Paulina Dao

Paulina Dao

Last year we read a powerful piece by Paulina Dao that called on brands to represent minority groups and women, which we added to our brand new Journal. This year we actually got to meet Paulina in person, and as we suspected, well, she's awesome! We talked under a canopy of redwood trees about topics ranging from our peer groups and their influence, to the nuanced ways that representation and appropriation differ and how to approach these conversations with both humor and grace. Paulina is equal parts cheery and fiery; she's a community-builder, a dedicated climber, and a woman with an enormous heart. We're honored to spotlight her in this week's Hustle & Grit. 


What’s on your bucket list right now?

Lots and lots of climbing! I went to Iceland recently and did a lot of hiking for two weeks. That was fun, but I’m itching to get back on the rock. We had a nutty winter in California so the Sierra climbing season is short. I got to tick off a few bucket list climbs (Third Pillar of Dana and Venusian Blind) in the last month, but there’s always too much to do, not enough time. I’d love to do Tenaya Peak and a few other easy, multipitch climbs out of Tuolumne Meadows before Tioga Pass closes for the season.

What are you a beginner at right now, or trying for the first time?

This is probably going to sound dumb, but I’m still learning to let go of judgement. Who cares if someone is wearing makeup on the trail, or on a climb? Who cares if someone has her shirt off? How does this affect me, my life, and what I’m doing? It doesn’t, and any negative thoughts that I have aren’t actually about the other person. Rather, they are a reflection of my own insecurities.

Along those lines, I'm still learning to appreciate myself more. I spend a lot of time thinking about the things I cannot do, when this little, stubby body has accomplished a heck of a lot. I need to celebrate that radness more.

Photo by Austin Trigg

What is helping you keep it together? Any saving routines?

Rest days, self care, and listening to what my body wants. I’m really good at being on the go and packing a million things into my weekends, but sometimes I feel really exhausted and burnt out, kind of like I need a vacation from my vacation. People are always sharing the coolest, most epic thing they did, so I feel like I have to keep up in my own way. I’m starting to learn that it’s okay to want to lay in bed for a whole weekend, or to not leave my house because I’m busy talking to my plants and baking cookies. Taking time for myself to just chill out is really important to being a mostly sane person.

If you had $300 to spend in the Wylder shop, what would you spend it on?

I would buy everything from Coco Barret-Tormey! Not for actually using, but to use as pottery for all my plants and to have a little urban jungle. And then maybe some gardening tools because I think my boyfriend is getting tired of me using all the utensils for gardening.

What are you planting in your garden this summer?

My dad gave me a little kumquat tree a month ago, so I’m trying to keep that alive. I also have a little herb planter that has barely been chugging along. A lot of things I planted were destroyed by fungus gnats at the beginning of the summer, so that was a bit of a bummer. Also, I recently acquired monstera deliciosa and I am obsessed with it. It just got its first split leaves! I talk to it every day.

What is at the top of your spotify, ‘recently played?’ Or, favorite current music?

I pretty much listen to two playlists: country and not country. I’m such a sucker for cheesy, feel good, pop country that makes you burst from the seams with happiness. But I also love catchy top 40 jams. And I have this intense love for Taylor Swift, specifically her Fearless and Speak Now eras.

Who is inspiring you right now? Why?

I have a wonderful crew of women (Meghan Young, Shawnte Salabert, Georgie Abel, to name a few) who are constant sources of inspiration for more thoughtful living. I am forever thankful for the conversations we have and little tidbits of knowledge that they impart on me. Female friendship is very new to me, so I’m still trying to awkwardly navigate those waters.

If you’ve ever been profoundly changed by a landscape, which one, and why?

I was fortunate to get sent to Walden West Summer Camp as a wee lass, which is where my love of the outdoors began. It was a combination of the Santa Cruz Mountains and people who were just so passionate about teaching kids and telling people about the outdoors that got me hooked. Those are memories that I still look back upon fondly. I want to inspire people the way they inspired me.

Are you an activist? If so, what are you fighting for and why?

I don’t consider myself an activist. I have things that I am passionate about, but I never feel like I know enough about anything to be some sort of definitive source of truth and activism. I run social media for the Bay Area Climbers Coalition, and am always looking for ways to engage with people to protect our public lands. Working with the BACC makes me feel like I’m making an impact in my own backyard. I’m also passionate about making the outdoor industry more diverse and inclusive by calling out my favorite brands and companies when I think they can do better.  It’s important to tell companies that we are watching and we are listening. The outdoors is so much more diverse than what the media portrays. There’s a lot of untapped potential to uplift and share other people’s new and different stories. It’s great that Wylder is sharing stories from wonderful women like Jenny and Melise. It's a good start.

 Follow Paulina at her website HERE and on INSTAGRAM










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