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Q&A with Zealous Founder Marie-Kristin

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Looking for your next surf suit or bikini that’ll stay put when you’re out in the water? Zealous is one of the most exciting sustainable surf brands with bikinis, surf suits, leggings, rashguards, one-pieces, and everyday surf clothing. We’re excited to chat about surfing and take a look at the behind-the-scenes story of Marie-Kristin, surf girl and founder of Zealous.

Zealous surf bikinis

Hey Marie-Kristin! Can you tell us a little more about yourself?

Hi Chantae, thanks so much for having me, excited to be chatting with you!

I’m 29 years old and originally from Hamburg, Germany. But for the past 7 years I’ve been living on and off in Bali, Indonesia.

I initially travelled there for six months for a semester abroad program, but pretty quickly it was clear to me that six months wouldn’t be enough! I fell in love with the waves and the palm trees. The feeling of sun touching my skin every single day was a dream come true. But most importantly: it made me keep going with Zealous!

What inspired you to start your own surf label, Zealous?

To be honest, I never really planned all of this. Ever since I was 15 years old, I’ve followed my intuition, my heart, and my passions. Ever since I can remember, I was drawing garments—from boardshorts to evening gowns. And I loved handicrafts: I have beaded tops, painted artworks onto t-shirts and made jewelry. My dream back then? To be my own boss! But I was never sure what running my own business would actually look like.

When I turned 19, I asked my grandma to teach me how to knit. Shortly after, I knitted and gifted a snowboarding beanie to my boyfriend back then, and got my first two orders the same day! From that day on, Zealous was my baby and I was working on it alongside university and other normal side jobs.

But before I flew to Bali, I almost quit working on Zealous! During the six months on the other side of the world, I thought it would be hard to keep my business running in Germany. I felt like in Germany, I wouldn’t be able to turn my dreams into reality. Soon after I started making those beanies, my hobby turned into a vision of a full-on surf brand for women with an approach different to all the other brands I knew back then. I used to work and intern at Roxy and other surf shops. I was never happy about the sizing, fits, and designs. My friends and I used to buy men’s stuff and alter it so that it would fit us too. Not sure if it was the same in other countries, but we couldn’t even mix and match sizes for bikini tops and bottoms! Let alone finding a bikini you could actually surf in without going nude…

Zealous Surf Bikinis - one-piece
Zealous: One-piece

So, guess what? Upon my arrival in Bali, I noticed how many locals were actually working as tailors and in the garment industry. This island didn’t just have the most perfect waves and good weather all year long, but also provided me with everything I needed to finally create all the products I ever wanted and turn that vision into reality! And the rest is history! 😉

The birth of Zealous and going to Bali seems so serendipitous! How did you learn to design and create swimwear?

Learning by doing! I’m not a fashion designer even though I wished to study that. But my mum didn’t want me to have trouble finding a job later, so she persuaded me to study textile engineering. While I mostly didn’t enjoy those studies very much, it gave me valuable knowledge that really sets me apart from many other small brands nowadays. I’ve learned how to create cutting patterns, how to find the perfect fit of a garment, and how to manage a production. Because I put so much knowledge, time, and work into the fit of each Zealous product, I’m pretty proud of the Zealous surfwear styles! Besides that, I’m super certain every woman can find a fitting bikini or surf suit in my collection (especially with our plus size range we just launched).

Zealous sustainable surf bikinis
Image: @annigoesintothewild

But on the other hand, my designing skills are a bit chaotic and I definitely don’t approach that process as organized as professional designers ;-).

What makes Zealous stand out from the mainstream surf brands?

Definitely the bikini fit and size inclusivity! We are really creating all kinds of styles, from cheeky to moderate, sexy to sporty, small sizes to larger sizes. And all that paired with timeless style!

Zealous Bikinis - Sustainable surf brand

I would also say we are one of the most sustainable small surf brands. We donate 1% of all sales to environmental issues (as a member of 1% for the Planet), operate CO2 neutral, use a lot of sustainable fibers for our surf wear and streetwear collections, and all products are made under fair conditions!  Oh, and as of this year, we are using no single packing anymore for our products!

What advice would you give to others who want to follow in your footsteps?

Be persistent, have a good eye for details, and know your shit ;-).

Interview with Zealous founder

Was surfing always a part of your life? And if not, how did you get into it?

The lifestyle has definitely been a part of my life since I was 13 or 14 years old. I used to look up to the Roxy girls and the life they’re living.

But growing up, my family would go on skiing/snowboarding trips. Towards the end of high school, I would even go on short weekend trips to the Alps or to the snow dome close to Hamburg. But working for those big surf brands, I’ve not only been influenced in regards of snowboarding but also surfing.

I’ve surfed only a handful of times in Australia, Sylt in Germany (very unsuccessfully, haha), and France. It was in Bali that I started surfing much more regularly and could start improving.

What’s the most memorable wave you’ve ever caught?

Kuta Reef, Bali, first and only barrel of my life—on my 9’0 single fin! Happened by accident but left me speechless!

image: @annigoesintothewild

How do you get pumped up for a big surf session?

Lately, I’ve started listening to my Surf Prep playlist with songs like “Remember the Name” by Fort Minor. But I actually prefer super chill sessions, either before work or right at sunset. I’m fine with waves that are not too big. I enjoy surfing with a girlfriend the most, because we motivate each other. In Bali I’ve even started hosting surf events only for women which is super fun!

We got our hands on The Cruiser Surf-Suit in Shades of Blue. Obsessed!

Living in Bali sounds like a dream! Can you please give us a travel tip or two for when it’s time to travel again?

Until two years ago or so, I would have absolutely recommended Canggu with its mellow longboard waves, easy going bars, and hip stores. But personally, it has become a bit too much for me, and I moved to the East coast of the island. I love the more relaxed lifestyle there and we have amazing waves with crystal-clear water.

My top Bali travel tips would be:

  1. Surf and hangout on Bingin Beach
  2. Get to Ubud for a jungle getaway (glamping in Safari tents!)
  3. Take a snorkel and surf trip to Nusa Lembongan

We’ve got some quick Qs for you…

The bikini I reach for the most: somehow turned into a surfsuit kinda girl lately: Akaw Surfsuit in El Mar!

Rights or lefts: defo lefties!

Best sunscreen: charged guilty – haven’t done my homework yet for reef friendly options because there are not many options available in Indonesia.

Best wax: using natural surf wax made in Bali (available in our online shop soon!)

Best surf spot: my (not so) secret chill out happy surf spot in Sanur

Thank you, Marie-Kristin! You can follow Zealous Clothing on Instagram, Facebook, and shop their surf swimwear on Zealous-clothing.com. (P.S. Zealous ships internationally!)