How Surfing Mother Ocean, Community, and Chutzpah created a surf suit that celebrates equality in the line up! Interview with Jessica Boynton; Founder of Hakuna Wear

Hello! I am the Founder and Designer of the brand Hakuna Wear. I wanted to share my surfing story to hold space for mental health awareness month. A little about me:

Ever since I was little I have loved design, according to my mom, since I was old enough to dress myself. Apparently I invented leggings under skirts. Yep. I designed and created every Halloween costume, my prom dress and in grad school (my background is in chemistry) I designed, tie-dyed and screen printed many dresses and outfits as an outlet for my creativity. I somewhat gave up after I moved to San Diego and thought that I would try to pursue selling my designs as a career. I realized that selling your own art is really personal and it takes a ton of courage to get rejected, so maybe it wasn’t for me.

I spent most of my free time learning to surf instead. It sounds super corny, but I feel like it’s the sport I was waiting my whole life to find. The more and more I got into surfing, the more I realized how inadequate a lot of the swimwear was and the more I started thinking of designing my own. It all came to a head after a tropical surf trip where everything I wore either fell off or wasn’t enough coverage to keep me from getting burnt. I just kept thinking, these are the least empowering clothes for women, where am I even supposed to put my hotel key? Ever since I have wanted to pursue designing my own swimwear and wetsuits to solve problems to satisfy an inclusive need in the market to celebrate our diversity in the water. Hakuna Wear is a realization of that dream.

When I first met Natalie, I was jealous. Who is this gorgeous, strong woman who lives on a boat, owns her own non-profit where she is helping people and the planet, travels the world serving and surfing? But instead of letting jealousy make me upset or ruin our budding friendship, I started to analyze why I was jealous, Was it the travel? Was it her incredible calves? It wasn’t anything superficial like that. I realized that it was that she was following her passion and it inspired me to be the person I wanted to be.

It takes a lot of chutzpah to start a business, mostly because it’s usually not only a lot of work, but also a monetary risk and a fear of failure. But I started thinking to myself, if my friends and competitors did it, why can’t I? The women surrounding me and doing their own thing are my constant inspiration. Times when I got nervous to start, my family asked if I needed funding or advice or help. Times when I wanted to quit, entrepreneurial friends (like Natalie) would step up and tell me they knew how I felt but that I could do it, because they did. Times that have been stressful, Troy is there to calm me down. Your community is everything and when they believe in you, you can accomplish anything. And it makes me tear up just writing this. I hope my story inspires others to do the same.


Why do I surf?

I surf because it is fun! I have thought a lot about what exactly it is that makes it so fun… besides my love of the ocean… I like feeling like a bad ass when you paddle out on a gnarly day, or when you catch a gnarly  wave. A little friendly competition with your neighbors on who gets to catch the waves. The ability to make it social or personal time. The fact that you can be really silly and just fall into water. Strategy on how you surf the wave and constant measurable improvement for me all make it the most fun sport ever.

Who taught me?

Nobody and everybody! But… I did. I tried twice in Norcal with friends without much success, then alone in Hawaii which was terrifying. When I moved to San Diego my goal was to learn to surf. I bought a board before I even had a house to rent. I started to go out 2-3 times a week on days when Surfline said 1-2, poor to fair, at Tourmaline. I would watch and stay close to the surfers catching the most waves. After doing that for 3 months I finally rode a wave to completion. That was a very exciting day.

What do you do for self-love?
I love balance, so to me self-love means having a balance of all the things I love. I love challenging myself, being active (surfing, running), being creative (design and cooking), volunteering, spending time with friends, loving someone, exploring/traveling and spending quality alone time. Sometimes I am not sure how I squeeze it all in, but I seem to manage. Self-love means to me that when something is off balance, I make sure it gets the attention it needs.

When I started Hakuna Wear, after 2 months of coming home and working another 4 hours, self-love meant starting to plan friend time again and host a party for the first time in 3 months.

Oh and baths. I love cooking some dinner, setting up Hulu and eating my dinner in the bath while watching a show. Pure self-love time.

What lessons has mother ocean taught me that I use on land?

The ocean is very fair and there is a lot of solitude. It has taught me so many things. Some things are that that (1) learning happens in stages, you have to be patient with yourself. (2) The more inside your head you are and the less you trust your gut, the more likely you are to screw up the decision. (3) Fear and doubting yourself are usually the biggest reasons for failure and not your actual abilities. (4) It is nice to just sit and watch the ocean, enjoy the times when you are forced to relax.

Why is it important to me that women surf?

I wouldn’t say it is important to me that women specifically surf, but more important to me that women feel they have a home in the surf community and in active communities in general. If they don’t want to surf and they would rather mountain bike, climb, run, or ski… or whatever, they should find their sport. Not everyone has the same sport and I am so so so happy that I found mine. But you won’t know until you try them! And many won’t try them until we have role models and friends that support and encourage that choice. So yea… more women need to find surfing as their sport for that to happen! Lol

Specifically for surfing, I just hate that in extreme sports there is this stereotype that women can’t be as good as men. It always makes me wonder what the reasons for not allowing women into college were back in the day (my guess: they weren’t good enough). Look at colleges now. I believe if women are actually given a chance to build their community and culture it will be the same result.

Have I ever struggled with mental health issues, how has surfing and the ocean helped?

I haven’t ever been diagnosed with a mental health issue, a therapist told me I had OCD tendencies, and I definitely struggle with letting things go so that makes sense to me. It wasn’t until I worked with at risk youth that I realized I had self-harming tendencies as well. Just exercise in general helped me with this, I started running on days when I was struggling and it made a huge difference. The ocean doesn’t help me as much with that, but it has helped me get out of hard times. After a break up, the only time I felt happy was surfing. I think also because there was a sense of not having anything to lose, I was also a way more confident surfer. That time was when I got my first baby barrel!

What have I learned about fear from surfing and the ocean?

Ugh, it’s a constant battle! Some days I feel really confident and I perform really well, other times fear paralyzes me and I sit on the outside because “that random set wave could come again anytime”. I was afraid of sharks when I first started and I got over that by telling myself “it’s more dangerous to drive to the beach then to surf in it”. Fear seems to have more with how much I am doubting myself. A lot of the time I just try to breathe through it and accept that today I am just afraid. So maybe what I have learned is that accepting your fear is more self-loving than getting upset at yourself for being afraid. That applies in life as well. I still have moments when I can’t do this and I get upset and frustrated with my fears.

If you could go back and visit the you that was learning to surf, what would you tell her?

Hmmm.. honestly I think it all happened pretty perfectly. Go past you, you did awesome!

What is your hope for the future of surfing?

That the diversity on the land will be reflected in the diversity of the ocean. The swimwear/surfwear brand that I started, Hakuna Wear, is all about that. I hope that as surfing moves into the Olympics it brings a new worldwide awareness to different countries and cultures where the people, women and men, didn’t always think of surfing as a career path. My goal with Hakuna Wear is to start to make that possible by creating surf wear that reflects forward thinking and inclusivity. We want to have the best and most technical product out there.