Upscale products will give athletic women an elegant new look.
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Surfer girls are cute, sexy or sporty, right?
Why not? says Ilona Wood Anderle, a second-generation surfer girl -- and mother of a third-generation surfer girl, Cheytan Wood.
"There's no reason why women can't be athletic and elegant," says Anderle, 42, who sports French-manicured nails even though she's a dedicated rock climber.
To prove her point, she has joined forces with two partners to develop a line of elegant accessories aimed not only at surfer girls, but at "water girls" in general--women who swim, sail, wind surf, water-ski and snow ski. (Snow is just frozen water, after all.)
They will be sold under the label Water Girl Original, and the first items in the line were launched at Surf Expo, a trade show held recently in Orlando. By early spring, they should start showing up in surf shops, swimwear shops and resort boutiques.
The first wave of Water Girl Original products includes sunglasses, watches and surfboards. Next will come hair-care, skin-care and high-performance sunscreen items, followed by fragrance and jewelry.
Everything is possible
And after that, who knows? "Beach cruisers are a possibility," says Anderle, who is as slim, toned and lightly tanned as you'd expect a California girl from Santa Cruz to be.
While setting up the Water Girl booth at Surf Expo, she took a break to elaborate on her ideas.
Her core audience, she says will be women like herself. "We're active baby boomers. We love our sport, but we're also wives, mothers, working women."
And they're women who've been around long enough to appreciate quality and elegance in their accessories.
So much of the clothing and accessories designed for female surfers is aimed at teenagers, she says. It's cute, trendy and transient.
"We will do a junior line at some point," she says. "But we're doing everything in stages. We don't want to rush it. We want to do everything right."
This includes their advertising.
Bikinis are taboo
"You won't see Water Girl Original ads with women in skimpy bikinis," she says. "Sure, sex sells. But it sells to men. We're going for a wholesome, mature, elegant look."
Her model is Cheytan, her 18-year-old daughter, who wears a tailored black shirt and Jackie-O-style sunglasses in one ad, and a fur-collared ski jacket in another.
The Water Girl sunglasses, which sell for $80 to $120, are made in Italy and feature high-fashion styling and technical innovations such as cylindrical lenses, anti-fogging lenses and photochromatic lenses in several fashion colors.
The stainless-steel watches, which sell for $80, are both functional and stylish, and are packaged in a case that converts to a small jewelry box.
The surfboards, which are built with a woman's shape and strength in mind, come in three lengths and are painted to resemble the inside of an abalone shell.
"They're pretty. They're obviously for women," says Anderle, who is prettily outfitted in a shell-pink cardigan, rose-pink camisole, low-rise denim skirt and high-heel slides.
Anderle knows surf gear and the surfer lifestyle. She's been surfing since she was a teenager. And in 1996, she and her late husband opened the Water Girl Surf Shop in Encinitas, Calif., the country's first surf shop for women.
Three years later, she partnered with Patagonia, the outdoor clothing company, to create the Water Girl clothing line.
No longer associated with those enterprises, she is putting all her energies into Water Girl Original. And her ideas range beyond simply developing stylish products.
She and her partners, Mark Colbert and Travis Watkins, also want to address the emotional and physical well-being of the active student, mother and working woman, she says.
Anderle plans to do this by starting a newsletter, which she hopes will develop into a magazine, and by setting up a toll-free hotline and an online chat room to help girls and women cope with the pressures of school, work, motherhood and issues such as abuse and self-image
"Naturally we hope to make money," she says. "But even more, I hope we can make a difference in some women's lives."