Feature: Meet Kat Charles

Soul Surfing and Creative Living

Salty Lips Kat Charles Surfing WA SaltyLips

Lady Sliders

Surfer, photographer, explorer, artist, musician, creator, environmental activist…is there anything this little lady can’t turn her hand to?

This creative creature hailing from the depths of WA bounced onto my radar during my first trip to Morocco many moons ago. Kat was there working as a surf guide and soon took me under her wing and educated me on the many sketchy rock-offs found along Morocco’s wave rich coastline. Her extreme frothability was infectious and I jumped at the chance to go back and hang out with her when the season quietened down, giving us more time to explore.

Salty Lips Kat Charles Surfing WA SaltyLips

“Surfing is Life”

An avid traveller, Kat is always on the move, surf seasons in Morocco and France were followed by a brief encounter with working life in the surf industry back home in WA. This only confirmed Kat’s desires to continue on her path of soul surfing and chasing the creative life. Then came Byron and pursuing her artistic dreams, developing her photography and graphic design skills in her own art studio. Twelve art exhibitions and a solo surf mission to Indo later and WA came calling again. This time taking up residence in a two bedroom surf shack in Dunsborough with her Sea Shepherd activist and photopgrapher friend Rae, that doubled as a “crazy little studio work space/drop in centre for froth rats” where Kat continued winding along her creative path until it was time for a return to Red Bluff and desert living… Now she’s on possibly one of her jammiest gigs yet, in the form of a stint working in the Mentawais. Doesn’t sound too bad does it?

Salty Lips Kat Charles Surfing WA SaltyLips

French beachie fun

What or who got you into surfing in the first place?
I learnt to bodyboard first, when I was about 15, I grew up in the hills a 2 hour, train and two bus trip to the beach. Being in the ocean was an addiction so bodyboarding was the start of this. I moved down south to Yallingup when I was 17 and took up surfing, I wanted more of a challenge and be able to surf more of a variety of waves. Yallingup provided a good starting point, surfing waves like smiths, the farm and shallows. The ocean swells of the south west are fairly powerful so it was a pretty good breeding ground and preparation for surfing waves around the world.

What does surfing mean to you? 
Surfing is life. Everything else just slides in between… or jams depending on how busy I am. Working for myself is making this balance harder believe it or not… sometimes I get the guilts about surfing when I know I have a lot of work to do. But most of the time I only work for 5-6 months of the year then surf the rest. I make it a priority for everything and travel generally gravitates around waves.

Salty Lips Kat Charles Surfing WA SaltyLips

WA Playground. Photo: Rae Marie Threnoworth

Favourite surf spot?
Tough one… there are so many good waves! it would have to be Lakey Peak in Sumbawa. I went there at the beginning of last year. It was my first trip to Indonesia and I went alone. Lakeys is perfect, best long, fun left-handers and so many different tides and conditions all amazingly surfable its goofy heaven.

Best session or wave?
Best session and best wave for me would have to be my first barrel at a spot called “Boodj” beach in Margaret River. I’d just finished in my last assignment for university and I went for an early surf before school. I got one of the best barrels of my life. It was funny because my lecturer was surfing at the same time, I didn’t know he saw my barrel, but later in class he was talking about some topic and he claimed ” this is amazing, but not as good as Kats barrel this morning” hahaha he made me stand up in front of the class and take a bow. It was a pretty memorable session I guess hehehe.

Salty Lips Kat Charles Surfing WA SaltyLips


Favourite surfer?
Favourite surfer.. gee that is a tough one! I always looked up to the Hobgood brothers because they are insane goofy footers. They surf massive waves like they are one foot beaches, and have no concept of consequence. I’ve also looked up to Ozzy Wright most of my surfing life. I feel like a closely relate to him, I’m a bit of a weirdo and I’m obsessed with making art, I also played in band for some time and I have experimented with board design and painting a lot of surfboards. He’s probably as close as to a super hero as it gets haha

Worst injury?
I hit the reef pretty hard when I was a bodyboarder. I took off on a wave that I didn’t think was that heavy. I got caught inside the barrel and went straight with the lip right into Smiths reef. I was out of the water for a few weeks and half of my face was cut up pretty bad and I had to get reef removed from part of my ear and close to my eye. I didn’t want to go out in public much so I started pulling broken surfboards out from under my house and painting them. My housemate was a freelance surf photographer so when I felt happy to get back in the water again he leant me his water housing so I could take some shots and ease my way back into the surf. I guess that has played a big part in my passions to date.

Salty Lips Kat Charles Surfing WA SaltyLips

Through the Lens

Scariest moment?
The scariest moment, where I cried in genuine fear was a time I was surfing Coxos in Portugal with my partner at the time. We rocked off late in the arvo and no one was out. We hadn’t surfed it before and were unsure of the keyhole situation, coming in was a nightmare because the swell had jacked heaps and so had the tide making the keyhole disappear with it. Massive waves were smashing the cliffs and I was freaking out, it was getting dark quick… we made it in eventually but after a lot of tears and swearing. I also surfed Draculas in Morocco at about 6-8 foot and I was seriously undergunned. If you know that spot you would know the kind of fear I’m talking about.

Defining moment?
Defining moment for me has been featuring in the Surf World Museum in Torquay for an exhibition called “Surfers: Their Stories” I have never felt so honoured in my life. I had to put all my art and photos and my board art in a cabinet in the museum. The craziest part was that we had to take out Michael Peterson’s winning Bells trophy and Simon Anderson’s original thruster to move them to another cabinet. I didn’t ring the bell on the trophy but I held it for quite some time. The exhibition has ran for quite some time. I was lucky to be a chosen surfer from around Australia to be featured. Pretty special.

Salty Lips Kat Charles Surfing WA SaltyLips

Getting creative in her studio at the Design Kids in Byron Bay

Who or what inspires you?
I am constantly inspired, by friends, family, strangers, the ocean and surfing culture. The people around me are the focus of my creativity. Capturing people and their immersion in the surfing culture is a big passion of mine. I want to preserve these times and changes for future generations to explore, enjoy and to draw inspiration from. Most of my close friends are amazingly talented artists, musicians, surfers and all-round good humans doing great things for society and conservation. They motivate me to be the best I can be and I am eternally thankful for how lucky I am to live in a joy country surrounded by happy people.

Where is next on your surf hit-list that you haven’t been to before?
Definitely Chicama, in Peru. The longest left-hander in the world. That needs little explanation but I would also like to drive a bus from California to Chile and explore all the surf and culture within. Patagonia is up there too. Watch 180 degrees South and you will understand why.

Salty Lips Kat Charles Surfing WA SaltyLips

Lady Sliders

Biggest surf mission or most hardcore spot you’ve surfed?
Biggest mission…. most hardcore. Well most places in West Oz you need a 4wd to get to some joy spots. I recently embarked on a 13 hour drive to Red Bluff, it’s an amazing left-hander where the desert meets the sea, north of Perth. You have to take all your own supplies in and there is no running water or power. I went alone and drove my 1967 Valiant Safari wagon up there, she is an old bird so it was pretty challenging. You could say it was a bit of a vision quest. Most people think I’m just crazy.

Known for?
Known for… talking ALOT!!!! and frothing my face off (getting super excited about everything)

Guilty pleasure?
Guilty Pleasure…. getting new fineline pens.. that shit is wild.

Salty Lips Kat Charles Surfing WA SaltyLips

The 1967 Valiant Safari wagon

I you could be someone else for a day..who would it be? 
So tough. If they were alive it would be Jimi Hendrix. I don’t think there is anyone else I’d rather be.

Favourite board?
My 5’8 single fin… single fin Sally…the pink clinker.. she is so joy, I’ve had her for a few years now and she constantly pushes the limits of my surfing, I can take her anywhere and she will respond to all conditions. My 5’3 quad is really fun too that has a cats head nose and a bat tail, (kinda double ended). It’s like a cut down log coz its super fat and wide and the fins are right out on the rails, anyone that surfs it falls in love and borrows it for a week or so… Jono Cole from Rhythmsticks shaped them both, he is a lord.

Salty Lips Kat Charles Surfing WA SaltyLips

Cats Head Nose, Bat Tail Quad shaped by the legendary Jono Cole from Rhythmsticks

I love… my mum, she is my hero and I am so proud of her. Little smurf woman.

I miss…. living in Byron Bay. My friends there are out of this world, I had a studio there for 2 and a half years and it was the biggest influence in finding out my passions. The waves and the people are so much fun! It is a crazy town and I loved living there… it is an aboriginal meeting place so you only really need to stay there as long as you need and then leave. Byron gives you everything and asks so little in return… just be yourself.

Check out more of Kats work on Kats Creative Space…

Salty Lips Kat Charles Surfing WA SaltyLips

Salty sessions. Photo: Rae Marie Threnoworth 

Salty Lips Kat Charles Surfing WA SaltyLips

Cruising Moroccan Souqs

Salty Lips Kat Charles Surfing WA SaltyLips

An ocean addiction

Salty Lips Kat Charles Surfing WA SaltyLips

Goofy footer heaven

Salty Lips Kat Charles Surfing WA SaltyLips

Skating Brunswick Bowl

Salty Lips Kat Charles Surfing WA SaltyLips


Salty Lips Kat Charles Surfing WA SaltyLips


Salty Lips Kat Charles Surfing WA SaltyLips

Camp life

Salty Lips Kat Charles Surfing WA SaltyLips

Picture perfect

Salty Lips Kat Charles Surfing WA SaltyLips

Surf craft art


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