Just a few years ago, the gear options available to women surfers were woefully lacking. But a new crop of brands is beginning to change this — with pieces designed specially for women surfers, by women surfers. In a market once dominated by string bikinis and revealing board shorts, there is now a stylish array of beautifully tailored neoprene wetsuits, rash guards and stay-put swimsuits, all made with the common goal of getting more women of all skill levels into the water — and helping them look and feel their best in the lineup. Here, six companies that are reimagining women’s surf wear.
When the professional longboarder Kassia Meador set out to create a collection of surf wear, she knew precisely what women’s wetsuits were lacking: thicker material at the wrists and ankles to help retain body heat; panels tailored for women’s hips and torsos; and the highest-quality neoprene. Today Meador’s line includes SPF 50 Lycra leggings, long-sleeve hoodies and bathing suits made of upcycled wetsuit scraps. Most pieces are printed in her signature technicolor tie-dye.
The Brazilian-born, San Clemente-based designer Amanda Chinchilli sewed her first pieces of surf wear for a trip to Costa Rica in 2010. By the following fall, Chinchilli had produced 50 pieces. Today her line, Seea, offers a broad array of retro-inspired surf suits, bikinis, one-pieces, rash guards and wetsuits. The pieces come in floral and graphic prints and are frequently modeled by professional surfers – because showing real bodies is as important as what you dress them in, Chinchilli said. “It needs to become the norm.”
The New York designer introduced her fashion-forward wetsuits in 2012 – three years after she learned to surf, 24 years after she founded her eponymous label. The pieces are embroidered and printed in Italy before their seams are welded in China. Whether color-blocked, floral or striped, Rowley’s neoprene confections prove that wetsuits can be made as beautifully as a well-constructed dress.
Erika Seiko Togashi spent years designing for companies like Patagonia, the North Face and Deus ex Machina before starting her own swimwear brand. Not yet a year old, September the Line offers crisply tailored one-pieces and bikinis, all made with recycled nylon from Italy. The pieces look and feel luxurious — and perform even better.
British-born designer Helena Dunn makes two-pieces and rash guards for the aesthete who values performance and sustainability in equal measure. (“More than a bikini, less than a wetsuit,” reads the company’s tagline.) Produced in New York and San Francisco with “upcycled” fabrics made of recovered ocean waste, Dunn’s pieces allow for maximum mobility, and 1% of all sales is donated to various environmental causes.
Branding strategist and native Angeleno Ann Kim was moved to start her line of surf wear after receiving unwanted comments about her wetsuit from male surfers. “How do we make a wetsuit designed to support women of different body sizes or backgrounds?” she recalled thinking. For Kim, who is based in New York, the answer was painstaking tailoring and sustainable neoprene produced from Japanese limestone. La Bamba NYC made its debut in 2018 with interchangeable tops and bottoms in colorblock earth tones.