Captain Paul Watson and sidekick, Omar Todd, receive a stash of Khala Cloths from co-founder and owner of Khala Cloths, Asa McKee.
On Wednesday, October 25th, 2017, Asa took his place in front of a 200+ person crowd at the UMC to deliver the last “pitch” of the evening. Before him, a judges’ panel awaited, having been audience to the previous two pitches delivered by the other companies/non-profits vying for the Esprit Venture Challenge victory and $10,000 prize . Asa was there to represent Khala Cloths’ bid, and even though we had been through judging rounds before (that was how we won last year’s “Most Exciting Brand” at the Portland, OR Green Festival), this one was the biggest deal yet. The infusion of the award money would mean so much to us at Khala Cloths – both in terms of monetary and symbolic capital.
Did others believe in us as much as we believed in our simple-yet-powerful solution to plastic pollution and food waste?
Asa was about to find out.
30 minutes later, Asa was texting Tamar: “We WON!” And Tamar and the kids proceeded to do a victory/disbelief/relief dance.
Even the dog got down!
Since then, things have been an absolute whirlwind: setting up permanent “shop” in Boulder; sharing our brand, product, and message to more and more folks - and thus fulfilling more and more orders! All the while coming up with endless ideas on what artists to work with next to help which charities and causes. In addition to Asa’s tireless mix-master skills, Tamar has been able to dedicate more time to Khala Cloths, amidst spending more time with kids, family, and “dreaming out loud” (to paraphrase an obscure Irish rock band).
We are so happy and grateful to be able to carve out more space and time to make Khala Cloths become more and more a quintessential Boulder company as well as an essential product for EVERYONE to replace the plastic wraps, bags, and storage in their lives.
Thank you to those of you who voted us through all the rounds, and especially to the EVC judges who made the final call :)
Read more about Khala Cloth's Esprit Venture Challenge award @BizWest:
Khala Cloths named winner of Esprit Venture Challenge - award announcement
"From Passion Project to Start-Up" - interview with Asa and Tamar
In May 2017, we connected with Changing Tides Foundation, to explore how we could support each other's commitment to protecting the environment through everyday human empowerment. Upon learning that Changing Tides Foundation (CTF) was heading down to Panama to support and document the Women's Outreach Mentorship Program (WOMP), we sent a bunch of Khala Cloths down with the CTF team to support their efforts to go zero waste wherever they might be. Upon their return from Panama, CTF shared two incredible returns with us: the following blog post AND some awesome photographs of Khala Cloths in use, some of which we share along with this blog post.
Our partnership with CTF and support of such programs as WOMP are just some of the ways Khala Cloths is more than just a company. We are a cause for good. Every time you purchase and use a Khala Cloth, know you are a part of these efforts. To learn more, please read on!
The Women’s Outreach Mentorship Program (WOMP) provides underprivileged teenage girls the opportunity to improve their swimming skills, learn how to SUP and eventually surf, encourage them to grow personally and build strong bonds with each other using art and the ocean as tools. The first ever WOMP program has launched in the Afro-Caribbean community of Old Bank on the island Bastimentos located in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago in Panama. The program lasts 10 weeks, meeting two times a week throughout the Spring and Summer months.
The #WOMPBocas is administered by our local non-profit partner Give and Surf and funded by Changing Tides Foundation. In June 2017, the Changing Tides Foundation Team traveled to Bocas del Toro to participate and engage with the participants of WOMP Bocas along with special guest, Emi Koch from Beyond the Surface International. While in Bocas, Give and Surf, CTF and BTSI collaborated on a 3-day women’s empowerment clinic to address gender inequality, body image and other local issues through art, photography and water sports and to document the WOMP program’s progress
Here is what we knew going into the project: To our knowledge is the first-ever female oriented group formed in Bocas del Toro. The girls in the community are not accustomed to expressing their feelings and showing emotions. They are not generally outgoing and accepting to outsiders. They are generally self-conscious and shy and pretty private. Also, when it rains, generally everything is cancelled; no one leaves their homes.
Here is what we were able to accomplish in our short time with the WOMP ladies: Through icebreakers and bonding exercises, we made strong connections with the girls almost immediately. We spoke to them about who we are and how we all connected and how the ocean brought us all together. They opened up to us about things that make them happy and expressed what they liked and disliked about their community and the gender stereotypes they would like to break. They talked about how, only 3 weeks into the WOMP program, they had discovered a love for the ocean they never knew possible. The talked about the joy they feel when they’re in the ocean and how their worries, fears and problems were washed away by the sea, which is something we could all relate to. They talked about how, in such a short time, the WOMP program has changed their lives, and how it is the biggest thing they look forward to every week. Then we did a “photo shoot” with their newly donated hats and rash guards and swimsuits from RVCA and The Seea. This really brought them out of their shells from a physical standpoint. They were so happy and felt so pretty and they produced the shots they wanted themselves.
The next day, Emi Koch led a photography workshop, speaking about perception and how we all perceive things differently and how different angles of the same thing can be so interesting and make something beautiful. We showed them some of the photos from their swimsuit photo shoot the previous day, and they delighted in how beautiful they looked and all cheered each other on. We did a jungle walk and gave all of the girls cameras to use to shoot things in their community. Along the way, we took photos of and talked about the trash problem on the island and offering suggestions on how they could help change that. We ended up at the beach, where we gave them their Patagonia gear bags which were loaded with goodies like masks, snorkels, swimcaps, Mizu water bottles, Spy sunglasses Avasol sunscreen and RVCA towels. The gear bags will remain property of the WOMP program for their continued use and for future participants. Then the girls got on the WOMP Program’s new inflatable SUP’s from Milkshake and XTerra and those donated by Gerry Lopez and other donors and used their Black Fin Paddles and took off paddling for the next island where we met them to snorkel. This time in the water was so amazing! The smiles and giggles were plentiful. Their laughter was so contagious. We were all one in the same, on a level playing field; no class or color to worry about. It was beautiful.
On the third day of the program we were scheduled for a field trip to Polo Beach to SUP and snorkel but it rained, so we expected our time with the girls to be cancelled. Much to everyone’s surprise, the girls showed up to the community center right on time to wait for us. They didn’t want to miss more time with us. Because of the rain, in lieu of SUP, the girls decided they wanted to see the pictures from the workshop the previous day. Then they offered to teach us white girls to dance! We proceeded to have the most hilarious, sweaty and fun hour-long dance party, ever using their new EcoX Gear waterproof speakers! This fortified our bond, as they were bringing us into their world as we had brought them into ours. They realized they had something amazing to teach us and again, we were one in the same! We left them with gifts: Avasol reuseable shopping bags filled with Changing Tides Foundation tank tops, Cobian Sandals, Humble Brush bamboo toothbrushes, and lounge pants from Indosole. They were so incredibly grateful and so excited to have new gear for themselves. This was supposed to be the last day but they invited us back for a few hours one more day, saying they had a surprise for us.
We returned to beautifully painted shells and stones as gifts. We sat with the girls, got henna tattoos and massages and the girls braided our hair. We said very tearful goodbyes and promised to come back to see them and teach them how to surf one day soon. It was bittersweet. We have missed the girls every single day since we have been back. We have some promises to keep and cannot wait to see their beautiful faces again. Our lives have been changed forever through this experience. Thank you so much for being a part of it.
Khala Cloths is excited to launch a new blog series where we profile our amazing brand ambassadors. First up is a blog personally penned by stand up paddle (SUP) champion and environmental activist, Brittany Parker. If you are intrigued by what you read you can learn more about her on our Ambassador's page here.
Hey Khala Cloths community, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Brittany Parker and I’m a whitewater stand up paddle, river surfer, van lifer, nomad, and mother nature lover. I have just recently jumped on board with Khala Cloths and am so excited to represent a company that’s a champion for the planet.
My season has just begun and it’s going off in full force. Myself and business partner Natali Zollinger are currently making our way up to Bend, Oregon for our first RVR 2 RVR clinic. This is one of a few that we’ll be doing across North America. We travel to local river communities and teach people how to successfully and safely navigate their local waterways and surf their river waves. It’s a very exciting job and allows us to really immerse ourselves into all of the different communities. Following Bend we’ll be making our way back towards Utah and Colorado to teach a weekend clinic in Boise, Idaho. If you’re interested in joining us or just want to come say “hey” when we’re passing through your town visit our website www.rvr2rvr.com to view our full schedule. We’ve also got lots of swag to give away so if you see us flag us down or come say "hey" for a hat, koozies, and stickers.
The river has changed my life significantly. I’m obsessed, I’ve got the bug. When I travel, I travel with purpose and that purpose is almost always to paddle or surf something. Along with my business I work for a rad stand up paddle board company called Badfish Stand Up Paddle based out of Salida, CO. They make boards that charge through whitewater and surf river waves like a dream. My work allows me to the live a mobile and free lifestyle that suits me perfectly.
When I’m not teaching or participating in a whitewater event I’ll be surfing. In most cases the river surfing season exists within a very brief window. When a wave comes in you can bet I’ll be hopping in the Sprinter and driving two to 15 hours to catch a waves window. Aside from the surfing the chase is half the fun.
I’m currently writing this in a trailer in Santa Cruz, California while the rain falls. Yesterday I paddled out to catch some waves and ended up catching nothing but some close encounters with gray whales. We drank champagne on the beach while the sun went down and slept next to the PCH in a pull-off that overlooks the Pacific. Not every moment on the road is this blissful but it’s these moments that make peeing in a bucket, ice baths in the rivers, and being woken up in the middle of the night for illegal parking worth it!
This is the life I have chosen for myself and I do not live with an ounce of regret. To follow my travels you can visit my blog at www.bpsups.com and for details about our clinics visit www.rvr2rvr.com.