Follow journalist and fitness junkie Jessica Hundley over the next few weeks on her journey to conquer the waves before her 45th birthday in our new series: Athleta Journal
When I first decided to learn to surf, I immediately went looking for mentors. I had inspiration all around me, friends with varying stages of surfing skill. But I wanted a mentor, a stranger, someone to talk with who had made surfing their living, their art, a part of who they were. That’s when I met Kassia. It was kismet really. One of those strange, right place, right time coincidences, fate or whatever you like to call those moments when things happen exactly as you need them to.
In prep for my first lesson I had ordered a wetsuit online, drawn to its bright colors and sleek design. It was a very female, powerful, a Wonder Woman costume for the water. The wetsuit had been design by Kassia Meador, one of the top women surfers in the world. The day it finally arrived in the mail, I went for a hike with a dear friend, a beautiful adventurer visiting from Australia. Not 10 minutes after meeting up, she mentioned she was going downtown the next day, for a studio visit to a designer she knew, a surfer named Kassia Meador.
I told my friend about the stories I was planning for Athleta; about the suit I’d just bought, about wanting a mentor. And that night I was trading emails and within a week, sitting across from Kassia in her sprawling studio, talking surf.
Kassia is lean, angular and lovely. On land, she is a fireball of creative energy, her studio packed with samples from her new line, pottery she’s made, silver photo prints she’s recently shot. On the water, that creativity is still there, her style unique and graceful. In one video, she walks hesitantly but elegantly, like a watchful deer, up her board to the very tip, then turns and prances back again.
She’s been surfing since she was 14, coming over the mountains from the San Fernando Valley to catch waves in Malibu with her father. “I really learned through watching, “ she explains, “watching the pros, watching videos, just being on the beach and reading the waves. I learned by observing, being totally in the moment, which translates to so much to life.”
At 16, she won the Roxy Wahine Classic–the first surf contest she ever entered and went pro. Now she spends her time traveling around the globe, surfing competitively in exotic locales. The first thing I ask Kassia is if she thinks there is a difference in the way women and men surf and what advice she has for women taking to the waves for the first time. She thinks for a moment.
“The opportunity for that universal feeling, the energetic connection with the ocean,” she says, “there is no barrier of gender in that way. But there may be a difference in what you find interesting about surfing, whether it’s the physical challenge, the competition or just style, what you’re doing on the wave. For me, it’s more of an expressive form. I think sometimes, as a woman, you may be more intimidated to try surfing for the first time, but you get so much confidence once you get in the water. The thing to remember is the ocean is the ultimate equalizer. Whether you’re Kelly Slater, or getting up for the first time – everyone falls. We all fall. And it’s okay.”
Kassia talks about surfing in the most poetic and reverent of ways. When she’s home in Los Angeles, she spends her days in the water, working on designs or heading beach clean-ups near her local break in Venice. Her time in the surf has given her both an inner poise and an infectious enthusiasm for life, as well as a deep respect for the natural world.
“Surfing is about an understanding, a communication between you and nature”, she explains, “You have to be calm, quiet and just watch. It is the best active meditation, in that way. It teaches you subtlety and that’s such a beautiful thing, because not much in our world these days is very subtle.” Kassia smiles, “Surfing teaches you a lot of things. I can say that pretty much everything I learned about navigating through life, I learned through the ocean.”