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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:
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Calavera Swimwear: Keeping Your Eyes on the Waves

 

IMG_8264We all love a good show, but when it comes to surfing, the only thing that should be center stage are the waves, right? As a woman who is consistently in the agua, finding the perfect bikini that is both stylish and functional has often been a challenge and has made me one helluva bikini connoisseur–a picky one, I might add.

Enter Calavera Swimwear.

Gents, it’s time to forget about our lovely Ms. Blanchard’s  notorious bottom turns for a second and consider what a woman really wants out there in the deep blue. At the end of the day, girls just wanna have fun, and, let’s be honest, for the everyday surfer girl, we want to look good and nail solid backside hacks without the full moon view or surface from a luscious duck dive or turtle roll with all of our goods intact.

Or we just plain want to be in, on or near the water with no worries. Period.

Calavera swimsuits does just that: both stylish and very functional suits designed and manufactured in Los Angeles, CA, this suit stays put on the bod and has become a staple ‘kini in my surf gear.

DSCN3362 (2)“We test our suits in Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica, one of the toughest waves in the world, with the idea that if they hold up in those conditions, the suits will hold up for anything,” said Calavera Swimwear Founder Anna Jerstrom.

I decided to put the Reversible Halter Top Stripe and the Core Hipster Bottoms to the California test a-la point and beach breaks. This suit saw San Clemente State Park’s hollow waves, Salt Creek’s insiders and overhead Trestles, and (on the gentler side of things), Doheny’s soft right handers. It did not budge from my bod–not to mention I felt like the female version of James Bond in the water. The top is specifically designed to avoid strain around the neck, which makes it very comfortable for hours of activity.

 

Instead of elastic bands around the edging, Calavera features ties that don’t wear out as fast as your standard bikini. You can also can tie them yourself and adjust the “hold” for your bottoms. I love this feature because all too often, elastic quickly becomes shot in the sun and salt water, which ultimately retires the bikini.

In addition to awesome designs, color palettes and solid functionality, Calavera ships their bikinis to you sans plastic wrapping! Environmentally conscious efforts, especially plastic reduction, are a major bonus that I look for in companies these days.

Calavera has passed my bikini test with flying colors. No matter the duck dive, wipeout or turn, everything stays on AND in comfortably throughout my ocean activities. And I feel great in my suit!!

To all of your surfer girls and athletes out there: I challenge you to give their ‘kinis a shot at your homebreak.

Whether your rip, glide or flounder, this bikini will stay on you. The only show the boys should be watching is that last hack you just pulled in the critical section, right? ;)

DSCN3364

 

Beach Creepers Beware

Girls just wanna have fun..without being creeped.

Girls just wanna have fun..without being creeped.

Beach season will soon be alive and well! Bikinis and boardshorts of all shapes, sizes and colors will grace our beaches like newly designed couture on a New York runway.

As much as I love a cute colorful bikini, sometimes I sketch about the attention it attracts:

The Creeper.

You know him…or her, even. They blatantly stare at you, jaw agape, while you change and check the surf. Even though you pull your wetsuit on as fast as you can, they slowly inch their way towards you, eyes not moving from your bod. They’re usually just hanging out by a trash can or a lifeguard tower, a place where you have to cross paths on your way to the water. Though you don’t make eye contact, their stare burns your skull as you calmly make your way to the safety of the water’s edge. For your sake, let’s just hope it’s high tide.

Wonka likes the surfers.

Wonka likes the surfers.

One evening before my usual surf sesh, some creeper stood directly in front of my peripheral, smiled and stared at me as if I was a juicy rib eye while I put on my wetsuit.

He stood there long enough to create an uncomfortable silence and I knew what was coming next.

“You come here often?” he said.

I rolled my eyes and breathed a heavy sigh while I zipped up my suit.

I could feel my face burn and my fists clenched as he continued on with his ‘overly-stoned surfer hippy’ facade.

“Nope,” I curtly stated.

<This is the only time I justify a lie.>

While his pathetic attempts to make conversation turned to more personal matters, I assumed an aloof disposition coupled with short answers and minimal eye contact in hopes to drive him away. Didn’t work. He was from L.A. Go figure.  Hmm, what to say, what to do…

I used to teach preschool and it was the most fun job I’ve ever had. However, establishing boundaries among the little ones is essential, unless you want to go crazy.  Like children, it seems the male-dominated surf culture needs a few boundaries.

Some guys think because women wear bikinis and/or revealing wetsuits, it gives them the ‘okay’ to make a pass or two…or three. Wetsuits, bikinis and the like are merely a preference in expressing how proud we are of our bodies we work so hard for..or simply because we want to minimize tan lines. Respect that.
However, I will say some of us wearing scantily clad items definitely ask for the unwanted attention.
Regardless of what we choose to wear in the agua, here are a few guidelines that either gender might consider when some hottie passes through their radar:

1.) STOP STARING!!
Didn’t your mamma ever tell you it’s rude?!  Just like pointing, in most cultures, it is rude to stare at someone while they are trying to change in their wetsuit…or walk down the beach…or paddle out..or duck dive a wave. If you think they’re hot stuff, perhaps leave it at that. If you stand a chance, decide your angle and make sure it’s AFTER their attire is on. Be respectful and avert your eyes. If you cross my path and stare while I struggle to get my wetsuit on, my glare will cut you like a katana blade.

Unless it's your good friends, this is the time to NOT take a picture. Dave gets ready to surf Hazards in San Louis Obispo, Calif.

Unless it’s your good friends, this is NOT the time to take a picture. Dave gets ready to surf Hazards in San Louis Obispo, Calif.

2.) Watch your mouth.
Really? You’re dropping one-liners? Dude, I left one-liners at the bar…three years ago…and even then, they were dumb. Their coolness factor died in middle school…circa 1998. How old are you, again?

3.) The wax on your deck is not for writing numbers on.
On more than one occasion, some guy thought it would be cute to write my number down in his wax via fingernail. Can it not wait ‘til I get to the beach? Most of the time, I don’t like giving my number out on the beach, much less in the water. I ain’t thinking about yo’ punk ass whilst I be throwin’ spray!

 

4.) Just because I’m being nice does not mean I want to share waves with you!
For every wave you decided to ‘share’ with me, you lose 30 minutes of my time. Several local guys will be dropping in on you shortly.

5.) Quit talking balls to me.
You’re so badass because you surfed Uluwatu, huh? How big was it, again? 14 feet or 4? The scar on your face ain’t from the reef, sweetie. I can tell a a bitch slap when I see one.  A very wise man once told me: “A musician never tells you how good he is, he shows ya how good he is.” Can we translate that into surfing? Hmm? Humbleness is waaaaay hotter.

6.) Unless you’re Dave or Chav, I don’t like being sprayed in the face by your cut-back.
Good for you, you can throw buckets! Now, can you aim it at the guy who was dishing out the one-liners?

At Lower Trestles, anything is possible.

At Lower Trestles, anything is possible.

 

 

7.) Gettin’ aggro does not make you cool.
While I’ll admit there is a time and place to be aggressive, unless you’re at Lowers and 10 people decide to ditch their boards while you paddle out, chillax. Yelling at groms does not get you brownie points, either…unless those groms have dirtier potty mouths than a 60-year old sailor…which is possible…at Lowers.

8.) Yes, I have been to the gun show…
…repeatedly, thanks to you and 20 other dudes.

9.) No, I don’t want you to shape me a board.
I just met you. Besides, I have a shaper…and he’s the jealous type.

10.) RESPECT
Not just me, but also yourself. …when you can’t respect yourself, who else will you respect?

 

Now go forth, former creepers!! Quickly become un-creepified before someone knocks your front teeth in!

We’ll all know you really didn’t hit the reef.

Reefs hurt more than bitch slaps.

Reefs trump bitch slaps.

San Clemente

Dreamin’ Again…

Photo by: Sean Jansen

The sun outside my office dissolved behind a roof of stratus clouds and the night quickly crept in today. I miss my daily over-dose of vitamin D.  Although the surf has been scarce this season (and convieniently occurs when I’m off work), I can’t help but feel the swell future will be brighter.

After starting a new 9-5 office job, I’ve had to make some adjustments to my schedule and have never appreciated the ocean as much as I do now. Any inkling of swell sends me into a ravenous fury of excitement and frustration to plug each of my toes into the sand and then the Pacific rather than a stale pair of black heels. The suits I get excited about are my wetsuits and bikinis.

A little summer surf sesh in San Clemente.Photo by: Sean Jansen

A little summer surf sesh in San Clemente.
Photo by: Sean Jansen

November was a mellow month for surf in southern Cali, it seemed, and I couldn’t be more obliged. Had it been firing, so would my newly proclaimed bosses…and by their standards, it would’ve been my crazy ass for disappearing to places unknown. Despite this I still am planning on disappearing to parts unknown soon, but for now (and the majority of the time), hello beloved weekends and random “sick” days!!

Here’s to plenty more tales from parts unknown and weekend warriror days!

To check out more of my friend Sean’s amazing surf/nature photos, click HERE!