Sunday, October 1, 2023

Why Surf Legend Kelly Slater Wants You to Wear Sustainable Sandals and Think About the Moon


Eleven-Time World Surfing Champion Kelly Slater has launched KLLY, a sandal company out to make sustainable footwear the norm.

Shoes aren’t likely the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Kelly Slater. Maybe it’s his 11 World Surfing Titles. Or his 55 total career victories. Maybe it’s that he was both the youngest and oldest World Champion in men’s surfing history.

Perhaps you think of Slater’s entrepreneurial side — he founded the popular eco apparel brand Outerknown in 2014. The Kelly Slater Wave Company launched in 2015, making viral-video-worthy man-made waves. He’s the visionary behind Firewire Surfboards, the most sustainable surfboard platform in the world. He also developed Slater Designs to showcase designs he created with legendary surfboard shapers as well as his latest addition to the product line, Endorfins — high-performance surfboard fins made with sustainable materials.

Or maybe you think of Slater’s charitable work. The surfing legend, now 51, has lent his name to a number of organizations and efforts including Omaze, Oceana, Surfrider, Surfers Not Street Children, Sea Shepherd, and Greenpeace among others.

kelly slater with surfboard
Kelly Slater was inspired by the moon’s relationship to the oceans for the new sandals. | Courtesy KLLY

But, now, the pro surfing great is keen to dominate in yet another category, with the launch of his first sustainable footwear range, KLLY.

“I drew a lot of inspiration from my personal life,” Slater told Ethos via email about the new sandals. “Having lived in sandals for the majority of my life, I designed them with my own needs in mind,” Slater says. “I knew I wanted them to be eco-conscious and to incorporate recycled materials, while at the same time prioritizing comfort and performance.”

Slater says he designed KLLY’s first shoe, the KLLY Sandal, for superior comfort; the sole is a bit thicker than the flip flops you’re likely used to. That’s because these aren’t your average flip-flops. The KLLY sandals retail for $89.

KLLY sandals
The KLLY Sandals are made from recycled and sustainable materials. | Courtesy KLLY

Slater says the sandals have a “perfect arch” in order to create a comfortable footbed “that sustains the shape of the foot,” he says. “The added thickness also helps to elevate the footbed to avoid picking up too much sand while walking.”

The performance-based sandals are also made with the planet in mind. The KLLY Sandal is made from recycled material and BLOOM’s algae technology for shoes that provide superior cushioning and comfort while also being ethically produced.

I was deeply inspired by nature and the mysterious connection between sea turtles and the moon.

Kelly Slater

The type of BLOOM material KLLY uses in its sandal is called Rise (formerly known as Bloom Foam). “Rise is the environmentally-conscious, high-performance replacement for traditional petroleum-based EVAs,” says Slater. “Foams utilizing Bloom’s algae technology deliver striking performance values, which make them excellent replacements for conventional foams.”

The use of Rise was inspired by the effectiveness Slater saw in using the material in the traction pads for his eco-conscious surfboard company, Firewire Surfboards.

The KLLY sandal also uses some non-BLOOM sustainable materials including GRS-Certified rPET recycled content, EVA, rubber, recycled rubber, SBR foam, and elastane.

The first sandal in the KLLY line is available in the New Moon colorway — black with details resembling the surface of the moon.

“I was deeply inspired by nature and the mysterious connection between sea turtles and the moon,” Slater says. The surfer is a long-time environmentalist and advocate for wildlife preservation. “The top of the KLLY Sandal sole mirrors the moon’s surface while the bottom represents turtle scales.”

KLLY sandal sole
The KLLY Sandal is inspired by the scales of turtles. | Courtesy KLLY

Slater says he has always been captivated by the way the moon’s gravitational pull generates tides in the ocean, connecting the moon, the surf, and its sea creatures. Turtles in particular have a special connection to the moon, with 13 large scales that represent the 13 moons in each year and 28 smaller scales that represent the moon’s monthly cycle. The KLLY sandal is a tribute to these coexisting forces.

“I’ve spent a majority of my career chasing the perfect wave and in that time I’ve also been acutely aware of the impact that our actions have on the planet,” Slater said in a statement. “With KLLY, I wanted to create a performance-driven sandal that not only reflects my passion for surfing and the ocean’s influence on my life, but also embodies my commitment to protecting it.”

The KLLY launch comes on the heels of a milestone achievement for Outerknown, Slater’s popular apparel brand. Last month, the company achieved Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC) status — joining only four other brands to earn the mark for organic cotton from farms with the highest environmental standards. Regenerative agriculture is particularly focused on soil health.

organic cotton
Courtesy Outerknown

Outerknown’s current collection of ROC products includes several t-shirt styles with more to come, the brand says.

Earlier this week, Outerknown launched The California Series — a collection of heritage-inspired sweats made with 100 percent Climate Beneficial cotton, grown entirely in the heart of California’s Central Valley. The cotton comes from the California Cotton & Climate Coalition (C4). Outerknown is a founding brand partner of C4. The Fibershed-led project was started in 2020 to address the historic loss of carbon stocks in the California rangeland soil.

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