Last month I sat down at Choice Health Bar to chat with the next westside wahine, ocean athlete Lara Claydon.
W: I’m really stoked to learn more about you and what you do in the community. I know that you’re an athlete, during a typical year you’re traveling and competing. Your life is super different.
L: Yes, for sure!
W: How do you support the local Maui community?
L: We’re very involved with the community, especially Lahaina. I didn’t attend Lahainaluna, but I swam and played water polo for four years there. My Dad coaches the JV football team, so we’re very involved in the community through that. He’s been coaching since we’ve been here, so 13 years.
He also runs a non-profit organization called Young Life. He is the area director for Maui County (Maui, Moloka'i, & Lanai). But Young Life is a huge world-wide organization. We originally were in Ventura, CA and then moved out here. Now he runs Young Life for Lahaina, Moloka’i, Lanai, and now we’re starting an Upcountry Young Life!
W: What is something you do every day (or week) that brings you joy?
L: I would have to say, definitely surfing and getting in the water. If there’s no waves, every day I try to get outside and do something. Or even out of the house, just because I’ve been stuck inside with school so often...
But even just going to the gym, going to The Block – I feel so much better after I do that. Going surfing, or even going to check the waves. If it’s horrible just getting in the water and being around the water. It brings me peace, calms me down, clears my head so I can carry on.
W: Yea, I’m totally the same way. If I’m feeling crappy energy or if that day kind of sucks… If I jump in the water the rest of the day is so much better.
L: It’s SO crazy! You’re like wow, I feel so much better. Why was I stressing on that? It doesn’t matter, it’s ok.
W: There’s something so special about jumping in that saltwater and letting go…
W: When you’re off school, off work whatever…. Where can we expect to find you?
L: Well it depends, if I’ve had a really hard week, I will sit at home and watch movies and TV shows. Usually we’ll have Sundays off and its football Sundays especially with football season. So, we’ll all sit at home as a family, watch football, eat bean dip. Come 4 o’clock we’re all like, “ugh we feel really bad, we need to go get in the water.” So, then we’ll do an evening surf session.
But if I haven’t really done anything all week, sometimes I’ll go on hikes and we’ll just go adventure around. Some hikes on the other side, or just drive to Hana, or do something fun with a group of friends.
W: Yea, I love my lazy days…
L: I normally turn my phone off too. I’m getting away from my phone, I don’t wanna hear anything. I don’t wanna do any work.
W: What actions do you take to protect our environment? Do you carpool, bring reusable grocery bags? It could be something really small….
L: One of the biggest things that I do is use reef-safe, all organic sunscreen – Raw Elements. I’ve actually been riding as an ambassador for 8 years now!
Brian and (Chris) Waggs, they invented and started Raw Elements. When I was 13, we met them, and we just loved what they were doing! What their goals were and what they intended. They were still a small brand, passing out free samples at events. Eight years later we have World Reef Day, that’s an internationally recognized day.
They’ve just grown so big. That’s been a huge thing for us, especially since my family we’re redheads. So, we’re very fair and we’re in the sun ALL the time. Surfing, at the beach, hiking, whatever we’re doing, we always have Raw Elements.
They have a tinted face-stick that’s my favorite. Not only is it helping the reef, and our oceans, and our environment, but it also is really good for our skin. Just because they don’t have all those gross chemicals that are soaking in. And it really works for us, for our 6+ hour beach days in and out of the water. My Dad used to go and get skin checks, and he needed to get a couple cancer spots burned off. Since we’ve been using Raw Elements, he’s had no skin issues at all.
You can always find them online, but lots of local shops carry their sunscreen on Maui. If you’re on island you can find them at stores like Hi-Tech, 808 Boards, Safeway, even some ABC Stores.
L: Since day one that’s how we have really focused on how to help our reefs, especially being surfers. The reef is so important to us, we don’t want gross beach break! So that’s how my family and I take action. We’ll go to beach cleanups; local ones like at the Bay. I did my first big beach cleanup with Raw Elements last year or the year before during their World Reef Day celebration. I was just blown away… I didn’t realize until I was there sifting through the sand how much trash and plastic there was.
W: At the end of the day this project is about supporting women and highlighting people in this community that are making moves! I know your surfing season and all that was messed up this year. What are some actions we can take to help you as an athlete, or just your own projects that are in the works?
L: One big thing, is just using proper sunscreen. Something that’s not damaging to your body or the reef. Especially Raw Elements – I have codes to get discounts. For 15% off Raw Elements use the code LALA99 (I actually earn money from that too).
Supporting our local shops here on Maui like Choice and Hi-Tech is super important. We’ve got to invest in those shops, then our local community can get paid, especially during such a hard year.
Finally, just keeping up to date with me and my events on social media.
W: What’s your favorite thing about westside Maui?
L: I have a lot of favorite spots on westside… mostly because I never make it over to the other side! It’s my own little bubble here on the westside. But I would say my favorite thing about the westside is the community. Everyone knows everybody, which is a good thing and a bad thing at the same time! Everyone knows my Dad, know him as coach Andy – so I never got a date in high school… hahaha
But it’s nice because everyone is like a big family. Everyone waves to each other on the road, you see basically everyone you know when you go to one spot. I just love how small the community is. We’re just a big family, that’s my favorite part.
I come home and see everybody. Everyone is asking, and really wants to know; how you’re doing, what’s going on, how’s your family?
The people here, the culture… Even though everyone’s so different, there’s so much respect.
W: What advice would you give your teenage self?
L: That’s a good question! One would be not to worry so much about competing. Don’t get so overwhelmed, so stressed on trying to perform at your very best in every heat. Instead, doing the best you can with the conditions. Enjoy the heat, enjoy where you are. Have fun and still compete, but don’t overthink it to the point where you feel like you’re beat before you even get out of the water.
The other piece of advice would be to just be thankful. For what I got to do in my teenage years, and not worry about what I missed out on.
I felt like I was missing out on the high school experience… Looking back, I’m so glad I didn’t have to sit in classes for 6 hours. I got to travel and go to different countries, but still be able to school online. My teachers were amazing, and my school was great. Even though I got made fun of for being a homeschooler… I was fine, I was travelling and working at the same time.
Follow the links below to support the local businesses mentioned in our interview.
Lara's Instagram: @lalaclaydon
Raw Elements: rawelementsusa.com (for 15% off) use the code LALA99
The Block Maui: theblockmaui.com
Choice Health Bar: choicehealthbar.com
Young Life: younglife.org