Live music, excellent coffee, delicious food, epic waves and local-designer-shopping pretty much sums up my idea of Paradise. The Central America region has been on my surf-bucket list for a long time now so it was a delight to discover Dkoko – a foxy, emerging surfwear brand from Costa Rica. Designer and surfer, Michelle Rodriguez, was kind enough to give us an insight into life and business in a latin paradise. And not only does this chica make some killer surf-separates, she also surfs pretty damn well too. Hope you don`t mind couchsurfers, Michelle – I`m booking a ticket!
First things first – how are the waves in Costa Rica at the moment?? Waves in Costa Rica right now are great! We have 2 coasts and right now is the season where you can surf both the Pacific and the Caribbean, so there are endless waves to surf. Here at the Pacific coast we have plenty of beach breaks and points that get all the south and north swells, right now is dry season (it doesn`t rain) so the water is clear and warm and the waves are super fun. In the Caribbean we have mostly reef breaks that work with the wind and the influence of the storms so all the amazing barrelling waves are on until the end of March.
Can you tell us a bit about your home town/local surf spots for those of us who haven`t been yet? I live in Playa Hermosa, Jaco, located in the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica. This is one of the beaches with the most consistent surf so we almost have great waves everyday. This is a small tropical town where scarlet macaws fly in the sky, howler monkeys wake us up and you can walk to a waterfall after a surf session so it is a real surfing paradise. There are lots of other spots nearby we also surf that include beach breaks and point breaks that work depending on the swells. So we surf almost everyday Hermosa and when there is a big swell and Hermosa starts to close out we drive to any of those spots to get the perfect waves.
What is the local surf culture like? Do many girls surf? Here surfing has become very popular in the last years. This area of the country gets a lot of visitors that specifically come looking for waves. We have a lot of really good surfers but we are still few girls that surf compared to the guys. However, everyday I see more girls in the water as it is becoming more popular as girls realise it is really fun. There are young girls that are surfing really well like our team rider, Emily Gussoni, who is only 12 years old and rips! She won third place in the Costa Rica national open competition last weekend.
If we did a Salt Gypsy Costa Rican Tour – can we come visit?? Yeah! It would be great if you come visit! You will love it for sure! Our country is very small but the nice thing is here there are so many different and beautiful places that are only a couple of hours away from each other. Something fun to do would be to do a tour starting in the Pacific surfing and partying here, then go to the Caribbean passing through the mountains in the middle of the country where we grow the best coffee. Going out in the Caribbean is one of my favourite things to do as the culture there is amazing, music is very important for the people so there are always live bands and good places to go dancing. Also the Caribbean food is delicious, full of flavour as they use coconut, spices and the freshest ingredients. Great shopping everywhere too, you can find lots of different local artists and designers doing amazing stuff.
Sounds like heaven to me! So down to business: how long has Dkoko been around for and what was your inspiration behind the brand? Dkoko started in 2009 when we decided to create swimwear with the fit we like, that allow girls to mix and match sizes and colours, is good for surfing and with good quality so it lasts for girls that wear bikinis everyday. We always have been inspired in the tropical lifestyle in Costa Rica so we want to reflect that in our designs.
Do you sell a lot of swimwear online? Has that been difficult? We started to sell our bikinis online in June last year so we have a little bit less than a year so far. We actually haven`t made any publicity campaign outside Costa Rica yet but amazingly for us people find us and we are receiving orders from girls all over the world. I think we would be selling a lot more if we could pay advertising in other countries. Locally girls don`t buy swimwear online that much as they prefer going to the shops where we sell them and try them there.
What have been the challenges to owning and growing your own business? The biggest challenge has been to start with my own money from other jobs I have and working with no salary for awhile but just doing something that makes me happy. Sometimes I wish I had a bigger budget to do things I know would be great for the business but we have to be patient and go little by little.
Who are the chicas of Team Dkoko? I`m the designer and person in charge of Dkoko and there are a lot of people that makes this possible like Lizzeth Hernande who is in charge of making the patterns for our bikinis as well as supervising all the girls that sew them. Marvin Brenes, who is the person in charge of the production and makes my life so much easier. Of course all the girls that sew them beautifully for us. Carol Bikker, who helps me with styling with her beautiful flower designs. Daniela Quesada who helps us in our photo shoots and fashion shows and our team rider Emily Gussoni who is always representing our brand with her great surfing and positive attitude.
Is Dkoko available in stores outside of Costa Rica? Right now we on`t sell at any store outside Costa Rica but we are very interested to sell them outside our country. You can buy them online through our website.
Where have you travelled to surf? I have been lucky to travel to other beautiful countries like Nicaragua, Brasil, Bali Indonesia, Hawaii, France, United States, Uruguay and Argentina.
Your favourite surf destination? The south pacific of Costa Rica (Pavones and Matapalo).
Places yet to surf: I want to go to El Salvador, Australia, Maldives and all countries with surfable great waves!
Who or what inspires you? I`m inspired by nature and by people who are in love with what they do.
Any advice you`ve been given that you`d like to share?
Don`t give up. Be happy.
Michelle Rodriguez, pictured here in Bali, is the Designer and Founder of Dkoko – a swimwear brand inspired by the Costa Rican beach lifestyle. Dkoko can be purchased through their online store here.
Photographs courtesy of Michelle Rodriguez.