I wasn’t exactly feeling my best self when I joined the other gals in Playa Hermosa, our meetup spot halfway from the dirt roads of Santa Teresa to our filming location in the tropical jungle of the Costa Rican southlands. To be honest, my slow recovery from COVID, and a few too many tacos on a month-long surf trip to Mexico, had me questioning whether I was even fit to represent Dkoko’s new collection, Into the Deep, in a body that felt less than bikini-worthy.
Still, I wasn’t about to sit out the dream trip we had been planning for months – make that years – since the early Dkoko days when we’d escape south for the midweek swells, like seabirds chasing summer; before some of us had babies, became wives or pro surfers, started businesses, left the country, or took on graduate school.
So, doughy thighs and dimpled buns or no, I wouldn’t miss this journey for the world. Plus, as an avowed surfeminist, representing diverse body types in the surf industry was a cause I held in high esteem. I convinced myself this was my chance to try on what that meant, in the fabric of my own skin.
Like many women in today’s world, I’ve struggled with body image issues for as long as I can remember. In high school and college, my body woes manifested as workout addiction and obsessive self-monitoring; fad diets, calorie-counting and extra time on the treadmill to compensate for late-night food binges and all that partying. Now, well into my thirties and living most days in bikinis as an avid surfer and Dkoko ambassador, my body insecurities seem less of an everyday battle against the bulge and feel more like a dissatisfied resignation that certain parts sag, other parts pudge and the rest show increasing signs of ageing, like a junk-drawerful of souvenir memories from all those sunny days at sea.
"Like many women in today’s world, I’ve struggled with body image issues for as long as I can remember."
Still, despite the ways I’ve reflected on my own subjection to the sick and skewed beauty standards set for women in patriarchal pop culture, and perpetuated in the surfing world, it pains me to confess it’s a rare day I wake up feeling all-the-way comfortable in my skin. And I’d be lying if I said the stoke I felt meeting up with the Dkoko gals for our long-awaited trip down south, wasn’t shaded, even if ever so slightly, by those lurking insecurities over what I believed to be my not-quite-bikini-worthy-body.
But luckily, that’s not what this story ended up being about.
This is the story of seven women and four dogs, piled into one SUV for a six-hour drive – boards strapped on top, bags stacked in the back, boxes of local produce on our laps – and eventually scattered about our rented off-grid eco-mansion for three unforgettable days of sunrise surf sessions, storytelling in the sunshine.
We arrived before sunset to a soft rain, and settled in. Waxed our boards, keyed-in our fins, and walked the coarsely sanded shores of sheer paradise for a surf check, shaking off the silt of legs stiffened from the journey. The seven of us ranged in age from pushing 20 to rounding the corner on 40; a mix of nationalities local to Costa Rica and transplanted from countries and islands near and far; a few freshly single, others sorting through the growing pains of relationships old and new.
Some of us were already old friends, hours clocked together at sea, life stories intertwined like tendrils of stray seaweed sloshing together beneath the waves. Yet some links among us were brand new, softened into an easy friendship by our shared love for the surf and shameless obsession over Dkoko’s every last collection. Pretty sure the only thing we actually argued about was where to surf - classic longboard vibes preferred the slow-peelers further up the coast; ripper chicks on low-volume shred sticks frothed for the point on a fading swell, draining tide. Luckily, the wave setup in this particular swatch of jungle was a crowd-pleaser across the spectrum of surfing dreams, so the question quickly became simple: where should we surf next?
Hot-off-the-press bikinis strewn across picnic tables on the porch, we dipped our skins in lipstick pink, seafoam green and textured black; dabbled our Dkoko desire in hues of soft blue-grey, sandy salmon and the brightest white. Gushing over the sleek lines and smooth feel of the new regenerated nylon fabrics, we took turns trying on bikini combinations and bathing each other in the beauty of compliments unfeigned.
How can something as simple as a well-crafted bikini make you feel so damn good? So good, in fact, that somewhere between the high-waisted Nyx bottom in Saltwater and the Deep Roots one-piece in Freshwater/Earth, I must have forgotten to care about my sun-worn skin and that extra little jiggle at the folds of my bum.
We were seven women, waist-deep Into the Deep, and we couldn’t wait to dive even deeper, testing out Dkoko’s latest designs in the crystalline surf.
With our mermaid videographer behind the lens, shooting from shore and sea and everywhere in between, our surf days on location were spent chasing that early morning light against cotton-candy clouds, chilly offshore breeze and a dreamscape of waves to satisfy our surfer hearts’ content. We took turns navigating the lineup, calling each other into waves and sharing the stoke of endless rights for days.
On carefully selected surfcraft, our unique surf styles spoke to the diversity in our individual surfing histories, shaped across international surfscapes and decades spent drawing liquid lines across the cool canvas of unbridled energy in constant flux, our shifting selves juxtaposed against the wild of the ocean’s forever ebb and flow. Each day, I marveled at the beauty of us on the waves we love, uniformed in our favorite Dkoko hues, shades of skin sparkling brilliant in difference, backlit by sunshine and blue.
I have always been a strong believer in the truth of the matter that where women gather, magic happens. Our Dkoko surf journey was no exception to the rule. Midmorning coffee talk and home-cooked meals shared around the dining table centered on the nuances of our lives as surfing women, the joys and challenges of our relationship realities, our separate career interests and passion projects, and the collective surfing experiences that trace the lines of connection among us. We shared waves, playlists and birthday cake, and even hiked up the river to the nearby waterfall to paint our faces in blue clay for a natural spa day, pausing for a few photo-ops along the way.
"I have always been a strong believer in the truth of the matter that where women gather, magic happens."
I reveled in the novelty of sharing space and stories with women both younger and older than me; nostalgic, perhaps, for the simple innocence of my younger days, and simultaneously grateful for the glimpses of wisdom both intuitive and grounded in years of life’s peaks and swells, reflected in the smile lines that remind us of the miles we’ve walked, the waves we’ve surfed to get here. We might not all have that picture-perfect surfer girl booty from the magazines, but we all carry that ageless, courageous surfer girl spirit, brought together to celebrate the formless beauty of being women in love with the sea.
After a few days in our southland surf paradise, moving through the stories of my own body image insecurities, held in the vines of that wild jungle and the limbs of supportive surfing women, this story became one of shared reality across decades of age difference, friendship among women beyond envy or competitiveness, a girls’ surf trip with as many perfect waves as there were impromptu moments of connection, celebration; camaraderie, and oh yes, champagne.
Wave-count high, jungle hearts full and inner surfer girl spirits lifted, we said goodbye on the last day of our journey, as seven surfing women embracing the ever-shifting sands of self, soaking up every last drop of sweet sisterhood at sea.
Story written by Tara Ruttenberg.
Video and photos by Jade Madoe.
Chicas: Emily Gussoni, Yorgina Ureña, Maya DeGabrielle, Rachel Feeney, Giada Legati and Veronica Wessel.