SuperShe contributor, Katie Middel grabbed coffee with professional kiteboarder and business owner, Sensi Graves to discuss body image, kitemares, and her steps to create environmentally friendly bikinis that are suitable for active, confident women – in and out of the water.

Why kiteboard?
I kiteboard because it’s a really good workout. It’s a way for me to get outside and involved with nature because it’s a wind-driven sport. You can do so many different things with it… and it’s just so fun!

Has it been difficult to manage your business, Sensi Graves Bikinis, and be a professional kiteboarder?
Yes, super difficult. I am so thankful that I am able to do both. But that hard part is committing enough time to either one. It can get overwhelming.

I know you try to be environmentally sustainable while producing your swimsuits, how do you manage?
Yeah, we are a 1% For The Planet member and I would just kite to keep expanding it. Right now, about 50% of my materials are recycled. It’s a balance between having the right feel and the right fit of the suits and the environmental aspect.

We don’t use any plastic packaging in the suits and we use all recyclable tags and labels

And, everything is made in the U.S. I would like to eventually establish a program to take back old swimsuits and try to recycle them into something. Because when I first got into manufacturing, that was a huge hesitancy of mine – I didn’t want to produce more things. I really wanted to respect our environment and respect this playground that I love. And I didn’t want to produce more stuff, the world doesn’t really need it. But making high quality stuff that people can resonate with, and that will last a long time, that’s a different story. I want to close the loop and take back old swimsuits.

So would you use the old materials for new swim suits?
I’m not sure how it would work because right now, you can’t really recycle old spandex. The materials that suits are usually made out of are nylon and spandex or polyester and spandex and so when it says it’s recycled it’s only about 80% recycled, because spandex is not recyclable. So i don’t think that taking back the fabrics to make new fabrics would necessarily work, but something where it’s not just going in a landfill.

That’s very exciting and something to look forward to. Now, what would you say was the most challenging part about learning how to kiteboard?
I think the most challenging part about learning how to kite was just being willing to fail at it; you are essentially just drowning at the beginning and swallowing tons of water. And getting over the fear factor of how powerful the kite really is. And you have to learn how to be confident in your choices of what kite to take out and just sort of relax into the situation.

Is there one specific kitemare that sticks out to you?
I was in Maui at Kite Beach back in 2012 where there is a reef on the outside and the waves come in and they break on the reef. It was a pretty big day so there were overhead waves coming through. I was just tacking back and forth on my surfboard and I remember there was a storm coming in and I remember thinking, ‘I’m just going to take one more tack out’… Stupid. The wind totally died and I was stuck on the outside with my kite down. Which normally wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but the waves were crashing on my head and they were pretty big, so I self rescued. But there was so much line in the water that I couldn’t really wrap it all around my bar.

I remember getting sucked into a wave and then feeling the lines wrap around my body, and my kite started powering up.

I was underwater and the kite was pulling me. I came up out of the water to take a breath of air. And then, I let go of my kite and just drifted in. My boyfriend, Brandon Scheid, was so scared watching me on shore that he tried to paddle out with his surf board to come and rescue me. It was good though because I stayed pretty calm during this situation. I remember afterwards being so physically and mentally exhausted.

Wow, I couldn’t imagine. What would you say is the main influence on women who are trying to reach their highest potential?
That’s a tough question. For me, lately I have been really focused on trying to build up body confidence. I think, especially with swimwear, I have had to deal a lot with the prevalence of “the perfect body” image. But, the models are usually just perfect… not athletic. I try to promote a more holistic view and a more relatable view of women who are actually doing things. But, sex sells. People want to see good looking women in a bikini, and they want to look like that in a bikini. That’s why that type of marketing works. But I want to promote to the women who are active and want to maintain a healthy lifestyle. We have so many amazing athletes on the Sensi Bikinis team, and I wanna show them that their bodies can be attainable for women. Show that they can be active and appreciate and love their bodies for what they are. Like Theodore Roosevelt said, comparison is the absolute thief of joy, and I believe that is absolutely true.

I want to inspire women to love themselves and build up their personal confidence to get out there and do all these fun things that life has to offer

Find Sensi’s Summer Collection here

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