciative of the ocean in a magic, unique way.
Surfers become connected to nature consciously or unconsciously through their love of riding Mother Ocean’s waves. What do you think the surf community at large could do to help keep the ocean’s healthy and clean for generations to come?
No matter what, if we are riding a wave, we are communicating with nature, in a very complex, yet seemingly simple manner. Our simple acknowledgement of this, is where the consciousness part comes in, and can cultivate vast wisdom.
Ive met elders who have spent their lifetimes in the sea. They seem to carry a lightness about them, and are overflowing with very clear wisdoms.
We need to start with the kids in school now. They need to know whats up. We are coming to a time when a new generation of free-thinkers will begin infiltrating our politics, business, and overall way of doing things. We must remind as many as we can, that we are equal, far from superior, to the earth and to each other. This vision of unity, of oneness, of community, is what I strive to feel in my daily life, and seek to see grow amongst our planet.
I feel like we are in a real life movie, the most grand epic twisted tale Hollywood has never conceived. Disease, poverty, poison, from a bird’s eye view, it looks like it is fed to the planet. The only way to create space for the natural system to flow again, is to recognize that the fabricated GM and destructive energy systems we are living on is the cause of great disease of our people and our planet. We are up against are backs against a Goliath Exponentialized. Its going to take a mighty comeback, led by consciousness. That’s the goal, raise the consciousness.
What do you love most about your life and surfing?
I love that life is an incredible, instant design, that is curated by our actions of the past, the genes of our lineage, the influence of our environment, our own Self. There are so many layers in life, as we peel them back, the interwoven design of our environment tells us where are someplace special, someplace thought out, or created magnificently perfectly. Waves, for my soul, are the most mesmerizing displays of mother earth’s energy. I recognize the earth portrays this beauty in so many vast forms, yet surfing is the highest vibration of harmony Ive felt with the universe, I feel like a magnet to it. As we practice and develop muscle memory, technique is no longer thought about, and surfing can at times become a mindless, meditative act of predicting the sea, moving spontaneously to find flow with the ever moving waves of energy.
Any final words of wisdom or thoughts for our readers?
If we seek to hear the song of the earth, we’ll hear ourselves too, and it will always be beautiful. Our home is magnificent, may we always treat it this way, in every walk of life. The earth is most deserving of our love, our innate care-taking abilities.
Look each other in the eyes.
JULUNE by Leah Dawson
2015 Surf Reel
Photos: Doug Falter, Shelley Dark, Ricky Estevez, and Albert Falzon