In Summer of 2018, The Inertia traveled to El Salvador with Kassia Meador, Leah Dawson, and Lola Mignot, three outstanding women who are inspiring the next generation of ocean lovers through their alternative approach to both surfing and life. Each has developed a strong voice as a leader in surfing, and managed to do so on her own terms. They ride the boards they want, spearhead projects that speak to their passions, and keep their eyes peeled for interesting ways to engage that fascinating nexus where surfing and the rest of the world collide.
We wanted to better understand each woman’s approach to living a fulfilling life and to meaningfully engage with El Salvador’s beautiful culture. We had the good fortune of meeting Sindy Portillo, a standout surfer at Las Flores, one of El Salvador’s best waves. And as it turns out, Sindy is the only local girl who surfs in her town.
“For many, it’s difficult to be a woman in El Salvador,” Sindy told us. “Women work and struggle to make a living. It’s not easy most of the time. My dream is to be a longboard champion and represent El Salvador and Las Flores all of the time.”
“Pretty much on the first day we met Sindy out in the water,” said Dawson. “She had the biggest smile on her face. You couldn’t not see her. We were communicating back and forth really finding out about women and life in El Salvador and by day three of four of our trip we realized that Sindy was the purpose of our trip.”
“The seed is planted,” said Meador. “Now it’s just going to sprout.”
As such, we’ve set up a GoFundMe to take care of Sindy’s travel (including surfboards), room, and board to Mexico and entry fee for the annual Mexi-Log Fest to maybe help her realize her dream of representing her country and supporting a burgeoning women’s surfing community in El Salvador.
Any additional money we raise will go first to purchasing more clean water filters to be distributed in the local community by Leah’s Changing Tides Foundation and next to purchasing soft top surfboards to provide to Sindy to teach other local women to surf and develop the women’s surfing community in her hometown. If we are able to raise more than $5,000, we will be able to develop more infrastructure to support women’s surfing in El Salvador.
In Alternativa, Dawson, Meador, and Mignot share their perspectives as leaders in the surf community and the exciting opportunity ahead of them.
“We’re in a very powerful time in history,” said Dawson. “I’ve felt for a long time that the women’s story has been a bit misguided by the men that have run the surf industry. I feel like for myself, I have a duty to nurture our culture because I love it so much. Because it’s given me so much happiness and opportunity throughout my life that I feel like a mother. I want to be a mother of our surf culture, because we need as many mothers as we can get.”
“Since I started surfing, there have been so many more women getting into it,” said Meador “Whether it be in shortboarding, riding alternative boards, longboards, there are so many amazing girls. You pull up to Malibu in the summertime, and there are so many girls out there – young and older just shredding. You go to SanO some days, there are more women in the water than men. It’s such an exciting and inspiring time, and I think on a larger global scale women are really stepping up. Men are really embracing that and being supportive of that. I think there’s a really awesome thing happening where there’s a lot of support on all sides.”
“To any of the young girls out there or even to women getting into surfing at a later time in their life, it’s such an empowering tool,” said Meador. “It’s something that’s so beautiful to gain your own personal energy and strength and push yourself and own every aspect of yourself, and surfing helps give you the tools to navigate that and navigate life in different ways.”
Dawson also addresses many of the environmental concerns that she believes surfers are uniquely positioned on the front lines to battle.
“I want to see my grandkids being able to play in a clean ocean,” said Dawson. “Am I honestly scared of what the Earth is going to look like in 50 years? Yeah. It’s more than consumption. To me, it’s addiction. We have to get better about what we do with our trash and the trash we create. A plastic bag is not free. A plastic straw is not free. At least not for the earth. I think surfing makes us stewards of the earth and protectors of the earth. I’m just excited for surfers to really step into that role, and I’m doing my best to learn every day how I can do that better and more effectively, but even more so, how can we bring each other together so our voice maximizes and goes to the ends of the earth.”
You can find the link to the GoFundMe for Sindy Portillo here, and, in the meantime, we hope you enjoy Alternativa.
Filmed by Ryan Trautwein and Connor Guest
Edit and Cinematorgraphy by Ryan Trautwein
Music by Fever High