So, I surf, I skate, I snowboard, I wakeboard, I free dive, I sail, I like to jump my truck, go hiking, fish, and more. A day in the life of Kim Kirch is pretty simple nowadays. It wasn’t so much so at one point in time.
And art. You forgot art.
Art is great. I’ve been painting and drawing on just about everything I could get my hands on since I was a little kid. All throughout high school I would give myself Sharpie tattoo sleeves.
I started competing in action sports and began to realize, like most girls do, that I’m not really that pretty model girl. I’m really good at what I do, but I’m not really the kind of person that most people like to sponsor because I’m in your face and I like to do whatever the fuck I want to do.
So I started this thing called, Will Paint to Shred. I paint murals at cable parks, or I painted a truck in Costa Rica, or whatever, for all expense paid vacations to go ride. Instead of having to sell my soul to be a pro athlete, I just… use the barter system.
Tell me why board sports are such a big part of your life.
So, wakeboarding was the first thing I was ever really good at. And I don’t get to wakeboard very often – maybe once a year for a month or two straight, and that’s it. Typically, the places you can wakeboard there’s not much else to do. You’re just kind of in a field in the middle of no where, and there’s some rails and a pond and that’s what you do all day.
I didn’t think I’d ever get to wakeboard again after the trip I did to the Philippines. But I went to Georgia to film with this crew of kids, and I painted a mural. At the end of the month, I started getting good again — because you know, it takes a little while to get that flow back — and… well, it’s almost hard to describe. I was getting all sassy and hyper about it and it’s so fun. You can get so creative and it’s just the way you feel when you start getting good and stuff again. The little things – even the way your board snaps out of the water – feel good. I felt creative and happy.
I love surfing. Surfing’s the best. Although I don’t get to do it as much as I’d like to right now.
What about that little green board you let me ride that one time?
Oh my Josh Hall? That board’s the best.
One of my friends was doing an auction for something or other, and she wanted me to paint this board to auction off. I was like, ok…
Do you do that often? Make art for auction?
I do a lot of charity work that nobody knows about.
So cool. Please continue.
I got there and I was looking at it and I was like, “This girl is crazy! This board is SO sick.” Turns out it’s the 100th board Josh Hall ever made, so it’s an original OG board. It had dings all over it. Whatever. I traded her. I gave her another board I had done and said, “This board is painted and I shaped and glassed it shaped and glassed. You can auction it for more anyways and I’ll take this Josh Hall one.” And she did.
That day, Josh Hall came into Joe Roper’s and was like, “What! Where did you get that? It’s going to be surfed right?” And the first day I surfed it was like, all time. That board’s so fun. I can surf it anything, except super barrelly waves. It can surf big waves and waves that are knee-high on that board and it works great. It’s 6’o” thruster. It looks like it should be a single fin but it’s not. I love that board. It’s my favorite.
Will Paint to Shred has taken you a lot of amazing places, hasn’t it?
I think I’ve painted 15 murals in four continents now. Which is pretty sweet, cus I never thought it would get me that far, especially since I lied for my first one. I was like, “Yeah, I’ve totally painted murals before.” I knew I was capable, and sometimes you just have to lie to get yourself places. Yeah I’ve painted murals before, and six months later the guy calls me and asks me to come paint in Sacramento and I painted the whole place and some of it’s good, some of it’s bad, but it’s there. Since then, the next trip was to Europe for four murals, went to the East Coast and painted 5,000 square feet in five days – which was sick. I’ve painted all over the place – I just got back from Georgia where I painted two murals.
Do they have guidelines or do you just paint whatever you want?
Most of the time they just say “Make it surfy,” and I’m like, “Cool that’s what I do.”
It depends on how much time I have there, really. They’re all different. Two of my favorites are in these towns pretty close to each other in Germany. One I did in the woods and used part glow in the dark paint. It’s in a place where everyone goes to have bonfire parties, and it’s like this woodsy creepy scene.
The other one is on a British World War II trailer they used to house athletes on. I painted it white and gave it this red and black roof with gold rims and did this big black ink mural around the whole thing. It was right after I became a sailboat captain for the first time. I went over there for two months and I was starting to miss being on the boat, so I ended up doing this crazy pirate mural.
What about your other boards? I know you have a lot.
I have that and this 6’o” ledge made for surfing gnarly waves. I also have a 5’8″ shred sled Haydenshapes. I really like quad fins, and they’re both quad fins. I kind of wanted to step away from short boards and surf beautifully crafted boards for a while, but realistically right now I need function over art not art over function.
And that’s because of the journey you’re about to embark on! Tell us what’s happening tomorrow.
Well right now we’re sitting on Solace and tomorrow we are sailing from here to Mexico, where we’re going to have the boat hauled out, painted and repaired. Hopefully that shouldn’t take more than a week. Then we’re sailing 2,200 nautical miles across the ocean to Hawaii. We’ll be there for about three or four weeks, then we’ll sail the 2,000 miles back toward Washington and sail all the way south, back home for a month, then all the way down to Equador where we’ll start crossing the South Pacific. Our first stop will be Easter Island, then to New Zealand eventually and then we don’t know where we’re going from there. But that’s the plan.
And surfboards are coming along for the journey?
Oh yeah. We have two each, so there’s six, as well as a sailing dingy and more navigation and emergency systems than I care to rattle off right now.
So what advice would you give to women who aren’t about to sail across the world but are just starting to pick up action sports?
Nowadays it’s pretty cool as far as the way action sports are going. The girls that are my age and older have really started paving the way for the next generation of girls coming in. I think with a lot of stuff that happened in the 80s – all the laws that went into place to give ladies equal rights – it’s pretty nice now because we can call em on it. So that’s cool.
I was never much of an athlete that competed, but if you actually want to be an athlete that way, you’re going to have to compete for a good amount of time and know everyone before you get to quit. Sorry, but that’s the truth. I did it my way with Will Paint to Shred but I still worked my ass off – flying halfway across the world to work. It’s definitely a trade off, and it’s not all fun and games. If you want to be an actual athlete you have to be an actual athlete. You have to be a cool – and you can’t be a dick. Sorry.
What if you don’t want to be an athlete?
If you don’t want to be an athlete and just shred, then that’s awesome. Do that. Get an education. Go do fun things.
There’s so many other girls like us. Don’t think you’re alone. That’s not true. You just gotta find ’em. Especially here. And the other thing I wanna say is – Guys aren’t always against it. Believe it or not. I know there’s a boys club that doesn’t like girls that do things, but do you think guys really want to sit at the skatepark with just dudes all the time? No. Do you think every guy would be stoked on a girl that shreds and actually loves to do it for themselves?
Thank you for saying that. It’s important.
When I went to Southern Georgia, I found it super fascinating because it’s super Old America and super fucking rascist and here I am, this lesbian blonde girl from California coming to paint some stuff. A lot of the guys there had never met a girl like me, and they told me that while I was there. Most of them were actually relieved that I existed – that there are people like me out there in the world.
One guy in particular told me, “I never thought girls like you existed, but now it makes me not want to be an asshole and go find a nice girl.” So basically, by being a good human being girls, you’re making other people want to be good human beings. So just do it.
There’s a lot of girls like me here, where we live, and travel really gives you a lot of perspective. I was visiting my brother in Colorado, and as I was bombing this hill on a campus in Boulder I swear people were looking at me like Jesus walking on water.
In Colorado. Which is a place where people do a lot of gnarly things, but apparently no girls bomb hills. You know, it’s still a growing thing and believe it or not, guys really appreciate that. I know there’s still resistance in a lot of areas, particularly giving girls money, but it doesn’t mean they don’t like us actually doing it.
Any last words?
That’s something rough to say to someone before they go for a sailing trip.
Ha. Let me rephrase. Any sentimental value you want to add? I particularly wanted to interview you because you grew up in Southern California. You grew up with board sports around you your whole life.
Yeah, but it was never handed down to me. My parents were more hikers and camper people and I learned to skate and surf and snowboard because I lived here and there’s so much to do in Southern California. But everything that I’ve learned outside of putting a backpack on your back and walking up a fucking mountain I learned on my own. I didn’t learn because my parents taught me. I learned because I wanted to learn. Even sailing. I lied to get my first sailing job. I lied to get my first mural painted.
The thing I can pass on is this: If you think you can do something, don’t let people tell you you can’t. Because you can. As long as you know you’re capable of doing it. You can look up anything on the internet or YouTube – I google shit all the time – and then you just know how to do it! It’s crazy. And you can’t have done something until you do it. So just give yourself the opportunity to do those things. Don’t tell yourself you can’t because you haven’t. Just go out and try.