We all know that the question isn't have you ever imagined quitting your job and moving to an exotic island, but rather, how often does this idea cross your mind...in a day?
For Stockholm-native Anna Jerstrom, 38, the second she dreamt it—right after a life-changing vacation—she did what few of us have the cojones to do. In 2009, she decided to leave her cushy Merrill Lynch job in London to move to Costa Rica to learn how to surf full-time. A year later, the former investment banker founded Calavera, a surf-inspired water wear brand that now has 10 bikini styles plus shorts and rash guards.
Launching Calavera's second line this spring, Jerstrom wanted to show the surf world just how well her sexy, stay-put bikinis held up in rough waters. So she teamed up with three talented ladies—2012 UK National Surf Champ Evie Johnstone, 2011 Costa Rica Junior Champ Jordan Hundley, and Latin Pro Tour surfer Danielle Ciminero—along with a local production crew to create this short film called Water Warriors.
During the nine-day shoot in Costa Rica, they captured some 35 hours of footage, which was then whittled down to this super-cool six-minute clip that features just under two minutes of sick surfing (the gnarly stuff starts at the 2:58 mark). The film debuted at the New York Surf Film Festival last fall as well as the California Surf Festival.
We talked to Jerstrom to learn more about how she caught the surfing bug and her swimwear.
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SHAPE: How did this all start?
Anna Jerstrom (AJ): A colleague and I had been working late one night when we realized that we had too many unused vacation days. I asked, "Hey, have you tried surfing? It looks fun." Right then we booked a trip to a seven-day surf camp in Costa Rica. When I first tried surfing, it was the most amazing thing I had ever done. So I went back to London, quit my job, and packed my bags to move to Costa Rica to learn how to surf.
SHAPE: Were you a natural at surfing?
AJ: I picked it up pretty fast. We attended the Vista Guapa camp run by seven-time Costa Rican surf champion Alvaro Solano. I guess he saw something in me because he had me paddle all the way out to catch three-foot waves right from the start. He pushed me into a wave and yelled, “Stand up!” I did, and it was amazing. When I quit my job, I came back to train with him for six hours a day for a whole year. I owe him my happiness.
SHAPE: Were you trying to go pro?
AJ: No, it was more like an addiction. I loved the mental and physical challenge of it. The waves don't stop coming, so you have to constantly be alert and make split-second decisions that you have to commit to because if you hesitate, the wave will swallow you.
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SHAPE: When did you get the idea to design a swimwear line?
AJ: I was spending five to six hours in the water every day, so I realized quickly that there wasn't much for women out there that actually worked. A bad bikini will inhibit you from performing well because you're always concerned. When I would pop up on the board, I'd always have to look down to make sure I didn't pop out too, when I really should have been looking in the direction of where I was going. It made me realize there was a real lack of thoughtful water-sports apparel for women out there. We're not just girls frolicking on the beach, you know? We're pretty hardcore and athletic. I wanted a brand that represented me and all my hard work.
SHAPE: How is your second collection different from your first?
AJ: After figuring out our basics using good quality spandex-based materials, we've refreshed each look. Take our Glam and Siren tops, for example. We use double strings that don't stretch much to give it more resistance and help keep everything intact. The strings tie similarly to a shoelace system in the back so it makes the tops really stable.
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SHAPE: How did you come up with the film Water Warriors?
AJ: I once wrote this snippet about how it feels to wake up in the morning and hear that the waves are big and wonderful. It's a mix of excitement and butterflies in your stomach. You're a little scared too. You kinda feel like you're preparing for battle, which how we came up with the film's name. I really wanted to show this story about this passion, and how hard these girls have to work to become accomplished in what they love.
SHAPE: Did anything out-of-the-ordinary happen while shooting?
AJ: The last day, we got this crazy idea to put on Calavera swimsuits, sit on the hood of the car, and drive through a carwash to see if the bikinis stayed on. So we bribed a guy at a local carwash to let us try it. Jordan and Evie put on their suits, mounted the hood of the car, and then I drove them through. It was hilarious! And yes, the suits stayed on. They didn't budge at all. The reward for their bravery: I bought the girls McDonald's and margaritas afterward.