We recently met Mele Saili through our friends at Crap Eyewear. She impressed us right away with her outlook on wave riding. And how she’s managed to evolve such a unique style both on and off waves. Our own Drew Eggers picked her creative brain for us, which you’ll find below, illustrated with imagery by Luki O’Keefe.
WHAT YOUTH: Being a descendent of Larry Gordon, did you choose surfing, or did being thrown into the lineage of a surf legend nudge surfing to choose you?
MELE SAILI: I’ve been fortunate enough to be born into a family that has created an identity through surfing. With my dad being a shaper and Larry Gordon of G&S Surfboards as my grandfather, it has really given me a foundation to be involved with surfing from an early age.
Did the boys hassle you in the lineups growing up? Do we have to beat anyone up?
The world is male-dominated, so surfing is actually no different than anything else. My experience was actually the opposite any way because everyone knew my family, especially my dad, who everyone loved but most importantly feared. So I didn’t have any issues getting waves early on.
I understand you only surfed for a year before entering your first contest where you ended up placing third, would you mind telling us what sorcery allowed for that to happen?
I’m not quite sure but most likely black magic.
Despite seemingly instant success, how have you been able to stay true to your roots?
Sometimes you have to branch out in order to grow, but there’s something about being raised in south San Diego that you learn to never lose respect for your roots.
If surfing never came into your life, what would you be doing?
I’d probably be a less tan, more productive version of myself. Finding some other excuse to travel and make even more weird art than I do now.
Who keeps you motivated to get in the water?
Knee High Surf Club — my local surf cult.
Usually, our outfit envy lurks on land, but you’re a curious case. You seem to have an eye for serious style in and out of the water, what do you have to say about fashion v.s. function while surfing.
It’s always been a struggle to find a suit that doesn’t fall off in the surf. Most suits are created for women to be the surfer’s girlfriend on the beach as opposed to the surfer. That’s why I always appreciated ‘Seea’ in particular for solving all my problems and combining the ideas of style and surfability when no one else was doing it. Between them and Axxe Wetsuits I’ve found all I need to do my thing.
Most memorable surf trip?
Probably the time I got invited to the Deus 9ft & Single in Bali. The surf was big that year and it turned out to be my first heat ever surfing with all the queen legends like Kassia Meador, Erin Ashley aka ‘Worm’, Jen Smith and Leah Dawson. I ended up placing 3rd and couldn’t believe it. It was the most memorable because Worm and I tried to be over achievers and ‘win best shared wave’ but I ended up accidentally running her over like a durp. Thankfully she survived, then we all really cut loose at the closing ceremonies.
Do you enjoy competing?
For me, contests are nice because you get all fired up on what everyone is doing and maybe even drink a beer with good friends on the beach. That’s my secrete for nailing every contest I enter.
How did you and the CRAP Eyewear crew first find each other?
The Crap forefathers were actually good friends with my older brother growing up. So I’ve been familiar with Crap since their early beginnings. I’ve always admiring their sense of style and forever worshiped their not so sorry attitude… which makes me proud to be a part of their Crap empire.
Where can we expect to see you next?
As of now, trip planning is pretty spur of the moment. There’s talk of Portugal at the end of this month for the ‘Gliding Barnacles’ festival followed by a cold water adventure to Canada in October.
—Interview by Drew Eggers