Danielle Clayton: Surf Wear Legend

Danielle Clayton: Surf Wear Legend

Photography by Richard Kotch, courtesy of Danielle Clayton.

If you’ve been on the women’s surf scene recently, you may have seen some of Danielle Clayton’s Salt Gypsy creations. Danny is an avid surfer and the lady behind the beautiful and highly functional Salt Gypsy surf leggings and other surf wear. [As an owner of my own pair of Salt Gypsy surf shorts, I can attest to how fantastic and versatile they really are!] But, more than that, she has been a big influence in the blossoming female surf culture over the last few years, inspiring women to be themselves and redefining what it means to be a modern waterwoman. Danny shares a bit of her story, her philosophy, and a few tips on styling in the lineup this summer.

In a few words, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Just an ordinary Kiwi girl who loves to surf. Tenacious and pretty happy.

When was your first experience surfing?

When I was 15 and had saved up enough money from my part time job to buy my first surfboard. Maori Bay, on the West Coast of Auckland, New Zealand: big, rough and excellent training ground to learn how the ocean works. Though it took me a very long time to learn how to stand up on my “beginner” shortboard, I learnt how to duck dive very quickly!

How did you get the idea to start your own brand of women’s surf wear?

Salt Gypsy began life as my personal blog while working my third season in the Maldives as a surf guide in 2012. I made my own surf leggings because I could not find anything on the market back then and frankly, [I] was very concerned – and still am – about skin damage and skin cancer. After actively promoting the concept of surf leggings for the last two and a half years, and finding myself with no income last year, I have developed the Salt Gypsy lifestyle brand and surf wear you see today.

Is there a story behind the name “Salt Gypsy?”

The words salt and gypsy simply epitomise the surf-centric lifestyle we live. It’s this common connection of searching for waves and making life decisions based around how close you are to the ocean, that I think waterwomen of all ages worldwide can identify with.

What would you consider essential components of modern women’s surf wear?

Anything that allows you, as an individual woman, to reflect your personal style in the lineup. Functional surf wear with slick design that looks good and makes you feel awesome.

How has your experience working with the Liquid Destination Maldives surf tours influenced what you do?

Working in the Maldives gave me the opportunity for a lot of concentrated surf-time and putting different swim and surfwear styles through the paces in a variety of conditions. Being a salt gypsy means time under the sun, which, combined with growing up in New Zealand and its gaping big hole in the ozone layer, equates to major sun exposure over the years. Skimpy “surf bikinis” just aren’t my personal style either, so I started seeking surf wear that would protect my skin from sun damage – and worse – skin cancer, without having to look like a nana or an Olympic athlete.

Since you kicked off Salt Gypsy, how have you seen women’s style in the lineup evolve?

In the last four years there has been a steady increase in the number of indie brands putting out quality surf wear with unique design and authentic stories. I see this driven by female surfers, like myself, who have been discontent with a stale stereotype of what it is to be a “girl surfer.” I think there is a revolution happening in women’s surf culture in general, and part of it is redefining what it is to be a female surfer in today’s world. What I see women wearing in the lineup today reflects this reclamation of femininity without the passé and hypersexualised image of old.

Who is your biggest role model?

Sophia Amoruso, founder/owner of Nasty Gal (USA) – who doesn’t want to be a #girlboss like her?! And my mum, who is the epitomy of tenacity and strength.

What are your top picks for ladies’ surf style this summer?

Neoprene – there are some slick neoprene pieces being made by some of our favourite indie surf/swim brands. Crop rashguards paired with high waisted bikini bottoms. And Salt Gypsy surf leggings, of course – we’ve got your pins covered.

I’ve noticed that you’re quite fond of collaborations. Can we expect to see some exciting new products popping up in the near future?

Yes, creative collaboration is one of my core business and personal values. Particularly if it’s an opportunity to work with and support other creative, talented waterwomen. We are finally foraying into prints, so expect to see two new print legging collaborations to be released in the coming months.

Learn more about Salt Gypsy.


Maddie Buresh is a writer and photographer with an unquenchable desire to explore the great outdoors, from the ocean to the mountains. She finds joy in trying new things, living in community, and crafting stories that encourage people to go outside, have adventures, and enjoy this big, beautiful world.