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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 22, 2001

Island Style
Suiting up for ocean sports

By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer

Brigette Egbert and Joe Zwack — both triathletes who recently finished the Ironman in Australia — show their swimwear at Ala Moana Beach Park.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

May is the month when all the major fashion magazines are full of swimsuits. Pricey European design firms such as Versace, Gucci and Chanel splash supermodels in sexy suits across their pages. The glitzy teeny-weeny bikinis are made of every imaginable fiber and trim, from high-tech blends to retro rick-rack.

So will we see a lot of those high-fashion suits on the beaches of Hawai'i? Not likely.

Island Style interviewed some water sports enthusiasts, surfers, fitness swimmers, kayakers and canoe paddlers in Hawai'i to find out what real folks wear in the water, which isn't always the same as what's shown on the runways and glossy pages.

Optometrist Jennifer Bossert, 36, of Kahala, is an all-around water sportswoman. She kayaks, paddles with a six-person canoe team and surfs. Her friends laugh at her, she said, because she has a drawer packed with about 40 swimsuits. She prefers two-piece suits for all of her activities because she has difficulty finding one-pieces that fit. "Either the straps are pulling down or the bottom is crawling up," she said.

For paddling and kayaking, she prefers a top with a racer back and a bandeau feel, as opposed to an underwire that "digs into my ribs." She likes a "scooped bikini bottom."

She avoids bulky seams on the bottom because they can cause abrasions over time.

When surfing, Bossert wears a similar style, but with a tighter fit so there's less threat of her losing her suit when she gets tossed around in the waves. She wears a long-sleeved Pata-gonia Capilene top as a rash guard. (And since she's an optometrist, she emphasized the importance of wearing sunglasses whenever eyes are exposed to sun.) Orthodontist Malia Kamisugi, 28, of Wai'alae, who is a big-wave surfer and canoe paddler, prefers a bikini when she's in the water. Not a string bikini — "it won't stay on when I get whacked with a wave," she said. The back needs a clasp rather than a tie. The bottoms should be at least 1 to 2 inches thick. She always wears a rash guard and has found that if she wears a one-piece suit under the rashguard, she'll "slide around too much on my board."

Malia's mother, Libbie Kamisugi, also of Wai'alae, is a sailor and surfer. She wears bikinis and one-piece tank suits when surfing. "The main thing is that they don't come off," she said. She avoids elastic because of its stretch. She doesn't like ties that go around her neck because they add weight where she doesn't want it. She ties the strings over her shoulders instead.

When Libbie Kamisugi wears a tank suit, she makes sure it's good and tight. She often wears Speedo, but "I'm not really brand-particular." She always adds a rash guard and stressed that these also have to be tight. "Once I wore my son's rash guard, and it came over my head on a wave," she said.

Stephanie Reynolds of Niu Valley surfs, paddles a one-woman kayak and a six-person canoe. She heads for the water every chance she gets. "I'm a basic bikini kind of gal," she said. She prefers a triangle top without any padding. Roxy and Raisins are her favorite brands. She wears Xcel rash guards with either long or short sleeves. "When I'm in competition, I wear Xcel tops and a sports-type bra for paddling," Reynolds said.

Fitness swimmer Linda Moran of the Waikiki Swim Club usually prefers a one-piece nylon/Lycra/Spandex suit by Tyr or Speedo. She likes the T-back because the straps won't fall off her shoulders, and they leave her shoulders free.

When in competition, she wears a size smaller because "you want to be as streamlined as possible. You want to compact yourself so you can cut through the water." She added that if a suit is too big, "it will wear out quicker because it gets pulled by the water."

When training in the ocean, Moran wears a two-piece so the "no-see-ums" (she also called them "sea mites") don't get into her suit and bite her.

Triathlete and competitive swimmer Linda Kaiser prefers one-piece Tyr suits because "they last longer and the colors are much brighter" than other suits. "They use a tighter weave of fabric with more threads per square inch. They also have better liners," she added.

She prefers a higher neckline so there's less drag. A lower neckline scoops up the water, she said. She also recommended a tighter fit.

A swimsuit-fitting tip Kaiser offered: When trying on a suit, pull the straps up with your thumbs; they should touch the bottom of your earlobes. If you can pull them any higher, the suit is too big.

During a triathlon, Kaiser prefers a suit with some padding on the bottom. This enables the swimmer to be more comfortable during the bike segment of the event. These "tri-suits"are made by In Sport, Zoot, Tyr, Desoto and Orca. They are available at Island Triathlon.

For paddlers, Kaiser said there are neoprene shorts with a little padding in the bottom that make long distances far more comfortable.

For the men

Exercise physiologist Ken Gordon heads for Sandy Beach every chance he gets. The avid bodysurfer prefers "the old-fashioned, shorter type of swimsuit that doesn't go all the way down to my knees." He doesn't like any pockets, as they collect sand and create drag.

His favorites are flat-front with no pleats, but he said they're difficult to find these days. That's why he wears them "until they rot. I mean it."

His most recent trunks were found at Saks Off Fifth in Wai -kele. They are made by Zegna Sport, but other brands he has liked are Speedo and Reyn's Spooner.

Peter Ehrman, first vice president and financial adviser at Morgan Stanley, wears knee-length Quiksilver board shorts when he surfs because "my wife gives them to me."

The 42-year-old resident of Niu Valley says his favorite pair has a pocket with a built-in cord onto which car keys can be tied. He prefers a pocket (for his wax) on the side rather than the back.

If the pocket is on the back, he said, it can get in the way when sitting on the board waiting for the next wave. His long-sleeved O'Neill rash guard is a necessary accessory for sun protection.

Home builder and North Shore resident Jeff Brown hits the water every day. When bodyboarding, he wears a one-piece wetsuit that zips up the back. In the winter, he wears a heavier one, but when the weather is warmer he opts for a lightweight spring suit.

"I'm kind of a wimp," he said, chuckling. "When we were growing up, we wouldn't be caught dead in a wetsuit. It wasn't even cool to wear rubber slippers. But now ..."

For kayaking, Brown chooses a lighter ("spring weight") wetsuit as protection from sun, wind and spray. As for style? "Color and all that stuff doesn't mean a thing to me" when it comes to swimwear, he said.

Kailua dentist Mark Beavers likes his surfing and kite-surfing shorts to be a little baggy, and to come "down to the top of my knees — no shorter."

Any fabric will do as long as it's quick drying. His favorite brands? Turbo Surf and Town & Country. In cooler weather he adds an O'Neill wetsuit top.

He prefers shorts with a drawstring waist.

And "there absolutely must be a Velcro pocket with a string inside it where you can tie your keys," he said.

• • •

Fashion Calendar

Trunk show, with contemporary women's clothing that fuses East and West, by designer Anne Namba, and ethnic jewelry creations by Chiemi; 7:30 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday, library of The Lodge at Koele, Lana'i. (808) 565-3960.