3 Athletes Shredding Mountains, Waves and Social Change

The 2022 Coast Film and Music Festival presented a slew of short and full length films showcasing individuals who are altering what it means to be an outdoor adventure athlete. These individuals proved to us that there are no boundaries of who an athlete can be or what they are capable of. To shine a spotlight on just a few of them, here is a small background on three athletes shown at the festival.


Namaala Slab

One of the youngest athletes displayed on the festival screen is surfer Namaala Slab. You can find her in The Physics of Noseriding, directed by Lauren Hill and produced by Patagonia. In her teenage years full of curiosity, she asks what is behind the science of surfing which fuels this outstanding film of exploring the how's and why’s of dancing across a board propelled by the force of an ocean wave. In a recent interview, she expressed to Adventure Magazine that she feels there it is important as a surfer to understand the movement of the waves which she got to delve deeper into during the filming of the movie. Connecting physics and surfing, the Coanda effect gives some explanation as to how surfers so gracefully make their way to the tip of the board as it glides through the water.

Namaala is from a family line indigenous to Australia. Her grandfather founded the first Indigenous surfing competition in Australia in 1996 although when funding fell through it came to an end. In 2016, Namaala’s parents, Joel and Mary, brought the vital cultural surfing event back to life as the Juraki Surf Invitational. Juraki Surf is so much more than a competition; there are community activities, a cultural enriching surf camp and other sporting events all organized around the belief in connecting and empowering Indigenous people through the modern struggles they face. Namaala, her parents, and three siblings live in Fingal Head Australia where surfing is a major part of their life and family lineage. 


Perry Cohen

In the film Miles to Go you’ll see Perry Cohen breaking the status quo of how an outdoors person is portrayed. Too often a flannel wearing white cis-male is shown representing a person of the outdoors. While still wearing flannels, Perry is a passionate runner, biker, Avalanche L1 certified lifelong skier, and Wilderness Responder who is also transgender. A revelatory hike in 2014 ignited Perry’s motivation to make the decision to become the person he knew was by transitioning from female to male. When his search for a supportive LGBTQ outdoor oriented group came up with no results, he found this as an opening for something epic. Venture Out Project was born to fill this gap. Perry founded this non-profit to give queer, transgender, and all other LGBTQ+ individuals a place of solace and support. The outdoors had always been that place of comfort and relief for him and he wanted to create a community where he could bring other people like him the same opportunity. Venture Out’s mission is “To provide a safe and fun space for queer, trans, and LGBTQ+ people to experience the outdoors. To provide education and support that helps schools and organizations affirm their LGBTQ+ community members.” 

Perry didn't stop there, he is working on building a rural transgender health center in his local western New Hampshire community. It is not that the LGBTQ+ community wasn't in the outdoors already, because they were, but activists like Perry Cohen recognize and affirm their place in the active outdoor lifestyle while creating awareness and expanding the safety of people identifying in this community of people. 


Lo Phong La Kiatoukaysy AKA Lil Buddha

Lo Phong was brought into this world in a Thai refugee camp before his family escaped the perils of the Vietnam War and made their way to Kansas. Family trips to Colorado introduced him to adventure in the outdoors which triggered a lifelong passion for hiking the backcountry. After his first thru-hike on the John Muir Trail in 1995, he was hooked. The Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail (CDT) continuing into the Great Divide Trail, Appalachian Trail, and Eastern Continental Trail are some of the major pathways he’s taken on foot. Lil Buddha is a trail name given to him on his ventures.

He once had a corporate job in NYC in a building right by the Twin Towers, but when 9/11 shook the city and nation it changed him forever. Something flipped for him that day causing him to make immediate changes to his pattern of living and begin hiking full time. Today, he is hiking to raise money for Asian and Pacific Islander discrimination that has been on the rise since the Covid pandemic. In 2021, Outside Magazine named him as one of the Outsiders of the Year. Today he has backpacked over 48,000 miles of the breathtaking and life-shaping trails, even repeating the same trails multiple times knowing they never stop having something to offer.

Key Takeaways
  • The Coast Film and Music Festival includes films featuring outstanding athletes with missions to improve the recognition of all types of people in this world. 
  • Namaala and her family illuminate the efforts being made to empower indigenous people to connect and heal from detrimental colonizing practices. Support their mission by donating to Juraki Surf here: DONATE | juraki. Take a moment to explore their webpage and acknowledge their endeavor.
  • Perry Cohen became himself and provides the space for other LGBTQ+ people to do the same. His non-profit has been a gift to this community of people. Join Venture Out as an employee, volunteer, guide here: Get Involved — Venture Out Project.  Or support them by donating here: Donate — Venture Out Project.
  • Lo Phong La Kiatoukaysy, Lil Buddha, lives a life connected to the trails of America. He fights to eradicate racism and enlighten people on the struggles faced by the BIPOC community. He raised $5000 for Make Change - Movement Hub on a recent CDT thru-hike.