If I had a dime for every time I heard the analogy that surfing is like a dance with the ocean, I would have at least enough money to buy a six-pack of craft beer. Which is to say that I have heard it enough that the analogy has nearly lost its meaning. Almost completely.
But then I see Leah Dawson surf. It’s mesmerizing.
“My biggest compliment is not that I surf like a man, but that I surf like a woman,” says Leah. “If someone watches me ride a wave, I want them at the end of it to know that I’m in love with the ocean.”
She smiles a lot, so that helps. But her movements are unique. And in getting to know her, whether overtly or not, it’s easy to decipher she has more ambitious plans that are naturally unfolding. Through her own resources and energy, she’s quickly becoming a modern ambassador for women’s surfing.
“It makes my heart sing when I see other women out celebrating in the water and just playing and rejoicing,” says Dawson. “They’re not trying to do tricks, and they’re not trying to become number one in the world. They’re just going out for their daily medicine…As a lover of the sport I want to see women feeling more empowered to surf like a woman.”
Dawson is also a storyteller. She makes compelling short films like Peanut Butter, a story about her relationship with a yellowed single fin that a lot of people might put in the trash. And she has a strong opinion about the representation of women in surfing. It’s not about sex. It’s not about performance in the water. For Leah, it’s about soul – another word so thoroughly bastardized from overuse that it’s sometimes hard to recognize when we see it. In Leah, it’s boiling. And she’s not militant or overzealous about how she’s profoundly adjusting the narrative in championing women’s surfing.
She’s just Leah Dawson. And that might be exactly what surfing needs.
Special thanks to Arnette for making this episode of CREATORS possible as well as to Greg Huglin, Larry Haynes, Andre Cricket, and Philipp Vasilev for their gorgeous cinematography.
CREATORS is The Inertia’s profile series featuring individuals who make inspiring and innovative contributions to ocean and outdoor culture. View more CREATORS profiles below: