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You can spot a fellow Kiwi a mile away, especially when they have a distinctive moko tattoo on their forearm. Which is how I came to meet Kelly and her dad, Mike, waiting in the same long departure queue at Denpasar Airport. And so began a friendship of mutual admiration and awesome times, despite the Tasman that now separates us. You see, Kelly was on her way home from sorting out the samples and manufacturing of her new surfwear line, KALi – bikinis for surfing. At only 25 years young, her determination, creativity, and vision has greatly inspired me. And not only is she a design and entrepreneurial wunder, she also happens to rip in the surf and on the d-floor. A wahine of many talents..and, I`ll admit, my girl crush. 

Kelly, how the hell are ya mukka and what are you up to these days sunshine?? I often ask myself this question…trying my best to find balance with surf, work, love, creativity, productiveness, relaxation, and all the other moments that make up a good life. All here in little ol` Raglan… for the moment anyway, the world is a pretty inspirational place.

Last year you embarked on a Euro-summer mission – to Ireland! How did you find the waves over there? Any observations on Irish surf culture? Waves were pumping. I was mostly working, and just hanging out in Dublin, riding my bike, and getting to know the man-spoons family and friends better. (author interjection – “man-spoons” is Kelly-slang for boyfriend). When we did get to the west we absolutely loved it. Warm old pubs, shades of lingering smiles over dark pints mirror the understated charging personalities on dark waves. So hospitable. There is no better way to finish your day surfing than in those pubs.

Did you travel anywhere else? Score any memorable waves? Before heading back to NZ, we took a little journey to France. Swell was pretty large, so we headed down and scored Mundaka for a few days. Always wanted to surf that wave, and it was like taking a perfect left and dipping it in a little bit of heaven. So warm, and spent the nights sleeping at this beach in the back of our car, and hanging out with friends that were driving round Europe in a van. I lived off mozzarella, tomato and basil, and cheap bottles of wine…ooo so yum. And a rather epic way to say bye-bye Europe.

So tell us the KALi story – how did you go from awesome Rip Curl wettie designer in Oz to launching your own awesome label? I got there the way I usually get to places. I want to do something, so I do it. I’m always dreaming up something, my mentor got me onto the ideas basket – helps me focus on the dream at hand, not all the others dancing around in my mind running amok. So yes, I left Rip Curl to go travelling. Had tried to get something going when I worked there in terms of swimwear for surfing, but with a company that big, the levels you have to go through to get something happening kind of hinders the flow of ideas… that’s the thing about being a one lady band, you want something to happen, you just do it. So during the amazing trip that was Mexico / Central America I did a whole heap of planning, and basically designed the line. Once I got home, I decided it was then or never, and just started putting one foot in front of the other… and that was three years ago now.

What have been the highs and lows of starting your own business? Oh gosh so many. The highs were achieving what I set out to do, working with some incredibly talented and beautiful individuals. The support that my family and friends showed me… and the friends that I have met along the way. That is probably my favourite part of all this… the people who have come into my life because of it. Nothing beats collaborating with inspirational peeps. 

Lows, so many of them too. It was hard being on my own. The only people who can relate to the moments you are going through, or care about it enough, are the people whose business it is. And that was just me. So even though I had so much help, at the end of the day, I was the only one going to sleep thinking about it. Some less than ideal people I had interactions with – contracts are important. Once money comes into it, people can be less than ideal. But Mum said its made me better for the world, less likely to be taken advantage of, because I tended to trust every person I met… and you know, mums know everything.

For every low, the learning has been mind/heart expanding. So even though the lows were tough, each moment had a lesson attached to it. Can’t ask for much more than that.

How do you see surfwear for girl rippers currently developing? There are a lot of epic start-up ventures out there. Some really pleasing looking functional product that seems to stem out of the same kind of place KALi was born. You need product, and if it isn`t there, you make it. The big surf companies are a million miles behind in my opinion of what a girl who surfs wants. They didn`t develop as the girls that surfed did, and se we kind of outgrew them. I guess selling the lifestyle image is worth more than creating product for the number of girls that actually surf. But yes, change is in the air. Woop! Love sustainability. It`s the only way forward. To have the cycles worked out for products, and only buy the things we need. Patagonia have got it going on in this aspect.
Any projects or plans for the future?  You ask all the big questions, especially if the future is long. mmm…drape people in KALi, get more tubes, worry less without losing compassion, love, celebrate love with our closest friends and family under the sun and stars, make a little human, have the best damn veggie garden ever, find the balance, be part of bringing incredible product to humans, be able to do this…far too many moments to be explored, I need a novel for that. I would like to save the world, but haven`t figured out how yet. Ideas anyone?
Who and what inspires you? Dreamers and do-ers. Compassionate beings. The world around me. I am just in awe of life most of the time. It is beyond words just how precious this gift we have been given is.
What`s one piece of advice you`ve been given that`s resonated with you? I`m one of those people who collects sayings like stamps. I fricken love them. One of the best was from a friend when I asked him to tell me something to feel the specialness of the world….Throw clouds, kick machines, hurl nightmares at lying eyes, and on the rare occasion they appear, you must remember to catch dreams. 

Favourite surf destination so far? Mexico.
Any surf spots/countries yet to check out? All of them. Would love to go to India. Would love to sail through the Pacific. South America is a dream that I would like to catch. I hear Africa is the trip of a lifetime…
One night you showed me a youtube video of Belgian singer, Selah Sue, who I fell in love with. With such funkified eardrums as yours, what`s looping on you playlist these days? ooo I just love the tunes. It`s always changing. Here`s three from today….
one // two // three
* For more info on the KALi collection, try the online store here. All surf shots taken by Silas Hansen, NZ surf photographer. KALi collection photography taken by Rowena Baines, NZ photographer.


  1. ryan

    what an inspirational read. made me want to go draw a picture. hike up a mountain. or jump out of a plane ( with a parachute)

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