“They were born out of the pandemic and the wildfires,” says Kassia Meador. “We couldn’t really go outside and we were like, ‘Man, we just want to be with people. We want to connect. We want to collaborate. We want to be with people and out in nature.’”
So began Salty Sensations, the surf and wellness retreats founded by Kassia and her close friend of over 25 years, Leah Dawson. Kassia and Leah are a couple of today’s most exciting surfers. Kassia is a goofy foot who specializes in the cross-stepping, nose-riding style of longboarding. Leah is a regular foot who rides all manner of board design with balletic grace. Their combined expertise in the water is a mega-force, not to mention their healthy approach to diet and exercise.
“Surfing has so many different aspects to it, from connecting with nature to the community element,” says Leah. “I really see surfing as a great catalyst and tool to fire people up to live their best lives.”
So what is the main objective of a Salty Sensations retreat?
“They’re about giving people an opportunity to get out of their day-to-day and to nourish themselves,” says Kassia. “Nourish themselves by the sun, nourish themselves by the sea, nourish themselves with community, sleeping under the stars, being outside, and connecting with like-minded community. There’s great food and massage and acupuncture. So it’s a mind, body, and spirit experience.”
I asked Kassia and Leah what they enjoy most about hosting the retreats.
“Bringing people together and sharing what I love so much when it comes to the ocean and when it comes to taking care of yourself,” says Kassia. “I feel like there’s so many people getting into surfing at a different stage in life than I did, and they have questions, and they really don’t have many people to go and ask those questions to. So it’s like: how can we support our ever-growing community of surfers entering the water, and how can we support them in ways that also make it fun. We’ve hosted six retreats so far, and we’ve had a couple people who have come three different times, and their surfing just improves dramatically.”
Leah concurs. “Sharing stoke makes me feel like I’m a kid again. And when you can see people having transformative both life and surfing experiences, it’s really special. And it’s great getting to work with Kassia. It’s proven to be an incredible partnership of support and creativity and understanding and flow.”
Kassia and Leah first met at a surf contest at Malibu in the late ‘90s. They were there less for the trophies than the people.
“The retreats are about building community,” says Kassia. “They’re about bringing people together to share the love of the ocean. For me and Leah, it was really that love of surfing and surf culture that brought us together, and that’s really what we’re bringing with these retreats. Yes, we’ve both done contests, but it was really that community element that got me obsessed with surfing and surf culture. It was everybody being together as a collaborative group of people. And that’s what this is about: collaboration.”
All photos by @heidizumbrun