Kassia Meador's garage has earned a reputation. The 22-year-old professional longboarder has lived in her Oceanside house only since August, but she and her garage have already created a buzz among the neighborhood surfers.
"Some of the guys have come by, and I think they are intimidated by all the boards," says Meador with a laugh and a quick smile as she walks between her quiver of a dozen surfboards and half-dozen skateboards. "I think they see all of them and worry that we're better than they are."
If being out-surfed by a woman is worrisome, maybe they should go ahead and worry. The San Fernando Valley native and her housemate, professional shortboarder Prue Jeffries, are among the best female surfers in the world. And if their collection of boards isn't enough to scare the local surf rats, rummaging through the cardboard boxes in Meador's garage will humble anyone.
There are boxes full of free gear from her sponsors-Roxy, Red Bull, Gravis shoes, Velvet eyeglasses and Hawaiian Pro Design surfboards (she has her own model). There are boxes hiding her colossal trophy collection. And then there are boxes filled with row after row of her new surf DVD.
Meador tears into a box of the films and pulls out a shrink-wrapped copy of Fashion (subtitled "Because girls love to surf xoxoxo"). The movie is Meador's Stardust Productions debut film.
"Videos have gotten so serious in the last few years," she says, looking at the picture on the cover-Australian pro surfer Karlee Mackie jumping into the surf with a cartoon purse penciled around her wrist. "But surfing is about having fun and being a spaz and being with friends."
Meador cites recent surf films like Riding Giants and Step Into Liquid, movies that have enjoyed widespread distribution and portray the sport as a grand endeavor-you know, man and ocean in some aquatic dance. What she wanted to make with her first film was something more akin to the movies surf-film legend Jack McCoy made in the '80s.
"We just wanted to make a fun video that would bring people back to those old days," says Meador. "We just wanted to make something that would make people want to go surfing. That's why it's just surfing, good music and a little bit of animation to break it up. There's no real substance to it other than sick surfing."
Fashion is certainly simple. There are no deep themes or messages-it's mostly Meador, Jeffries and their pro female friends blasting through tasty waves. But it wasn't simple to make.
It took eight months; trips to Indonesia, Australia and France; computer and traditional animation; and $15,000 (although much of that money went to Stardust's startup costs). It also took a crash course in cinematography, editing and marketing-all things Meador had little or no experience in.
Filmmaking wasn't initially part of Meador's plan. Early in the decade, she was working to become the world's highest-ranked female surfer. And for a while she was rapidly closing in on that goal.
In 2001, she took firsts at Manhattan Beach's Wild Woman Waterdays and Oceanside's Longboard Contest. A year later, Surfer magazine put her in the top 10 of up-and-coming female surfers. But in April 2003, Meador was riding head-high surf in Fiji when she popped up and over the crest of a wave and her foot left the board and reconnected with such force that she crushed all her metatarsals-the bones that connect the toes to rest of the foot.
Meador had a long and difficult five-month recovery. But during her time out of the water she made a few discoveries. First, there weren't any surf films about women, for women and by women. Second, there wasn't any reason why she, Jefferies and another friend, Anna Petrick, couldn't fill the gap.
"We realized we had every element we need to make a video," says Meador. "So we just thought, Let's do it. Let's hook it up."
Meador spent much of her time off the board teaching herself filmmaking and taking photography classes. Not only did she have time, but she also had money-not much, but contests and sponsorship gave her enough to get Stardust Productions off the ground.
"My other business partners didn't really have any money to throw into this, so it's pretty much all me," she says. "But it's something that I love to do. I just want to make my money back so I can make another movie."
Partners Jefferies and Petrick didn't come to the table empty-handed. Jefferies, who's 10 years older than Meador, brought the experience of being a featured surfer in dozens of movies. Petrick, the only non-pro of the three (although she does surf), brought a degree from UCSD's film school.
"Kassia and Prue surf and swim a lot better than me, so they film in the water and I film on the land," says Petrick of the collaboration. "But I also work for a post-production house here in San Diego, so I know everything about digitizing and editing."
Even with Petrick's experience behind the camera and editing board, making Fashion took a lot of learning on the fly. For instance, their time and resource-management skills needed a little honing. The women spent two months in Australia rolling tape but used just five minutes of footage from the entire trip. By comparison, the week in Indonesia yielded almost 20 minutes.
Thus far, Fashion has performed as the women expected for a first film. Since the December premier at the Mann Theatre in Huntington Beach, the DVD's sold about 500 copies here in the states. But it's the worldwide market that really matters.
"We just got it licensed in Europe and sent 700 copies to Japan," says Meador. "We really need to work on Australia. That's a big market because surfing to them is like baseball or basketball to us."
While all three women are satisfied with the way Fashion turned out, they know they'll have to improve on it if they're going to make surf films a career.
"There are things I would change about it," says Petrick. "We didn't have a look or a feel for Fashion. For the new film, we're changing the filters we use, the time of day we shoot and doing a lot more pre-production."
Stardust's next film focuses on women longboarders-an even finer niche than the one covered in their first film. But already, the lessons they learned on their debut are paying off.
This time, the women are budgeting more carefully. Last time around they had no idea of the costs, so they just spent what they thought they needed to spend. This go-round, there are plans, schedules, shooting itineraries. In February they wrapped up a week in Mexico, and now they're in Australia for three weeks. Then it's back to the states for a trip to Florida and shoots up and down the Southern California coasts.
The idea is to have the film out by mid-summer when the stateside surf season is in full swing. It's an ambitious goal considering they started filming only a month ago.
"We're trying to get away with making the movie for $6,000," says Meador. "Prue was already in Australia; I'm competing down there-so that's money saved."
For right now, money isn't a pressing problem. The receipts for Fashion are paying the bills for the new film-of course, none of the three women have ever earned a salary or gotten paid anything from Stardust, and Meador's $15,000 initial investment won't be paid back for years. But she's not worried. She and her partners are getting noticed by the surf community, which she's confident will buoy their work.
"At first people thought, Oh, it's just our friends making a video, it's not going to be anything real," says Meador. "Now that they've seen what we've done with Fashion they're like, "Hey, we want to shoot with you guys next time, we want to come along!'"In time, there are hopes of producing other women-oriented action sports videos-like skate and snow films. The three have even brainstormed a yoga video. But for now, the second film is enough. Meador's got plenty to keep her busy between her film shoots, like cleaning out the garage and training for the women's longboarding championship in late summer.