Welcome to the 19th episode of The Temple of Surf Podcast!
Today with us, from California, longboarder and founder of Kassia+Surf, the queen of nose riding, Kassia Meador!
We discussed with her about surf, women surfing, surf industry and much more!
You can find the episode in all major podcast platforms or read the transcribed version here below! (please forgive us of any spelling mistakes or missing parts)
TTOS: Aloha Kassia, welcome to the show, where are you today?
I'm in Los Angeles, California at my kitchen table.
TTOS: Today we're going to talk about many things, but the first question that I have for you is, in your opinion, what is the most important thing in surfing?
To have the most fun! I think to me, the most important thing is to have the best time you possibly can. It's about like really enjoying nature, enjoying how special riding a wave is and just enjoying an opportunity to put the whole world behind you and to just be in that present moment.
TTOS: Exactly. I totally agree with you, but only surfers know what you're talking about… it's an amazing sensation and definitely you must have fun doing that
If you're not having fun, maybe going and resetting your reason for being out there is a good opportunity because really it's such a place of joy.
TTOS: Definitely. And you know, like talking with some surfers, pro surfers during this podcast, some of them, they quit just because it was too much, you know, like pro tour and they were not having fun anymore. They said like, “okay, I want to surf and have fun, I don't want to surf just to compete.”
I think that the joy of surfing and the fun of surfing can be like a north star, maybe if you lose your way and you lose your like reason for starting surfing in the first place to just go back to your north star as an opportunity to recenter yourself and your intentions of being in the world and what you're there for so that you can always go back to that place.
TTOS: I like the definition of north star, when it started your love for longboarding?
Longboarding was the first way that I entered the water really growing up in Los Angeles, but in the valley, I didn't grow up by the ocean, I grew up inland. For me, just getting to the beach was like the best thing ever and then when I was going to the beach, you know, I started longboarding because I was doing junior lifeguards, which is a program for kids, we learn about the ocean and we swim and we run on the beach and we learn about the rip tides and, at the end of each day, it was like free surf, there were only maybe four longboards, foam longboards, and no leashes….basically, you know, there was like many kids, maybe 15 kids in with only four or five surfboards. So you would just wait in the shore and somebody would fall and you would run and whoever gets the board first could ride it until they fall and lose it.
That was really what first got me into surfing and we were riding long boards and the closest beaches to me were perfect point breaks, you know, like Malibu or C Street up in Ventura, perfect point breaks. And, you know, if you're on a short board for the most part, you're not having that much fun because there's like perfect small waves….so I really seemed kind of destined that I would ride a longboard.
TTOS: I liked the competition with only four long boards and everybody's playing with them! what was your first “proper” surfboard…
The first long board I ever had was that was my own was basically it was for Christmas when I turned 15, my parents got me accustomed shape nine one single fin and it had like hibiscus flowers over the nose, it was a perfect balance. And then, one day, I got my first Takayama, I mostly rode as a single fin, but you know, single fin longboard is where my jam and I was really fortunate of having my first custom board from Takayama, it was like going straight to the Rolls Royce from the little like dune buggy.
Donald really helped to shape me as a surfer, having such beautiful equipment to ride
TTOS: what is your best memory of Donald?
I spent a lot of time with Donald when I was young, he was like a big mentor to me, I was actually living in ocean side for a few years and I was just one mile from his shop, I would surf with him two or three times a week or when the waves were good and you know, we'd always be driving the coastline and he would tell me about stories and I was always at the shop, you know, so I feel very fortunate that I got to spend a lot of time with Donald as a mentor and kind of like a, you know, a second father in a lot of ways, you know, he really taught me so much, I learned so much from him.
TTOS: what would be the key learning from him?
I think one of the things that was like so important that Donald was really about, is the fact that he brought Hawaiian energy, Aloha mentality. Whoever walked into the shop, he would give them time, whoever it was, you know, whoever showed up for a surf, he was always bringing so many people together to surf. He'd call me, he'd call all these people and all of a sudden you get to the beach and there's like 10 different people at the beach, all surfing and then he would take us all to lunch after, and then all of us are sitting there eating lunch and we're all laughing and having a good time. I think the thing that he really taught me was about bringing people together and sharing that joy….
Nobody was in a competition, we were celebrating, we were all riding waves together and all of these people were coming together and we were laughing and we were getting party waves. No matter what Donald would get the best wave, he would sit super far out to back and he'd wait for those couple bomb sets, he'd ride them all the way to the beach and then he'd get out and we'd all be frothing around, out there and then he'd take us all to lunch. He was really about community and he really exemplified what people say of being Aloha and people, he embodied that, what I feel that Aloha means in a deeper level and what it really is about community.
Aloha it's not just a way to bring to the water, it's a way to bring to your whole life, maybe the water is the place that like we learned to interact this way with community and then bringing it to land and infusing it into every element of how you live your life is, really. I think the opportunity to be a surfer to embody that and bring it to others because many people don't know about that.
TTOS: How do you translate this “spirit of Aloha” in your brand?
It's about community, it brings it back to that, in what I create with, what I do with my wetsuits and in what we do with our surfing and sound retreats, it's really about like really creating community and empowering yourself to community and really connecting and hearing from each other and sharing and, feeling like we have that….
How can we be individuals in a pack? we're a pack of people and we're all individuals and honoring that. What I try to do both with my company and with the retreats we lead and in all aspects of my life, if I can bring that patience and that community and that cooperation and creativity, all things together, I really feel as humans and as humanity, we're stronger together. If we can really work together and maybe we have some different ideas, but in all of our ideas, there's some like magic in them. So if we can bring all the best ideas together and create something, that's like, I mean, there's just so much more opportunity when we work together. I really feel that's something that I stand for and want to promote as well to bring people together and as a vehicle and a vessel of scope and Aloha to bring people together.
TTOS: what you say made me think to all those big companies that maybe started with a purpose, a sense of community, but then it got lost with the time…..
That's it! it's like anything has its cycle, its started with community and then it kind of expanded to a place that maybe wasn't sustainable or supportive for what it started as, then it starts to feel like a little fragmented and, and then those parts fall away and then it has an opportunity to come back to the core of what it was started for. I think it's also like in so many ways, like the evolutionary cycle, you know, it's like it expands and it like how our universe has created it explodes and it's like all this like amazing stuff. And then you go back to like the nucleus of like what kind of started it, I think that that's where, and that's really where we're at.
We've seen and we're witnessing all these giant brands falling apart because they can't sustain themselves at that level. The core of what they started isn't intact anymore. That's why even brands like myself and these small brands are really speaking pure and true to their community and have an opportunity to really connect. Also because I'm one person and I have like two people that help me out really….I'm a small, you know, very small, but, because of that, I also have the freedom to connect where all these big brands have all these people and it's like there are too many cooks in the kitchen, everybody's bumping into each other and the amount of people you have to talk to for an idea to actually come out it's just not sustainable in the same way, you just don't have that much of a direct line of connection.
TTOS: I agree with you, all this gets filtered and you lose that sense of, maybe the founder's idea of the brand or what initially they wanted to achieve….
What was the defining moment of your career as a surfer?
I mean, I don't really think there was any defining moment of anything. I think everything has just been like an evolution and everything's inspired everything else. I never really had like a definite moment or even I was never a person that had a goal, I never cared about competing, I never wanted to be a world champion, I was just surfing cause it was fun; I just started traveling because I got to travel and the contests were just an excuse that I could tell my parents why I was traveling and then I was very lucky to be at a very specific time in surfing culture that was like, it really gave me an afforded me the opportunity to travel. I think really being a free surfer and having an opportunity to like hang out with Thomas Campbell and work with his films, it was more about like the creative process and meeting people and traveling and seeing the world that inspired me and inspired my surfing. I think that I'm constantly going back to that core element of like, why surf? I look back and I'm like, wow, all of it was so amazing and all of it continues to be so amazing, but it's just like a different formation. I never really think I reached like some like pinnacle place, but because I didn't reach some pinnacle place, like it's always just been this epic journey.
TTOS: You were talking about meeting a lot of people/ surfers, was there a meaningful meeting among all the surfers that you met ?
Meeting Gerry Lopez and getting to surf with him, I think he truly embodies all of that, I'm interested in, in his approach to life, he has a deep yoga practice, his surfing practice as part of that yoga practice. I think that his way of looking at things and his way of like seeing things is very in line and it inspires me and fuels me in what I'm interested in. I think that meeting him was fantastic. I'd definitely hold him up on this…. wow, I'm so inspired by you, you know? And then I think I was very fortunate to grow up in a time of meeting the real like inspirations of surfing and surf culture, like having an opportunity to know and surf with somebody like Linda Benson, who was the first woman to ever surf Waimea….
Her and Donald were really good friends and that gave me a really bird's eye view into that era of surfing. That was so powerful because they were really some of the pioneers surfing, riding these waves for the first time, which was so interesting.
I remember being in France, they used to have festival that brought people like Nat Young, I remember I was surfing without a leash, one of my first times to France, I was like 16 or 17 and I'm getting to surf with Jeff Hackman. And I was staying, you know, with Jeff and his son, Ryan and they were taking me around to surf all the waves and get treated. I remember I was surfing with no leash and the lifeguard came to me and was going to take my board and he's yelling at me in French…. I'm like a little kid, I have no idea what he's saying to me and I'm like, why is he taking my board? I don't have a leash, like who cares? And then all of a sudden here comes Nat Young and he just starts yelling at the cop and grabs the board and hands it to me and I take off and I just run away. Having an opportunity to like exist as a kid in surfing and seeing these like great legends and having interactions with was really, really special, you know? I'm very grateful for that time and I just encourage the kids, like the next generations, like pay attention to the people that came before you, because they really like helped set a pathway. And now like so many kids like don't know what's up, you know, they're very focused on like a very small amount of time. And like, you look at somebody like Joel Tudor who really is like such a great surf history expert. I think that's one of the things that I think as well as being an amazing surfer and being Joel who's like so incredible and really kind of like paved the pathway for like all of us, like more modern longboarders loggers to kind of get out there in the world. And guys like Thomas Campbell, but what's really fantastic about Joel is he's a true expert in surf history, he really spent time learning from these people and learning from the boards and like really like understanding, you know, what was happening at that time and why. I think that's something that I want to, like, I mean, kids are just like on Tik Tok and they're like looking at their phones. It's like, “dude look up and do some research, there's so much stuff that's so radical”. I really love it when some of the youth generation is really paying attention to the past., I mean the women surf pipeline for the first time ever this year in a contest….amazing!
The thing that I realized was that a lot of those women were really honoring women like Rochelle Ballard and Megan Bubo and like some of those girls that paved the pathway for what the girls now are doing. Today the girls now are just like incredible, it's like out of control what they're doing out in the big waves…. it's amazing, they all are honoring women like Kayla who were out there charging before anybody cared, you know?
TTOS: what is next to achieve in women surfing?
Truly equal prize money and truly across the board for everything aand truly equal equality in all forms, you know, in time in the water and exposure and all those things. So I think like really that's the next thing, like, you know, there's been so many leaps and bounds and strides forward in a lot of ways. I think true equality across the board for all things is like really the next place to go, you know? Really hold and not have it just be like, see, we're equal this time, but like really have it be something that's like truly woven through the fabric of surfing culture across the board.
There's already been enough bricks put in place. And like, at this point, it's I do just like full like blanketed equality across the board for all matters of interaction within the surf culture in the surf world, economically in like how they like actually like equate, you know, if there's only three or five girls actually being able to make a living from this, but then there's all these other guys making a living from it. All these girls are like working five other jobs just to get on the tour, that's not equal even though there is one contest that he has equal prize money. It's not actually like blanketed across the actual, you know, because at the end of the day too, like the women's brands are what for the most part is pulling in the money, but then they're paying all these guys to serve, but they're not paying equally the amount of women to surf. I think true equality actually trickles down, it's not just like one venue in this contest has like equal prize money, it's like, well, how many of these top 16 women in the world are actually making a living surfing?
TTOS: what are your future projects? Are you working on something particularly right now?
We are just like working hard to make a new collection and to really have, you know, better quality elevated product line that is more sustainable and also available and more like we have like a big online presence and really what I'm trying to do now is just make it more available to you know, a wholesale demographic and getting it more in shops and just getting it more readily available. My big dream is just like giving back more, you know, and by having an access to create wetsuits out of more sustainable materials in a more mindful earth conscious way, kind of like we're able to do more good and make sure that more consciously created suits are out there, which also in turn pushes the big factory, which also in turn pushes the big companies, but also gives us more of a presence and more of an opportunity to show up for the world….
I think right now, I'm trying to learn and grow and expand in a conscious way and really take my values and grow in a way that keeps my integrity at its core. You know, always going back to that as a north star. I feel like it's been done before, obviously there's like beautiful, you know, examples of it, like companies like Patagonia, but oftentimes things get to a point where they grow so massively that it's hard to sustain that. I really want to go to a place that sustains that and also, as we grow, dedicates more of that towards giving back to the earth.
TTOS: we finish our interview with a short Q/A session. Please answer the first thing that comes up to your mind. The best surfboard that you ever ridden…
TTOS: February shaper,
Donald Takayama and Dane Peterson is now making my surfboards and he's a longtime friend of mine, amazing shaper, he's making stuff that are just so interestingly, super innovative.
TTOS: Favorite song
I don’t know if I have a favorite song, but I have favorite bands…I love Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead and lately. I've been listening to a lot of ambient music.
TTOS: Your favorite surf spot..
Ooh. I would say definitely some of the point breaks that we scored with Thomas in New Zealand.
TTOS: Your favorite surfer of all time….
Rob Machado because he's so groovy and I love the lines he makes when he surfs
TTOS: Last question we ask, we want to know your best relationship advice…
Best relationship advice is: Listen.