Ten Percent Solution

By Hannah Wallace July 31, 2008

Inspired by the stench of dead fish during a red tide outbreak, Siesta Key resident and avid outdoorsman Steve Kersmarki launched Red Ride Wear this year to help find a solution. “You couldn’t walk anywhere without coughing. You couldn’t even go to the beach,” says Kersmarki.

“We wanted to start a company not to become millionaires, but to help cure red tide,” says Kersmarki, whose partners include Abe Uccello and Brandon Kapley. Red Tide Wear sells surf-style shirts, with 10 percent of all sales going to Mote Marine Laboratory for red tide research. Eventually, the company wants to expand and offer a variety of outdoor gear from fishing poles to wet suits.

“Everything we do is local—the artist, our Web site. I’m trying to keep it as grassroots and Sarasota as possible,” says Kersmarki. All artwork on Red Tide Wear products is by Erik Jones, a local artist and friend of Kersmarki who graduated from the Ringling College of Art and Design. 

The main goal of Red Tide Wear is to spread awareness of red tide and its effects on the environment. Along with money for research, the company is in the process of founding a Surfrider Foundation chapter in Sarasota, which will sponsor community service projects to clean up and protect local beaches. Red Tide Wear also sponsors local events like the recent inaugural Pirate Coast Dive Festival on Siesta public beach and the Reef Cleanup at Mote Marine to educate Sarasota residents on their environment.

Kersmarki says rising gas prices are raising people’s consciousness about their impact on the environment. Red tide is a problem, especially here, and Red Tide Wear wants to be part of the solution. “I want people to wear it because there is a reason behind the company. It’s a company that’s doing something about red tide,” says Kersmarki.

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