Frisky Ripples: Popina Swimwear, Gear Review

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My interests typically revolve around outdoor activities and as I’ve previously written, I really enjoy getting on the water to paddle. So when it comes to shopping I rank that up there with washing the toilet or getting my teeth cleaned. Apparently I’m not alone in that feeling, especially when it comes to finding swimsuits… a less thrilling but necessary part of paddling, particularly when in hotter climates. I recently learned that statistically speaking, women would rather go to the dentist than go swimsuit shopping. So when I first walked into Popina, now almost a year ago, I was very surprised, relieved, and well…at ease! But again, I get ahead of myself….

I originally met Willie and Pamela paddling on the Santiam river. This lovely couple are the founders/owners of Portland based, crazy-popular and hip Popina boutique. They have two locations (Hollywood District and the Pearl) and also have a strong wholesale business with Pamela’s personal creations. By the way, aside from managing the Tumalo Creek’s paddleboard programs and classes, I do the buying for our functional but fashionable water/lifestyle apparel, including swimwear. When Willie and Pamela came to the shop to show me their line I was hooked. The designs are fun, vintage-style and flattering. The material itself soft and cozy. It was a perfect match for the TCKC shopper who is typically a discerning woman desiring not only comfort and good fit, but also must look awesome.

Months later, when we received our shipment from Popina, Christina (pro whitewater kayaker and long time TCKC employee) and I oohed and ahhhed over the product. I have to admit to immediately jumping into our changing room to try the stuff on. You know…I HAVE to be able to recommend styles to customers and counsel them on fitting etc!! Right? Apparently I don’t hate shopping as much as I’d thought? Aside from the appearance, what I really appreciate about this line is the quality. In a world of toss-away clothing it’s hard to find apparel that is well-made with the individual’s needs in mind. I teach hours of paddleboarding every week. I have to be modest, presentable and not have a “wardrobe malfunction” out there when demonstrating a stroke.

I also really like the story of Popina. As mentioned, it’s a locally owned and operated boutique in Oregon. The couple both had high-intensity corporate jobs prior to starting Popina. Pamela began the business herself, doing everything operating out of a 250 foot retail space that included the bathroom and changing room. From there, they have grown this “Gilligan’s Island Chic” space into what they hope to be the best swimsuit store in the world. They strive to create a fun shopping experience and they do an excellent job of that…complimentary beer is offered from the tiki bar and a keiki play area is available for your kiddos. When I was there in February I was stunned to find a wait for dressing rooms because it is so popular….the beer helped our wait substantially! Their staff is awesome-Pamela and Willie agree it’s all about the customer. They appreciate their loyal fans above all else, and want them to have fun. Because that’s what life is about right? Working hard but getting your stoke on too.

I believe Popina’s culture is a great fit with our shop here in Bend. We operate under these same principles. It’s growing the paddling community that really drives us at TCKC. We want our guests to feel comfortable stopping in simply to chat about a recent adventure on the water or get some beta on a river they’re looking to paddle. Helping the customer have the best experience buying a product that they’ll be excited about, is an ideal Willie, Pamela and I share.

If you want to check out some of Popina’s swimsuits, cover-ups and skirts, stop by the TCKC shop. I’m happy to help you figure it out…and to talk paddling.

Thanks for listening and happy paddlin’!