In anticipation of Earth Day next week, the California born and Hawaii based surfer Leah Dawson has made a little video and we used that chance to grill her on motivation behind it and some of the breathtakingly beautiful images on her website
Interview by Anna Langer
It is important for us all to recognize we vote with the money we spend.
You made a little video for Earth Day next week. Do you want to tell us a little bit about it & what to expect?
Peanut Butter is a short film that takes a unique perspective into the world of surfing. I ended up finding the 'board of my dreams' under the house of the place where I am living right now, a 1970's Hawaiian single fin, built for waves of substance… It was apparent the moment we laid eyes on each other, that board and I would share a special connection. After I had been filming with the board in the water a few times, I showed the footage to a great friend, musician and eco-advocate Michael Franti. From there, we wrote the story of Peanut Butter, which you will see… It is an Earth Day film because it has an underlying eco message, one that I let you watch to discover!
Have you always been environmentally aware?
'Environment' was a word I learned very early on, and I know I always carried a deep sense of respect for the earth since I was a small kid. My parents taught me to always give respect to the sea, for it is bigger and mightier than I am, so I always understood that I was a part of this planet, and it was up to me to be in flow or in rhythm with it. In college I became a Keep A Breast Foundation ambassador, and I think from then on I've been on a mission to learn how to eat and live clean, reduce my 'footprint', and most importantly, show appreciation for all things in nature. I used to be plagued with migraines, sometimes getting debilitating headaches 2-4 times a week. I found my culprit was a large intolerance to non-organic food, processed foods, additives, preservatives… I had to take my health into my own hands, and when I did that, I realized that our world market is filled with products and systems that are toxic, and harmful to the environment.
If we are present, we are aware. If we have knowledge, we have the power to act accordingly.
What do you think is most important when it comes to living environmentally friendly?
Living in the present is the most important factor for me, next is knowledge. If we are present, we are aware. If we have knowledge, we have the power to act accordingly. Every day is filled with choices that either lessen or increase the impact we have on our planet. Whether it's getting a take-away lunch with our own personal tupperware, buying organic and/or local food, paying the extra dollar for eco-friendly products, carpooling to cut gas use... It is important for us all to recognize we vote with the money we spend. We make votes every day for what we support, what we need, and the market continues to fluctuate accordingly. Given the choice, always choose the natural route that is least destructive to the planet. Because we are a part of the planet, for heaven's sake!!
Any special tips you found that you'd like to share with our readers?
Yes! If you are offered an eco-friendlier option, take it. Do research about companies and products you use to make sure they are in line with your own moral standard. Fall in love with momma nature… By slowing down, and finding awe in the way the wind blows in the trees, the vibrant color of a fruit, the smell of rain. Show your appreciation, exclaim with joy and gratitude out loud, and that very action will fill our bodies with our own healing power. We've got a lot of work to do as a world society to flip our system back into sustainability, yet it can be done, this is what I pray for every day. Group together with friends, feel powerful in our choices, stand up against the things that go against our human nature. Together, only together, can the shift towards a sustainable future take place.
Show your appreciation, exclaim with joy and gratitude out loud, and that very action will fill our bodies with our own healing power.
How has your environment shaped your attitude towards the world?
Well, I am currently living in Hawaii, the North Shore of Oahu to be exact. I am in awe of the majestic mountains and the sea, the flourishing flora and fauna here. Yet Hawaii is also a subject of GREAT concern to all those living here. Behind the curtain of government and high-powered business, Monsanto along with other bio-chemical engineering companies have taken over huge portions of the islands and are conducting their 'research test' for new development chemicals and pesticides. The result has been an increase in sickness and disease (especially amongst children), depleting soil, polluted rivers, and a large population that is continually getting their public opinion shut down by lobbied legislature. So the environment here in Hawaii has definitely shaped my attitude, in that I recognize we have a massive world wide issue on our hands. To me, organic food is a right to human life. I do my best to stay positive, to quiet my frustration, yet it is challenging when you see the natural world you love so dearly being poisoned and destroyed…
Do you think it's especially important for women to stay connected to nature?
I do think it is especially important for women to stay connected with nature. The most important. We are revolving in a male-dominated system, one that has allowed business to dictate all that is important in life. It is the women on the planet, the carriers of creation within them, that will reconnect our world society back to nature. There are more women than men on this planet. I believe that when a woman connects to nature with her mind, body, and spirit, healing energy is created, that can be multiplied. And it's contagious.
When we as a society can come to respect each other's genders, and see them not as superior/inferior, but rather both necessary, both important, dependent on harmony with each other. We as women have to remind ourselves that we are not less than, not inferior, that we are the creators, the bringers of life. Nature is all about bringing life, and the cycle of life. When the female energy on this planet collectively believes themselves as equal and exceptional, I think we will see grand effect. I pray this happens in my lifetime. And I feel it is my duty to help guide my peers back to Nature's love.
It is the women on the planet, the carriers of creation within them, that will reconnect our world society back to nature
I was introduced to yoga in 2008 by my dear friend and mentor Rochelle Ballard, who surfed on the WCT for 17 years. I was helping her produce her yoga DVD Surf into Yoga and that is when I had my first practice. After Rochelle got certified in YogAlign, I became her avid student. After years of shoulder tendonitis, my pain faded, my strength increased, and I was FINALLY aware of my breath. I remember thinking at the time, "I've gone 22 years without knowing the power of the breath!" But now I see I am blessed to have learned the healing and energetic effects of different types of breathing as early in my life as I have. I began practicing Shadow Yoga (a blend between Tai Chi and Hatha), utilizing a breathing exercise called udyana banda. That breath exercise has changed my physic and over all health tremendously.
Yoga has made me more calm, and peaceful in the water as well. Less aggression, more appreciation.
Has it improved your surfing too?
Yoga has incredibly improved my surfing. Balance, positioning, breath, and awareness are all things that straight transfer from the mat to the board. I've also found myself incorporating yoga stances into my surfing.
It has helped me avoid injury and has overall made me feel more 'in tune' with the sea. Most importantly, yoga has taught me about harnessing my chi, my prana, or in Hawaii we call it mana. I've found when my chi is centered on my board, my maneuvers become more powerful, my hips are in flow. Yoga has also made me more calm, and peaceful in the water as well. Less aggression, more appreciation. Practicing a short warm up on the beach before surfing is critical for me to always practice and remember.
Do you have a favorite pose?
There are a few poses in the Shadow Yoga sequence that really appeal to me. One is horse stance - standing with feet wider than hips slightly facing out, straight back, pelvis and core engaged- and stand for 1-10 minutes. The hands can do different exercises, but I like to incorporate a Pranayama breath movement to keep my arms moving. I also love the pose where you totally bend your knees, stand flat on to the feet, and try and pull tailbone to floor, hands can either be on the floor supporting you, or wrapped around you (like a standing fetal position). Not sure the name of this one, just that it's challenging and sends a deep stretch/strengthen into my hip flexers, and makes my feet feel strong.
I also LOVE Kundalini yoga because I feel very in tune when I am chanting ancient mantras. I also just started practicing Yin Yoga, which is a restorative practice to release the connective tissue (fascia) in our body. Holding poses for 3-5 minutes, this yoga is a very deep release especially for us yin (women).
I don't paddle out to Sunset to catch a whole bunch of waves, usually a good session is five or six waves. But those are filled with so much adrenaline and require every second of experience I have had riding other places.
How about a favourite surf spot?
I am so enamored by the ocean, and the different way she moves depending on each location. If I have to pick a favorite, it would be the mighty Sunset Beach. I had a surf mentor once tell me "If you can get comfortable at Sunset Beach at any size, you can surf anywhere in the world." That is because Sunset is one of the scariest waves in the world!! Waves like moving mountains, big boards are required to get enough speed to drop into a proper Sunset wave. I don't paddle out to Sunset to catch a whole bunch of waves, usually a good session is five or six waves. But those five or six waves are filled with so much adrenaline and require every second of experience I have had riding waves other places.
I am a fan of so many types of waves, and the boards that can be ridden on them, but for me, the Challenge, the quieting of fear, serenity in the land of chaos, that's why I love Sunset.
And a favorite way to chill out / come down after an amazing surf session?
Depends where in the world I am, but a cup of fresh herbal tea from the garden, or a green smoothie always satisfies me. I love to play music or have a nice warm-down stretch after playing in the sea as well. Right now, lemongrass tea is brewing :)
Life is happiest when we are expressing and feeling love.
Anything else you'd like to get off your chest?
Life is happiest when we are expressing and feeling love. I keep an optimistic outlook that our people will come in harmony with our planet and with each other. Surfing, and sport in general, is a way for us to continually remind ourselves of our place in the world, that we are so ALIVE, that life is better enjoyed together. Plant a tree, share some water, smile at a stranger. Every minute, we all make a difference.