Let us clear the air: There are bikinis, and then there are bikinis that actually stay on--and unfortunately for us, we've had a few run-ins with the former. But experience is the best teacher, and we're now well versed in the fabrics, fits, and swimwear styles that won't leave us--ahem--hanging. Here are seven no-slip, strong-grip bikini brands you may not have heard of, yet will stay put through duck dives, wipeouts, cannon balls, and cliff jumps (and pretty much anything else the water can throw at you).
The brand: Calavera
The story: Founded by a woman who quit her corporate job to chase waves in Costa Rica, Calavera suits are sleek and sexy, so you can look like a Bond girl while surfing like a world champion.
The style: Calavera's Leotard style protects skin from the sun and acts like a lubricant when you need a wetsuit--the silky fabric helps your neoprene slide on with ease. The long sleeves with added thumbholes even help out callused hands during long standup paddle sessions.
The stay-put test: Calavera tests every suit it makes in Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica, one of the heaviest beach breaks in the world. "To make [shooting] faster, I was wearing all the bottoms and tops out into the line-up and the girls would come and change by my board in the water," says founder Anna Jerstrom of one particular test day. "One of the girls was taking off her suit and big set rolled in. There she was, naked with her leash in one hand and the suit in the other, and she had to decide whether to jump on her board and paddle out or take the set on the head. She opted for the former to the delight of the male surfers in the line-up. Luckily, as long as you have you Calavera on, showing off too much is something you'll never experience again!"
The brand: FayEtte Bikinis
The story: Handmade in a small studio in Florida, FayEtte Bikinis have adjustable cross-back tops, drawstring bottoms, and are totally customizable--designer Danielle Harangody allows customers to select their own styles and fabrics for the perfect combination.
The style: The Flutter top is FayEtte's bestseller, a bra-style top that fits like a glove but retains ruffle sleeves for girly detailing. Pair it with the super-cheeky Costa bottoms.
The stay-put test: "Before I started FayEtte Bikinis, I was lifeguarding at a very conservative private club in Palm Beach," says Harangody, explaining that staff members were required to be fully clothed while walking from lifeguard stand to lifeguard stand. "Naturally, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to test out my Brazilian-cut lifeguard bikini. They were great! No excess fabric to bunch up while practicing rescues, nor sag after getting out of the water." She got away with it for months before someone said something, at which point a new style of bottom was born: "the moderate skimpy cut."
The brand: Ranifly Bikinis
The story: Designer Rani Keohane grew up wearing her mom's handmade bikinis on a tiny island in the Pacific Northwest called Treasure Island. Now, she makes her own bespoke swimwear styles with durable, sport-grade Lycra.
The style: Keohane's favorite suit of the season is the Mimi X-Back Sport top paired with the Infinity bottoms.
The stay-put test: "I started making swimwear because I worked on boats all day in bikinis and I couldn't find a suit that was comfortable for all-day use," says Keohane. Now her suits are so comfortable that her customers often wear them as bras and underwear. Not convinced? Keohane's suits appeared in Sports Illustrated and she even whipped up a few for Sir Richard Branson's yacht crew.
The brand: Sensi Graves Bikinis
The story: Founded by professional kiteboarder Sensi Graves out of Oregon, these suits are constructed specifically for women who kiteboard, surf, and swim. Innovative back details--like cross-back ties and wide straps--support "lady parts," while high-quality fabrics keep everything from sagging or pilling, and most suits have a UV protection factor of 50+.
The style: The standout suit of the season is the Claire top and Bella bottoms--the former with a cross-back design and flirty cut-outs, the latter with sliding tabs that allow you to decide just how much coverage you want.
The stay-put test: Graves tests her suits every time she trains for the impending Triple S Invitational, the country's most prestigious kiteboarding contest--but she's constantly aiming to improve. "The day before my very first trade show, I remember taking photos of some of the colors and styles we hadn't had time to shoot on the ground outside the FedEx office. This year, we were early, had all the photos taken in a studio with fantastic athletes and models to wear them. It's amazing to look at what I've learned."
The brand: Mi Ola
The story: In 2009, designer Helena Fogarty ditched her life in New York (where she worked for fashion titan Chanel), and moved to Costa Rica to surf. In the water every day for hours, she grew frustrated by the selection of bikinis available and decided to whip up her own suits. She eliminates every extra seam, labels are meant to be cut out, and all fabrics are tested in both salt water and chlorine to ensure the highest level of comfort and performance.
The style: The pin-up top gives small-chested woman some extra "oomph," and provides added support for the well-endowed. The boyshort bottoms are iconic, a reference to the men's short-shorts Fogarty remembers from her beach trips in the '80s.
The stay-put test: "I have a team of surfers as testers, including myself," says Fogarty, "and let's just say, my surfing buds have seen way too much of my business. If a fabric gets sheer in the water, it's on my tush. If a top comes off during wipeouts, I'm the one flashing the world. Then we modify that and test it again, until there's no risk of indecent exposure!"
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