Catching up with Leah Dawson
“I love that VIVOBAREFOOT is an encouragement to healthy movement, to make sustainable choices, to recognize that every choice matters, and that nature is far too special to not enjoy!”
Leah Dawson is one of today’s most influential women in global surf culture and communities. Not only has she become a surf icon, but a leader who lives by example. Her professional surf career has taken her around the globe to surf world class waves and events. With more than 20 years of surf competition experience, you can find Leah charging ahead chasing swell, living well, and connecting with nature.
VIVOBAREFOOT was able to catch up with Leah on a sunny day in Bend, Oregon to get an inside look at the things that shape her.
“My typical day to day life in Hawaii involves an early morning surf, a nice stretch, picking up food from my friend's gardens, cooking meals at home, working on projects for work and pleasure, visiting with friends, and a sunset surf,” Leah explained. Although, most recently, Leah has found a new place to retreat, tucked away in the high dry desert of the Pacific Northwest: Bend, Oregon.
“Bend is an outdoor town. Most people in the community have gravitated there because of the plethora of outdoor activities. I love being in cities where sustainable consciousness is on people’s minds, where there are many healthy food options, and where people smile at each other. Alex has a sticker on his truck that says ‘Be nice...you’re in Oregon.’ I think that fits Bend to a T...” said Leah. She and Alex Lopez, local surfboard shaper and son of surf legend Gerry Lopez, make for a truly modern-day dynamic duo. Leah continued, “Bend attracts people who love to interact with nature. As surfers, both Alex and I prefer uncrowded zones. Bend is changing. The word is out and it’s not the 'best-kept secret' anymore. Yet, as it populates, people are coming predominantly for the nature aspect. While overpopulation is not a good thing, a population connected to nature is a very good thing.”
“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.”
With a fresh dusting of spring snow on the local mountain, Leah and Alex started their day snowboarding at sunrise. Leah noted, “I gravitate towards places on Earth where the natural environment keeps me in a state of awe. The mountain, the trees, the river in Bend, they all are great reminders of the how special Earth is, and fuels the charge to protect it.”
Apres-ski, the VIVOBAREFOOT team met at Alex Lopez’s shaping bay — an intimate garage-like space with racks of handmade surfboards designed and shaped by Alex, along with signed posters and pictures from various surf icons and miscellaneous memorabilia naturally taking up any voided space. Family members and friends from the local and Hawaiian surf community poured in exchanging stories and sagas from their otherworldly surf experiences.
Alex Lopez was born into the board sports industry and has spent a lifetime perfecting his craft. His shaping bay was minimal, spotless even. “Yeah, it’s kind of a thing my dad taught me. I keep the place where I work clean,” Alex smirked, side-eyeing his dad Gerry. Leah was admiring her newly shaped pink shortboard made by Alex. “I’m thinking of taking it to Brazil,” she smiled.
Living a life on-the-go, Leah has mastered the art of travel. Her method lies in minimalism. “Minimalism is important for simplicity. As a traveller, I realized early on not to take what I don’t need. This penetrated my home life as well. I live simply with as little material items as I can. I know for sure there are items that I have that bring me great happiness, yet it is in the usefulness of them rather than the appearance. I collect two things, surfboards and crystals. When I travel, I bring as little as I need for clothing, two pairs of shoes - one for adventure, and one for relaxing and ease.”
Alex suited up and began to work with diligence and grace. One foot in front of the other, wearing the Ultra 3 Bloom made from algae-based foam, the mind, body, craft connection was awe-inspiring. The result, another perfect board.
Leah continued, “I seek sustainable products whenever possible. The shoe industry is filled with unethical business practices and loads of pollution. VIVOBAREFOOT’s commitment to carving a new way forward in sustainable shoemaking is a refreshing example of how our future businesses need to and can model after.”
The crew ended the adventure day in Bend at Smith Rock renowned for its rocky terrain and dramatic vistas coveted worldwide by the climbing community. Leah exclaimed, “I love wearing the VIVOBAREFOOT shoes, especially in nature, because my feet feel more connected to the Earth. My tiny foot muscles feel engaged as if I was walking barefoot, and the locomotive exercise in the feet and ankles make my feet feel stronger when I wear the shoes. More so, I love VIVOBAREFOOT’s mission, as it is important for us as humans to adopt this way of living across the board. The sedentary lifestyles in concrete jungles are proving extreme health concerns. People are missing this most important element of being a human, and that is being in nature. It is our battery charger, our life sustenance. I love that VIVOBAREFOOT is an encouragement to have healthy movement, to make sustainable choices, to recognize that every choice matters and that nature is far too special to not enjoy it!”
Catch up with Leah and all her adventures on Instagram at @leahloves and see what Alex is creating at Trimcraft Surfboards.