Mitch is quite the fish. He’s surf manager here at Ceylon Sliders and at our sister surf & yoga retreat Sunshinestories, and his life has always revolved around the sea. As both pupil and coach, he’s always been aware of time spent in the water. So it’s only natural he’d be the creator of Solah Systems, a company that produces zinc here in Sri Lanka, made only of wholesome natural ingredients.

Life tends to pull you in all sorts of directions, so catching up with Mitch on his life truly showcased the natural evolution of how things tend to work out.

You can find his products in our Ceylon Sliders shop.

What’s your background like?

I’m from the East Coast of Australia, some hours outside of Sydney and I’ve been living outside of Australia since 2012. I’d only been traveling my own country and our nearest neighbours Indonesia and New Zealand before heading over to Central America for a backpacking surf trip. This trip blew my mind seeing another part of the world, especially as a solo traveler. I caught the travel bug and knowing I had a really solid base for me back at home in Oz it felt natural to continue to travel.

I’ve been surfing since I was about four years old, maybe earlier. I cannot remember a time in my life where I haven’t surfed. My dad introduced me and I fell in love with the lifestyle instantly, over time this evolved into a career.

surf-weligama

What made you want to start Solah Systems?

It’s been a slow burning concept for years and years. I always wanted to make my own little surf brand. I got to the point where I had the name, but hadn’t really done anything with it.
I found a need for zinc being a product behind Solah Systems – that was Sri Lanka’s fault. There was no good zinc I could find here and I was running out of the product I currently had. Worst case scenario and I’d be left with a bunch of zinc I’d actually use, without all the rubbish and ingredients you can’t pronounce. I got in contact with the creator of Moonshadow who helped me locate and source some natural ingredients like beeswax, giving me that push and access to get started. I also had guidance from both Petter and Linn, they’ve really helped everything come to life. The dream is to have zinc accessible to people, with a formula that works and is user friendly. It’s good for the ocean and good for my skin – that’s what’s important to me.

Solah means “good” in the Sassak language from Lombok, where I was previously living. Pronounced solar, with a slight Australian drawl; it links to the sun, which is the center of everything.
The dream of the brand is that it all comes from a good place.

 zinc-sri-lanka

What’s the connection of Sri Lanka to Solah Systems?

There was a real need for zinc in Sri Lanka. Everything I can, I source from here, but it’s not that easy. Being such an isolated island, you can’t get most things here. The biggest initiative for me was to make this specific zinc unique. I have the cinnamon to do that, rather than using cocoa or coffee to help give it color. I’ve found it also works as a great exfoliant for the skin, in addition to providing color in the protectant. Even though the brand was first thought up in Australia, with the name from Indonesia, it’s all been realized right here in Sri Lanka.

zinc-sri-lanka

What do you love most about what you do?

 

Seeing people get stoked. With surfing and the culture of surf, I get to introduce people to another style of doing things.
As far as the zinc goes, I made it for me because I hate getting sunburnt and the idea of rubbing chemicals into your skin and transferring them into the ocean is silly.

I’ll continue in the surf industry, that’s the natural thing for me. For the zinc, I’m currently thinking of ways I can have it operate from a local stance here in Sri Lanka by incorporating locals to get involved in the business. But surfing has always come first – I’ll probably surf coach until I retire. It’s the thing I’m best at and it allows me to make people happy most often.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

 

Hopefully on a tropical island getting barrelled and not getting sunburnt.
Honestly I haven’t looked past two years. Sri Lanka will soon be my record for the longest place I’ve stayed since I left Australia. I’m pretty happy here.

 

Words by Molly Henze
Photos by Lachlan Dempsey

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