Playboy spotlights Kauai surfers

Nage Melamed, a 22-year-old competitive surfer and Instagram model, was primping at home for a Playboy photo shoot on Oct. 13 when she overheard some strangely pertinent news on her living room television set.

Playboy, the storied but struggling men’s magazine championed by the crimson-robed Hugh Hefner, was doing away with nudes. That’s right, the naked spreads that have historically filled Playboy’s glossy pages would be replaced by social media-friendly imagery spotlighting women in poses that are provocative, but not pornographic.

It was Melamed’s first hint that the modeling gig she had lined up later in the day would become a key piece of the iconic Playboy brand’s dramatic editorial shift.

“I didn’t know that it was going to be a part of something that big,” Melamed said.

Playboy last week published a surf-inspired online editorial featuring two bikini-clad Kauai residents, Melamed and 24-year-old Kandace Wolshin, as well as a third young woman from Oahu. Dubbed “the surfer girls you’ll want to know,” the sweet-faced, athletically built women are seen riding waves and mounting an inflatable shark in a photo and video montage that’s sexy yet safe enough to share on Instagram.

“Pinup nudes were hot in the ‘50s,” said Wolshin, a non-competitive surfer who lives in Kapaa. “That’s what was sexy then and that’s what Playboy was founded on. But what’s sexy now? It’s not pinups. Playboy is a paper magazine and how are they going to translate that to the world of social media? They can’t just go and put a bunch of naked photos on Instagram, they won’t allow it. So they have to recreate what this next generation of Playboy is going to be, because social media really is the focal point for this new generation.”

It was social media that connected the girls to Playboy in the first place. Melamed said it all started when she received an email from a Playboy photographer who had scoped out her Instagram feed, liked what she saw and inquired about hiring her to model for a project designed to capture the sexy, salty life of young, female surfers.

The photographer was clear: No nudes. Just bikinis and surfboards.

The kind of content Playboy was seeking wasn’t much different than the derriere-revealing shots Melamed and Wolshin were already posting online — and to much success. Melamed has 68,000 Instagram followers. Wolshin’s follower count is 31,000. The women already knew as well as Playboy that sex sells — and opens up doors.

“I think of social media and my Instagram as running a small business,” Wolshin said. “It creates all these opportunities. It’s crazy what you can do with it.”

Financially, Melamed and Wolshin said they were paid just enough to justify giving up a couple of their waitressing shifts at Duke’s Kauai so they could attend the photo shoots. They real reward, they said, was in the currency of exposure.

“I’m definitely taking the surfing route over modeling, but this was a good opportunity,” said Melamed, who invited the crew to shoot in Wailua Homesteads around her home swimming pool. “It was just something fun for me, hanging out in bikinis and having fun. It was natural and completely comfortable.”

The first installment of Melamed and Wolshin’s work for Playboy can be seen at http://www.playboy.com/galleries/surfer-girls-nage-kandace-angie-pics/slide-1 and http://www.playboy.com/videos/surfer-girls-nage-kandace-angie

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