Alana Blanchard might be the most popular female surfer in the world. And just last month, she requalified for the 2013 ASP World Tour, which means she’s also one of the best female surfers in the world. Six years into her career, Alana walks a fine line balancing surfing, modeling, and now bikini design with her main sponsor, Rip Curl. And EasternSurf.com was lucky enough to link up with Alana on a recent trip to New York City, where the 22-year-old Kauai native chatted about everything from her emerging role in the fashion world to body issues, surf style on land and in the water, Brazilian bikinis, and hipsters.
ESM: First of all, congratulations on requalifying for the ASP World Tour.
Alana Blanchard: Thank you. I’m stoked.
ESM: And welcome to New York. How’s the city treating you so far?
AB: Usually, as a surfer you don’t get to come to the city and hang out since the rest of the road is on the coast. I’m super stoked to be able to come here. I was walking around and the people are actually really nice, friendly, and funny. Sometimes I feel like New York has a bad rep.
ESM: We get that a lot — maybe because people are busy all the time. But you know all about that. How do you manage to balance surfing, contests, modeling, and designing bikinis for Rip Curl?
AB: It all kind of blends into each other. Surfing made me who I am. Without being a professional surfer, I wouldn’t be modeling or designing.
ESM: Do you see yourself branching out even more?
AB: I want to get more into blogging because I’m really into health and fitness.
ESM: That would be a personal way to reach your fans — especially younger girls who may see your image and wonder if there’s any way they can look like that.
AB: Totally. Being a surfer and a model, I went through that and lived through the body image stuff, where you’re trying to find where you’re healthy and happy but you’re still balanced. I feel like I could help girls a lot with that because being a girl is harder.
ESM: Has living in front of the camera taught you anything unexpected about dealing with those issues?
AB: I have a love/hate relationship with modeling. I love the things I get from it and working with the other girls, but sometimes it definitely gets a little tedious. And I don’t know… I don’t like looking at myself all the time. I’m my hardest critic.
ESM: That last video Rip Curl posted of you in Fiji sure looked like fun.
AB: Doing shoots with Rip Curl is always great because we’re going somewhere like Fiji. So we’re always surfing and the people around me are like, “OK, Alana — go surf now.”
ESM: How would you describe your surfing style?
AB: I try to be smooth but powerful and aggressive.
ESM: What about out of the water?
AB: Pretty casual — pretty laid back. Simple but still sexy.
ESM: Do the two meet when you design suits for Rip Curl?
AB: Yeah, for sure. I probably wouldn’t have known how to design a bikini if it wasn’t for surfing just because I’ve worn so many and I know exactly how they’ll stay on and how they feel in the water.
ESM: So there have to be some serious details that, as a surfer, you know would work or totally wouldn’t.
AB: I’m really big on Brazilian bikinis. They make everyone’s butt look good. And you don’t have to go as small as me or the people you see in Brazil. There are different cuts that you can find. I think having a really good fabric is a big thing, too, especially something that you feel comfortable in. I love seamless stuff; it’s almost inspired by underwear. They’re the most comfortable, so it’s like, Why not make a bikini out of that?
ESM: Where do you find your design inspiration?
AB: I just look at what girls are wearing in the surf, and because I travel I check out everybody’s stuff. Nowadays, I’m looking at anything that I can take and put into a bikini, [from] the straps of a shirt [to] the color of your shorts.
ESM: In addition to the bikinis, are you working on any other clothes or accessories lines with Rip Curl?
AB: I give my feedback on a lot of things. Rip Curl has these really cute wetsuits out right now (the Rip Curl G-Bomb Front Zip Long Sleeve Booty Spring Suit). [Awhile back] I was like, “You guys need to start making these again.” They’re good when you’re surfing when it’s big. They keep your suit on.
ESM: How do you pack when you go on the road, particularly for the ASP Women’s World Tour?
AB: It’s bad. My bag is always pretty heavy. I mean, I’ve been to Europe, California, [New York City], and then I go to Bali. So it’s many different climate changes — that’s the challenge.
ESM: Have you noticed any crazy trends on your recent travels?
AB: In Portugal, everyone was wearing exercise wear: full body suits in all different kinds of colors, patterns, and everything. I didn’t get into that though.
ESM: Not your thing?
AB: I’m really not that good on style. I just do bikinis. I know what I like, but I really don’t know that much about… like, I don’t know what “hipster” is. I wouldn’t even know what they’re called. Honestly, I just wear little shorts with a tee. I always try to be a little sexy or cute, but at the same time, I wouldn’t say plain… I hate being overdressed.
ESM: The reason why so many New Yorkers are obsessed with fashion is because the shopping is so good here.
AB: Oh, for sure. Where I’m from, we don’t even have a mall. There are just a lot of little shops. If you were to wear a pair of designer pants, you’d be made fun of.