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Fashionable, Comfortable And Cute Bikinis Made By Surfer

by Jesse Starling

Starting a business is never easy. Whether it’s clothing, a magazine, or a marketing company, whatever it is, turning a thought into reality and then building it into a fully fledged business is one of the hardest yet most rewarding things to do. Now take all that information and apply it to someone in their early twenties. Less life experience on their side, figuring this out completely for the first time, it adds another level of difficulty. However, someone who is making it look oh so easy, building her company with grace, class and style is Ellia Mai Smith. 20 year old Pro Surfer, previous QS warrior and now founder of Basq & Mai, Ellia has seemingly created a timeless and elegant swimwear brand to suit the ages. It was a must for us to know more about her journey and better yet share it with you all. So meet Ellia. 

You come from a surfing background, firstly talk us through your decision to step away from the competitive side of surfing and how that process was for you? 

I got introduced to surfing at a very young age. My Dad taught me to surf when I was 6 years old. Growing up I remember how hooked I was on surfing, every morning at the crack of dawn waking Dad up, “lets go surfing”. 

As I got older surfing became a lot more serious. I had major sponsors, I was getting some huge results and was on the path of working towards becoming a Professional Surfer. 

I started competing because I loved surfing and I thought it was the only thing I was good at. Which I soon realised isn’t a good enough reason. Eventually the comps took the love I had for surfing and changed it. I never felt fulfilled, I never felt like I got to showcase my surfing, I doubted myself, I was always comparing myself to others and I couldn’t financially keep up. These feelings all built up and I began to feel these things in everything I did, not just competitive surfing. 

Ellia Mai Smith, Basq & Mai founder

I remember in 2022 I decided I’d give it one last try. I signed up for the first few QS events and these feelings didn’t change. I still felt just as lost but I didn’t want to give up on my dream. I remember just thinking I can’t do it anymore and I made the decision to stop. It’s crazy to me that comps made me stop enjoying surfing. Something I’d grown up loving and doing every day became something I resented.

Stepping back from competitions when I did was the best decision. I love surfing again. I’ve found new passions and the same love I had for surfing when I first started. I now surf for me. I don’t surf to train for a comp anymore. I surf to have fun with my friends, surf with my Dad again, try new boards and travel to new places. All which make me feel more fulfilled than winning a surf comp ever did.

I must admit I do look back and think “What if I kept going?” “What if I trained harder” or “I was so close, did I just throw it all away”. But I always remind myself comps aren’t going anywhere. I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve learnt so much and found new goals and opportunities within surfing. I may compete again one day but I’d definitely treat it differently. 

Moving away from surfing now, let’s talk about Basq & Mai! How in the world do you even start a bikini company? What were the processes from turning an Idea into reality! 

After taking a step back from competitive surfing, I did feel a little lost for a while. I had always been creative whether it was photography, art or making films, I was always finding something to create. 

Growing up by the beach, I practically live in my bikinis. I had always dreamed of one day having my own swimwear label but never knew how to start. I found my creative energy again and thought, let’s do it.

I worked in an office job full time for a year to save up all my money to start the process of turning my dream into reality. It definitely wasn’t as easy as it may seem. It was a lot of hours before, after work and on weekends but I was so excited, I loved every step of the way and it was so bittersweet to see everything coming together. 


My process started off by finding inspiration. I have always loved the 80 and 90’s era and knew that’s what I wanted to tie in with my swim. I also love dainty and cute styles and wanted to work that into my designs as well. I sourced inspiration on Pinterest, thrifting, looking through my mums old film photos of her and her friends and also looking through old magazines. I loved this step so much. 

I then started to sketch my own designs. I had lots of ideas but started off minimal to allow time to perfect things like quality, materials, sizing, colours, patterns and also just to see how this was all going to go. The next step I took was lot’s of research into an ethical and small manufacturer. I knew I wanted to put my focus into having the best quality swimwear and to create swimwear using all sustainable materials. 

After that step I then began sampling my designs. This was probably the most exciting step to see all my designs come to life. I then started website designing, shooting campaigns, marketing and it was finally time to launch. I have since launched 3 collections and have an exciting new Surf Range launching this month. I now have so many beautiful and inspiring girls supporting my small business and wearing my bikinis all around Australia.

Cute Classy and Comfortable piece from Basq and Mai

Did you have any training going into this or did you just throw yourself in the deep end? 

I have always had the biggest love for fashion and creating but other than that I had no clue how I was going to start Basq & Mai. I had never studied anything to do with business, fashion or designing. I threw myself right in the deep end.

It’s now been 6 months since I started my brand and I have learnt so much. Anything and everything from website designing, campaign shooting, marketing, designing cards, production orders and more. 

Knowing how much hard work and passion goes into designing, shooting, creating and growing, I now appreciate other small businesses so much more and love supporting them too. 

Being a surfer you know exactly what a surfer needs in a bikini, does this stay in your head whilst designing your new ranges?

Definitely! In my head when I first started, all I pictured was retro patterns, surf suits, little shorts and more. However these designs are something I have had to work really hard to perfect so it’s taken a little more time. So in the meantime I launched 3 collections of beautiful unique bikinis for beach days and tanning while I perfect my Surf Range designs. 

When I surf I love when I feel comfortable, confident and stand out. I had all this in mind whilst designing my surf ranges. I connected with another local creative to design some retro graphics to print onto some fabric to use for my future Surf Ranges and also sourced an ethical Terry towelling material for something different which is all launching very soon. 

I am so excited to be launching my surf range and I cannot wait to see girls in the water wearing Basq & Mai.

How is it being the boss of a company so young? It’s obviously a lot harder than people think? 

It’s pretty cool being the boss of my own Brand at 20 years old but it’s been a big leap to take. It’s been the most rewarding and challenging journey so far. 

Other than creating and designing, I also do everything from packing my orders, photography for new collections, sometimes modelling the new collections and getting Mum behind the camera, social media, marketing, website design and more. I would say it’s definitely hard work but I LOVE IT so it doesn’t feel like work at all for me. It’s a dream come true. I love how many creative avenues there are in owning my own brand so young and I’m so excited to grow.

What is in store for the future of Basq and Mai?

My dream for Basq and Mai would be to grow a beautiful community of women who are all inspired by surfing, the 80-90s era, sustainability and supporting small businesses. My dream is to be able to paddle out and see girls out there feeling confident in Basq & Mai. 

I want to continue to grow and design unique styles and graphics. One day move out of my bedroom wardrobe and have a Basq and Mai warehouse. Shoot campaigns with inspiring girls who love to surf different boards, travel and create themselves. I would also love to open my own shop one day. 

We believe the key to success is having a clear goal / vision and executing it with love and passion. It seems like Ellia already has the formula for success not only for herself but for Basq and Mai too. With a wide range of cute and classy bikinis to suit all body shapes, we highly recommend jumping on the B&M program to suit all your summer bikini needs this year! 


Jesse Starling

Jesse Starling, Owner of MurMur Mag, Professional Surfer and WSL commentator. Giving women a voice is what she does best.

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