I'm not an awesome surfer. I'm definitely still learning. But I also definitely love the sport. I love paddling out, duckdiving under waves, waiting for the next set, and trying to read the break. Out there, on your board, it's easy to focus on the moment and to live in the present tense. You feel fully connected in body and mind to nature. It's like meditation and it is totally addictive.
One thing that's not so awesome about surfing, however, is that it can be weirdly difficult and annoyingly time consuming to find decent stuff to wear while doing it. So many suits are more sexy than functional and even swimwear that is allegedly made specifically for surfing is often cut mystifyingly high on the bum. Which is fine if you just want to swan around on the beach relaxing, but not so fine when you want to paddle out and pop up on a moving board while the full force of the ocean barrels down around you. Surfing is tricky enough without also having to worry about flashing every dude in the lineup.
Turns out there may be a bigger reason why finding non bum-revealing surf gear is so challenging. Male-dominated surf culture often celebrates female surfer's asses more than their talent and even brands that sponsor female pro surfers are guilty of perpetuating butt-fetishizing sexism. As pro surfer Bianca Valenti recently explained to The Guardian, "there are more butt shots of female surfers than any other angle of them surfing." It seems the notion of female surfers as nothing more than eye candy in skimpy suits has been hard for the mainstream swimwear industry to shake. (For the record, Valenti, who is one of the best female big wave surfers on the planet, doesn't wear a Brazilian-cut bikini for competing. She wear a wetsuit — just like all the men.)
All this is not to say there are not a handful of really cool surf brands that understand that not all women want to show off their bare behinds while on their boards. Here are a few of my favorites:
California-based and locally made, this line of surf gear is totally gorgeous and 100% functional. You can tell that designer and founder Amanda Chinchelli actually surfs and knows what women want — in fact, Chinchelli was inspired to start Seea after realizing she "spent as much time in the water as she did looking for a cute suit to surf in." Seea offers a full range of leggings, two pieces, wetsuits, and rashies, but I especially love the long-sleeved one pieces — they're like a swimsuit and rashie in one. They come in super flattering prints and colorblock and are cut to keep everything in place without riding up or creeping down.
While Salt Gypsy's swimsuits are cut a little too high in the back for my taste, the brand's cropped rashies and high waisted surf leggings and shorts are really terrific. They're perfect for preventing board rash and scrapes and they look so cool you'll want to wear them out of the water, too.
I've always been a fan of Cynthia Rowley's ready to wear but when she launched surf gear I realized I L-O-V-E her. The long-sleeve wetsuits with boy-shorts, the high-waisted bikini bottoms — they are all super dope and come in chic color block and sick prints. I want to go surfing with Cynthia.
As the name suggests, Cover is all about keeping skin under wraps. That may sound kind of prudish but in solid colors and sleek cuts these high-quality suits are actually really chic. Perfect for when you just want something simple and cool. Plus, they're all SPF 50.
Basically I want to wear everything Flagpole makes. The cut-out one-pieces are sexy, and thanks to double straps across the back can move around in them without anything popping out. Even the two pieces offer plenty of support and coverage but don't look dowdy.
Okay, this place is a goldmine! After spending a zillion hours looking for suits before going to Nicaragua last year, I realized competitive lady swimmers probably have similar needs to lady surfers. Duh, Speedo! I went on a crazy successful one-piece swimsuit shopping bender at Swim Outlet and have never been more stoked. The Viva suit I'm wearing in the above photo is one of my most-worn purchases from the spree.