Watching Kassia Meador walk the length of her longboard is like watching art in motion: It's beautiful, elegant and timeless. The creative and spunky Los Angeles native is on the forefront of the reemerging "nostalgia aesthetic" that has encapsulated the modern surf movement. More than just a surfer, Meador is a curator of the culture, and her style is rooted in the history of the lifestyle. She's an artist, a designer and an activist; from her wetsuit designs with Roxy to her recent photo exhibitions, Meador is always on the move and creating something positive. We caught up with her to talk about art, love and surfing.
XGames.com: Where did you start surfing, and are you still living in Oceanside, Calif.?
Kassia Meador: Well, I moved back to L.A., like, a year and a half ago from Oceanside, which is good because this is my home, and it always feels good to come home. I started surfing at Malibu [Calif.], which was huge for me; it was cool to grow up at a beach that was really respectful and into the history of surfing and where it came from. I felt really blessed to grow up surfing at a place like Malibu. Joel Tudor would come there and we got to see the modern side of surfing, but also a lot of the older guys would come surf there, and we were really into guys like Mickey Dora and that part of surfing history.
How did you avoid the neon-clad thruster era?
It was all about surfing Malibu. When I started surfing, guys were riding high-performance tri-fin longboards trying to do airs and trying to make it look like shortboarding, which was never appealing to me. We all went through the tri-fin phase, but it never excited me; walking through the wall at Malibu is like walking through a time warp, and we were always really aware of the history growing up there.
I feel like shortboarders are now looking to classic surf style for inspiration.
You can see that it's really caught on, which is cool; for me personally, I like to watch the classic style of surfing. Surfing is really subjective, and it's really about creative expression; in that sense, it's more like an art form than a sport, so I'm not mad at people who ride just thrusters or whatever. It's just not my vibe.
Did people ever try to push you in a direction that you weren't comfortable with to make you more viable?
I guess when I first moved down to Oceanside and started doing more longboard events everyone was telling me I had to ride a tri-fin to win a contest. I was young and impressionable, so I tried for a while, but it bummed me out on surfing and I wasn't that stoked on it.
I like logs, and once I got back on single-fins I was stoked again, but it's good to try different stuff and get out of your comfort zone, because then you can really find out what works best for you.
How do you feel about the current state of women's surfing?
I think there are a lot of subcultures within surfing. There is the sort of progressive, competitive surfers, which is great, then the sort of free-spirited free-surfer, and then the more retro-style surfer. I just think it's a really cool time in surfing in general, and especially for women surfers; sometimes, I'm in the water and there will be more girls out than guys.
The fact that there are so many different avenues to go down is awesome. Even with wetsuit design and innovation, girls can be fashionable and look good and enjoy the water, which I think is great.
You just had a photo exhibit in Venice, Calif. Is photography your main creative focus?
Yeah, my focus is photography. I have always been interested in art and I could never draw or paint, which always frustrated me. I always knew I had something I wanted to express but never knew how to actualize that. It wasn't until I found photography that I found a way to put my vision into another medium. I can preserve moments from my travels around the world and help inspire people to feel something. It's awesome to be shooting photos, and I love doing shows, because it's so great to get people together to share love for art and culture.
My photography is different than my surfing: I'm traveling to go surf, but I'm shooting everything along the way. It's been cool to blend my passions together.
Do you have professional photography aspirations?
I mean, I love shooting photos, and it's something I'm passionate about -- just like surfing was something that I started doing because I loved it and it took off -- but it was never something I was trying to push in any particular direction. I view photography the same way. I've been lucky to have a lot of great mentors that helped push me to show [my photos] to people -- friends like [surf artist/photographer] Thomas Campbell that told me I needed to show my photos to people, and it's done really well.
I have shot a few [ad] campaigns for Roxy and some other people and that's been fantastic, but I'm really doing it because I love it.