Where / when / how did you learn to surf?
A: It was totally by chance. One summer, when I was 12, my mom bought me a surfboard and dropped me off at Torrance Beach every day to figure out how to use it. I would just watch other surfers and try to mimic them over and over again. I learned how to surf through trial and error.
G: I started surfing when I met Andrew in my mid-20s. Until then, I had these preconceived notions about who was allowed to surf and it never occurred to me to learn.
Dating Andrew made me curious. I wanted to understand this world he was so into and to try it out, but he wasn’t exactly eager to play instructor. My first year surfing in Los Angeles was a huge struggle, nothing was clicking, and to make it worse, I remember telling my dad (who knows nothing about surfing) about it. He responded jokingly with “You’re not strong enough to surf!”. That’s when I decided I was going to stop asking the men in my life for validation and go figure it out for myself.
I signed up for an all-women’s surf camp in Costa Rica. Getting proper instruction showed me how capable I was. That was the best decision I could have made for myself. Meeting these confident women from all over the world, many of them older than me, really inspired me to take my surfing (and myself) seriously once I got back. And that led me to 7till8.
How has your personal relationship and experience with surfing helped influence your brand 7till8?
A: Once I got into surfing, I still didn’t know anyone else who did, so I surfed alone most of the time. It’s funny to think that I started a surf company when I didn’t even grow up feeling accepted as a surfer. There’s the lone wolf aspect of surfing that I relate to, the feeling of not being part of a pack and a yearning to figure out things for myself. That’s probably what led me to want to solve this challenge with custom wetsuits. You can see that sense of individualism in the brand – our surfer is usually breaking away from the pack and exploring on their own to find their way.
G: I understand how important representation and inclusivity are because it’s shaped my entire relationship to surfing. I’m ultimately chasing the sense of peace and connection I get from being in the water. Surfing is really just a conduit for that.
And then there’s times where I’m in an unfamiliar lineup and I spend the whole session feeling discouraged. That’s when surfing feels paradoxical and I lose track of why I got in. And usually that’s when I’m the only female and/or non-white person there and nobody looks familiar, which only makes me more self-conscious. I’m subconsciously wondering if I’m allowed to be in the water and without realizing it, I’m now looking at a bunch of strangers to signal if it’s ok to stay when I have just as much right to be there. It becomes about getting permission and when I think about those implications, it is crushing.
7till8 is an expression of our hope to alleviate some of that for others by trying to alchemize insecurity into empowerment. I want people of different backgrounds to feel more welcome in the water and get their peace too. We often say that the brand exists to give people permission, the kind we thought we needed. It’s been the most fulfilling to see that we can facilitate that through something as utilitarian as a custom wetsuit.
Any parting thoughts, words of wisdom, or sage advice?
A: There is no vision without velocity.