Steve Mara and wife Basak at their retail shop in San Diego CA

Ho Stevie! We’re Interviewing ya, Brah

In 2014, the world had begun to discover the power of GoPro and social media, but the hypnotic duo wasn’t quite ready for what surfers kept doing with that small-but-mighty camera. Tossin’ tonsil wasn’t just reserved for those surf competition after parties—for GoPro, surfer’s also swapped saliva to get that down-the-line barrel clip so their girlfriend would do the same  (read: did his mouth taste like foam rubber?).

But a college kid from Wisconsin saw an opportunity and spent many late nights at the San Diego Public Library creating an injection mold prototype from a 3D printer to accommodate surfer’s oral fixation and the rest is Ho Stevie! history.

Steve Mara and wife Basak at their retail shop in San Diego CA

Stevie and the wifey, Basak holding down the shop in San Diego, California.

Fast forward eight years later and that kid Steve Mara, founder of Ho Stevie!, built the biggest surf brand available on Amazon. Its mission is to bring surfers the best quality, best price and best service for surf gear like fins, leashes, traction decks, softtops and even wetties. Running a business as busy as Ho Stevie! is no easy task, that’s why he has his other half, wifey Basak, a.k.a. ‘B’, tackling the mountain of responsibility alongside him. Two heads are definitely better than one!

What’s your favorite thing about running the business with your wife?

It’s the best! We get to bounce ideas off each other all the time, and get instant feedback about everything. It’s especially helpful when she’s editing our videos. We can come up with ideas and go film them instantly, instead of scheduling times to do that like most companies have to do.


Do you both surf? Who’s more competitive for waves?

steve mara basak mara selfie photo

Pretty sure they’re the cutest couple. <3

Haha she tries (to surf) sometimes! The water temp has been about as warm as it gets here, for the past week or two, so she has been paddling out for a few waves with me on our 8’2” soft top.

And of course, I’m out there every day … even if the conditions are bad, I try to at least hit my 3 wave quota every day.

What does surfing mean to you?

FUN. And health. It’s so nice to start every morning with an hour or two in the ocean. It’s a good workout, it’s being out in nature, socializing, being in the sun, cold water therapy… there are so many reasons why surfing is the best.

steve mara surfing a softtop surfboard in california

Stevie bustin’ out a turny turn on a Ho Stevie! softtop.

Goofy or regular?

Sex Wax or Sticky Bumps?
Anything! We actually have Ho Stevie! Wax, but it’s all the same to me, as long as you choose the right temperature.

Favorite surf IG account? Why?
Hmmm hard to pick just one, but a funny one I recently discovered is @thegreenroomtimes, guaranteed to get a good laugh from it.

Favorite pro?
Gotta be Mason Ho. He surfs the sketchiest spots and is always smiling.

North Shore or Big Wednesday?
North Shore for sure.

How would your wife describe what it’s like to run a business with you?
From B: We definitely have so much fun working together, and we are a good team. Steve is really easy to work with. He knows what he wants, how he wants it exactly.

What was catching your first wave like? How old were you, where were you?

Luckily, I stood up during my first day of surfing! In college, I flew from Wisconsin with my roommate to visit his sister (my first ever flight) and they took us to La Jolla Shores. I don’t know how I managed to stand up, but I did, lots of times, and I fell in love with it.

That’s when I decided I wanted to live here. I moved out here a year later, easily my best decision ever.

Steve Mara Nazare busted nose

Busted at 15-foot Nazare! Steve Mara taking some knocks. 

Worst wipeout?

I had a couple of bad ones back-to-back recently.

I got towed into a 15-foot wave at Nazaré, which was awesome, but then when the jetski driver wanted to play in the whitewash, my face smashed the ski sled and I broke my nose.

About a month after that, just when I had started surfing again, I fell on a wave and when I came up for air, my board was flying towards me and I couldn’t duck out of the way in time. It smashed into my mouth, and when I felt my lip with my fingers, I thought it cut my lip all the way off!

I ran home and looked in the mirror, and thankfully my upper lip was just split in half. Wifey drove me to the emergency room where they put 5 beautiful stitches in my lip, and a few months later you can hardly notice the scar!


Favorite spot?

My go-to spot is just out front of my place in Mission Beach. It’s definitely not the best wave, but it’s probably the least crowded spot in San Diego. I’ll take quantity over quality when it comes to waves.

Most recommended surf destination? Why?

I LOVE Central America. I need warm water if I’m going on a surf trip. Bali was cool too, but it’s suuuch long flight. My favorite place is probably Salina Cruz, but honestly, I’m happy anywhere with waves and 85-degree water.


What makes Ho Stevie’s products unique?

The price and convenience. Some of our gear is half the price of the big brands! You can buy everything online with free fast shipping, or stop by our San Diego shop, so it doesn’t get more convenient than that.

And we take care of our customers and answer every question … I hate it when companies ignore customer questions. You can see it on pretty much every company’s Instagram posts.

We care!

Most popular product? Why?

Probably our surfboard socks and canvas board bags. Always a good idea to protect your board, and if you’re driving to and from the beach, this prevents wax from melting onto your car’s interior.

What are your plans for Ho Stevie!?

I just bought a warehouse! We quickly outgrew our retail location in Pacific Beach, so we will be moving into our warehouse and focusing on our online presence. We will be bringing more high-quality, low-price gear to all the surfers out there. Our men’s wetsuits were a big hit this year, so next up is women’s wetsuits.

And I want to put out even more video content than we already do… we have a lot of great ideas for skits, we just need to put them into action.

Gotta keep the people entertained!

Absolutely, Steve & B.


Check out Ho Stevie! and give that Insta page a follow!

Their YouTube page is pretty killer, too.


All Photos Courtesy of: Ho Stevie!

Kayla Pearson holds three year old daughter with sunglasses

Q&A: Surf Soap CEO Kayla Pearson Confesses

Kayla Pearson stands with longboard on the sand at the beach on O'ahu

Kayla Pearson and a freshie ready for a fun surf sesh on a beach in O’ahu, Hawaii.

More and more women are stepping into the forefront of entrepreneurship and business leadership, and though it’s a small but mighty percentage, it’s an even smaller and mightier percentage to be a momma, surfer and a woman entrepreneur.

Kayla Pearson, founder and CEO of Surf Soap, reps this killer trifecta: woman entrepreneur and business leader, surfer and momma,  and does so with poise and savvy … with the CUTEST little daughter at her side. Her passion for the ocean and the environment echo through her awesome company, Surf Soap, a company based in Hawaii that features handmade body and hair care products that are vegan, eco-friendly and convenient.

Learn more about Kayla in my Q&A below:

Can you tell me a little background about yourself?

I am a mama, surfer, entrepreneur and coffee snob hanging out on the island of O’ahu, where I live with my husband and sassy toddler, Ellie. I’ve had a range of jobs from food service, to barista, graphic design, marketing, management and most recently I have been active duty in the Army for several years. I am a trained hairdresser, and attended Paul Mitchell The School in Salt Lake City.

Beyond work life, I love being outside and always have a dog or two with me. I enjoy artisan coffee and pretending to know what I’m talking about with wine. Basically, exploring and learning about the world are my top priorities – which is why I have finally taken the leap and pursued business and entrepreneurship.


two girls sitting on the beach with surf soap in the foregroundWhat made you want to start Surf Soap?

The idea for Surf Soap came to me from two experiences–the first being my inability to find a hair and skincare line designed for surfers. The salt and sun elements create different challenges for hair than a drier climate.

The second experience was this: as a working mom, I have to fit my hobbies into every nook and cranny of time I can extract out of the day. This means hardcore dawn patrol surfing. Well, after surfing I’d usually take a quick shower right there at the beach – so I could air dry my hair on the way home and finish getting ready in a flash. Here in Hawaii, they have signs everywhere on the beach showers that say “No Soap or Shampoo” and I wanted to know why.

Once I learned that the ingredients in our soaps and shampoos harm not only the reef but also the aquatic life – this drove me to use my knowledge of trichology (study of hair), chemistry, and business to create something that could be used anywhere. And not only that, it had to be something that actually worked, too. (Can I get a holla for all the times we’ve used shampoo bars that leave our scalps itchy and our hair weighed down?).

After about six months of research, and six more months of testing, Surf Soap was finally born and ready to send into the world.


girl smiling holding surf soap

All natural ingredients for the win!

What kind of ingredients do you use to create Surf Soap products? Why these ingredients?

Ingredient research is paramount to what we do here at Surf Soap. Not only must our ingredients be ocean safe, but they also need to be organic and sustainably produced and harvested. I went old school and researched ingredients that have been used for centuries as cleansers, moisturizers and healers when creating our Dawn Patrol Collection. We choose not to use any pre-made recipes, or any white label formulations to ensure that our products work as and how we want them to, and you just can’t get that level of customization with white label or “free” recipes on the internet.

We utilize awapuhi ginger, which can be wild harvested and used straight from the plant as a cleanser. Hibiscus not only colors our All-In-One bars, but also aids in the retention of moisture in the hair. Marshmallow in our Rehab Balm allows us to refrain from silicones (i.e., plastics) and instead use a plant that works incredibly well as a detangler and also helps repair the skin and hair barrier.

Our ingredients are so important, and we choose ingredients based on those three criteria mentioned above. We combine these with ingredients derived from coconut and sustainable plant oils to ensure we are offering something that our customers can trust. They know that we have taken the research off their shoulders, and also that our products are tested by real people, and that they actually work.


What is Surf Soap’s philosophy?

We strive to make products that keep our surf clean and our fishies happy. Everything we offer is vegan, plastic free and ocean safe.


Kayla Pearson and daughter smiling

Who really calls the shots?! Ellie!

How do you balance a busy entrepreneurial life with a daughter and surfing?

Oh my goodness – still figuring that out! To be honest, it takes so much discipline. There are days when I am SO exhausted, but the show must go on. Especially with a toddler. She’s 3, so she’s in a very interactive stage in her life and I don’t want to miss that.

I make time for myself, which right now is from 0500-0700 each day. I walk, do yoga or surf, have a quiet cup of coffee and meditate. Ideally – the other thing I am learning to do is not beat myself up if I need to sleep in some days or I don’t get a full yoga session in or whatever. Being kind to yourself is integral to finding that balance and achieving the things you want to achieve in life. I am also part of a surfing moms group so in non-COVID times, we take turns watching the kids on the beach while the other surfs. Hoping to get back to that soon.

I utilize my time as wisely as possible, as well. I listen to books on my commute (I am still working a day job until Surf Soap can support us fully), I work during lunch so that I can make time to spend with Ellie in that afternoon. Just finding what works and remaining flexible about it has been the biggest revelation.


Did you grow up in Hawaii? If not, where are you from?

I wish I had! I was born in California, raised in Utah, and learned to surf on the shores of Florida. Ever since then, I’ve been hooked and searching for ways to get in the ocean – which led me to the beautiful island of O’ahu, where I hope to stay.


What draws you to the ocean and surfing?

The ocean for me has always been such a reflection of my inner being. It’s a healer, a teacher, and someone who will slap you upside the head when you need it every now and then. Surfing itself I use as a meditative practice. I like to go alone (of course, you always end up in the water with the same group of people if you go at the same times, so there’s always someone around) and I don’t typically obsess over the waves. I only have a certain amount of time, so whether it’s flat or pumping, I’m going.girl with surfboard under her arm

But getting out there, watching the sunrise glisten on the water, and feeling this singular breath as you glide over it – there’s something there that settles my mind and reminds me of impermanence and the possibilities in this life, if we only paddle out and try.


Whether it’s running your own business or surfing or life in general, how do you like to face a challenge?

Head. F**king. On. The only way out is through, and for me, there’s no wimping out. We find solutions. Personally, if it’s something that’s made me frustrated or angry, I set myself an amount of time to feel it all out. Once that time is up, like one hour or 12 hours or whatever, I’m over it – I quit moping and get to work. (Seriously, it works. Try it!).


What makes you stoked to get out of bed every day?

Currently it’s Surf Soap. Strategizing a budding business and watching it take hold is so satisfying for me. I long to create my own schedule and days instead of having my days spoken for me, and this is the first step. It’s finally taking shape and now it just needs a whole lotta work to get to that point.


You are passionate about ocean conservation. Which causes are most important to you?

  1. Recycling education. Our recycling programs are actually pretty specific and where our recycling goes is not always clear. So learning to recycle things in your own home, recycling waste properly, and buying conscientiously are huge points I’d like to work to educate more people on.
  2. Wastewater. Please don’t drain oils, harmful soaps, or anything that goes directly to the ocean. Our wastewater plants can’t filtrate everything, so by being educated and learning about our effects on the ocean from personal care products, we can improve the quality of water for aquatic life – which translates directly to us.


Girl sitting on a surfboard in clear blue water

Waving hello from O’ahu’s pretty water, Kayla Pearson is ready for her next wave.

What are your hopes for the future of Surf Soap and the environment?

For Surf Soap, I’d love to see our products next to the wax. My goal when we started was to make this an accessible product. So many eco-friendly products seem almost guarded and pretentious, and I wanted to offer the same high quality to anyone who sought us out. We have many more products in the works (a few are on my desk being tested right now!) and I’d just love to see us grow. For the environment, Surf Soap is planning on doing a lot of community outreach and education, because I think that is a big part that’s missing in our environmental progress. We also hope to just see less waste, and more sustainable things like packaging be brought to the mainstream.

Can you share any advice with surf mommas and women entrepreneurs?

This is hard. Really hard. But the awesome thing is that as women, we were made to do incredibly hard things. Stop comparing yourself to podcasters, bloggers and Instagram. Do what you need to do every day to move YOUR needle forward, whatever that may be. Step by step, hard things take time and you can make the time to do the hard stuff. Make goals and get after them. But also schedule in time to be kind to yourself – whether that’s working out, pursuing a hobby, or just feeling the sunshine on your face. We must create that balance, no one does it for us.

Where can people purchase and/or follow Surf Soap?

And for anyone on O’ahu, we are currently sold in Down To Earth Kailua! Mahalo!

All photos provided by Kayla Pearson


Read my confessions on the Surf Soap blog!


WATCH: Chasing Light SoCal + Q&A with Videographer Celina Bahandari

As part of my day job, I often have the privilege to work with really talented people and students. One of these students just happens to be a super talented videographer and has quite the YouTube and Instagram following.

Recently, undergrad student Celina Bahandari created a video as part of a project for Panasonic and boy! Is she talented or what? Panasonic asked Celina to test their new Panasonic LUMIX s5 camera and create a video that focused on “what gets you up the in morning, what is the light in your life” as part of a project called “Chasing Light.”

I got a little cameo in the video, although disclaimer: the waves weren’t working well that day (thanks, super high tide and River Jetties!) haha Are they ever when you try to plan something??

I caught up with the talented videographer:


How did you become so interested in video?
Growing up I always had an interest in creating little movies and music video parodies with my friends. I think I was always creative from a young age and always enjoyed capturing things on my camera. As I got older and grew up with a lot of content to watch on YouTube, I was able to really get into it more and learn skills from it. Then I just kept practicing and really loving it.

What made you want to pursue it?
I knew I always wanted to have a career that I’m genuinely interested in and love. Because I know if you love something, it wouldn’t really feel like work. So realizing that I was super passionate about filming really made me want to pursue it and just keep growing.

What/who was your biggest influence behind this project?
I think I was just really inspired by the location. Living in different places really makes you realize what makes each place special and unique. So after living in SoCal for over a year, I really knew I wanted to somehow showcase the active lifestyle of it. I was definitely inspired by the general strangers and people that live here and I see everyday when I’m outside taking a walk or on the beach. But if say I was in San Francisco or something, I’d probably make a completely different story because the people up there and vibe is very different.

Where do you want to take your videography?
As far as I can possibly take it. I think I can continue learning forever and it’s super cool that there’s always new things to learn. I really wanna continue working on shoots where I can direct and get better at directing. Also, there’s so many softwares I can learn, as well, and get better at.

What do you want to do after your graduate college?
After I graduate I’ll probably travel for a year cause I’ll probably learn a lot by experiencing new places and grow my video skills while traveling. Then after I wanna do freelancing and make connections in either LA or New York just to get into the entertainment or music industry. I think networking is gonna be the biggest thing that determines how far and where I go right after college, so I wanna try building those while still in college for sure.

What is your dream career?
I honestly want to dabble in everything. The great thing about video is that there’s just so many different avenues to explore. I wanna get into music videos and tour videos, but also I wanted to work on a real movie set and maybe some marketing campaigns. At the same time, I wanna continue working on my own passion projects and make a documentary. There’s just so many things I would wanna do, so it’s hard to say I’ll probably just hop around. haha

How do you plan to achieve it?
I’m gonna work super hard and meet people and continue to grow my skills. I think working for companies and doing internships is super powerful because it’s a good way to learn how marketing teams and businesses work. And also a great way to make connections. I think just continuing to further my skills and networking is the most important way to achieve it.


Learn more about Celina and her company, FilmVentureStudios, on the socials below!



Watch her video, “Chasing Light SoCal.”

All Photos and Video Courtesy of Celina Bahandari

Nine Questions for Sensi Graves, Kiteboarder & Bikini Designer

About 10 years ago, Sensi Graves picked up a kiteboard in North Carolina, didn’t hesitate to shred it and never looked back. Much like how we fall in love with a board sport, kiteboarding took the Hood River local by the arm and led her down a path of adventure, friendship and, in 2012, to start a swimwear business. The elusive “perfect” action sports bikini constantly escaped the many who tried, and few seemed to conquer in the early days, which is exactly what lit the fire for Sensi–enter Sensi Graves Bikinis. Her suits were created and are designed out of the clear need for women who once struggled to enjoy action sports and still retain a feminine appeal during a swimwear fashion v. function era.
Fast-forward only five years later, and you will find women all over the globe kiteboarding, surfing, adventuring, diving, practicing yoga and playing volleyball in her bikinis. When I first saw a Sensi bikini in an online store, I thought the name to be fitting with surfing’s niche culture–very feminine and strong, much like her bikinis. Interestingly, it was kiteboarding that drove her to create a bikini line that looks good while staying put.

*All photos picture Sensi in action and are courtesy of Sensi Graves & Sensi Graves Bikinis.*

Read more on the woman behind the ‘kini:

Q: What made you want to create your bikini line?

A: The concept for Sensi Bikinis was born out of a need. The summer before I graduated college, I moved to North Carolina to coach kiteboarding. I was in the water every single day; teaching, kiting and surfing. Bikinis were my uniform and my recreational outfit. I quickly grew tired of adjusting my swimwear. We’d teach for three hour time blocks and my suits were just not comfortable to wear for that long. The pieces that were designed to stay on were frumpy and geared towards a much older audience. I was 23 and I wanted to look and feel good in my bikini, but I also wanted something that would perform. I decided it was time to do something about it–and Sensi Bikinis was born!BetsyLindsy_Grapefruit2

Q: What does Sensi Bikinis represent for women?

A: Sensi Bikinis represents a mindset that we are strong, powerful and beautiful creatures. We embrace and celebrate our bodies and not judge ourselves.  We empower our customers to get out there and try new things and want to give them the confidence they need to do what they love. For us, that starts with delivering a well-fitting, comfortable and supportive bikini that is, at the same time, fashionable, flirty and makes our customers feel good while wearing it–all while delivering peace of mind that it will perform. We want to show our customers what’s possible for us, as women!

Q: What is your most popular bikini right now and why?

A: We have a few current top sellers: the Colleen top and Kyla bottom and the Dawn top. Most recently, we’ve seen an uptick in the Jennifer bottom, the Katie top, and Elise bottom, which just won the 2017 SELF Healthy Living Award for “Best Two-piece that Stays Put.” Our designs are clean, unique and comfortable, which delivers all the best swimwear qualities.

Q: Tell me about your love for kiteboarding–what keeps you coming back for more?

SENSI GRAVES-lukas-stiller-DawnJennifer_TechnicolorKiteA: I learned to kite in 2007 when my dad brought my three brothers and I out to North Carolina. I hadn’t even really seen the sport before then and had no idea what I was in for. After two weeks, I fell in love and kept in touch with the school where I had learned. In 2009 I had the opportunity to move out to North Carolina for the summer to work as a kite instructor and I jumped on it. From that point on it was live, eat and breathe kiteboarding. I just fell in love.

My favorite part about kiteboarding is the freedom. You can take it so many places: in the waves, in the flat-water, on exploration missions… There are so many different aspects of kiting–whether you go for a solo soul cruise or are out with friends.

The community in our sport is also amazing, you won’t find a better group of people anywhere. I love that you can meet up with like-minded individuals all around the world and connect over this amazing sport.

Q: Do you compete?

A: Yes. I compete in a number of kite events throughout the year, namely on the Kite Park League World Tour. Our season just ended and I finished third overall.

Q: Have your ever tried surfing or any other extreme sports?

A: I love surfing. It’s by far the hardest board sport, you have to really watch and learn the ocean. But, once you’re on that wave, it’s the most exhilarating feeling. I can’t get enough. I’m also an avid snowboarder and mountain biker.TOBY2590

Q: Do you do any cross training for kiteboarding?

A:Kiteboarding is an all-over body workout, so many types of training get you in shape. Personally, I do circuit training, yoga and ride at cable parks. For the discipline of kiteboarding that I compete in (park riding), cable parks are the best cross-training that exists.TOBY5645

Q: What is your perfect kiteboarding day?

A: Waking up to a slight breeze rustling the trees. Enjoying a leisurely breakfast and coffee with friends. Riding in a slider park in tropical weather until I simply can’t any longer. Eating a fresh lunch. Taking a nap. Finally, ending the day with a foil session (another discipline of kiteboarding) as the sun goes down.

Q: Any advice for people who want to try it?

A: Take a lesson. You’ll need the basics and it helps immensely to have someone there, holding your hand as you learn to control the kite. Kiteboarding is all about kite control. Get good at that first before you attempt the board.

Check out Sensi’s bikini designs in action on: