“I can’t remember. There’s too much salt water in my brain.”
You barely hear anyone from Mumbai make statements like that with a straight face. A head filled with cement, sure, but salt water, no.
“It’s why I left Mumbai, man,” 25 year-old Raffael Kably tells us, an ex-production guy from Mumbai who now manages the Soul & Surf hotel in Varkala, Kerala.
Liquid thoughts whoosh around in his head as he tries to remember the first customers for his new surf wear brand Go Left. “Two French girls from Dubai, one a marketing head for Hermes and the other for Louis Vuitton,” he finally proclaims.
Not the answer we expected. Not the kind of fancy customers Raffael expected either. “We were pretty surprised and so happy,” he says. We were hoping Raffael would say “stoked” instead of “happy”, but as it turns out, this story is all about getting past surfing stereotypes.
“The surfing culture in India is big now, and it demands a local scene, which is why we are finally seeing homegrown brands crop up.”
Looking For the Next Wave
The other partner-in-surf at Go Left is Raffael’s girlfriend Jill D’souza, a Mumbai girl he met just before fleeing “the corruption and pollution” of the city. She wanted to get out too, as much as Raffael did, and so they moved to Kerala together. And now that surfing is such an integral part of their lives – it has replaced running as a fitness activity and all monetary savings go towards surf boards – starting a brand of clothing for surfers seemed like a natural progression, more so because Jill has studied fashion design.
Go Left currently sells T-shirts off a Facebook page, with a full-fledged e-commerce site in the works. Raffael and Jill decided to start with just one item of clothing because as Raffael says, “I love T-shirts, man. I own a gazillion of them.” The versions at Go Left are christened with names such as Whale Tail and Turtle Run, and bear motifs that are inspired by the beach, marine life and travel.
“The waves in Kerala mostly go left, hence the name of our brand. Plus, it’s all about being left of center,” says Raffael. “The surfing culture in India is big now, and it demands a local scene, which is why we are finally seeing homegrown brands crop up.” He talks about Indi Surf Boards and Temple Surfboards that make affordable and good quality boards, and also 4Shore, a brand that offers bikinis and board bags.
As for Go Left, they’ve launched with limited designs, but are on their way to figuring out the next brain wave, which will most likely involve surf shorts and beach dresses. The idea, they tell us, is to be able to keep surfing while doing something they love.
A little too idealistic? “Currently my office is on the beach and I get to watch the sunset everyday,” says Raffael. We imagine an ‘Out surfing, come back later’ sign on a rough, sea-battered door, and suddenly, we want a brain filled with salt water too.
Wake up to daily updates on what to eat/shop/do in your city