Kid Creature is big in Australia. The brand is also blowing up along the coast at surf shops in California and across the country.
The company’s founder, Calvin Saxton, is literally a kid. The twelve year-old surfer with long blonde hair has his own brand of tee shirts, collaborates with three other surf companies, and has even auctioned his own paintings with designs of one-eyed monsters, squiggly lines and happy faces for upwards of $4,000 dollars for a local cause.
Ten percent of all Kid Creature products and collaborations go to support Pipeline to a Cure, a nonprofit dedicated to helping support kids who have cystic fibrosis by raising awareness and support for the disease from the action sports industry.
Growing up, Calvin battled allergies and asthma. The days Calvin surfs, he breathes much easier. His parents, Nicole and Roger Saxton say, “The last thing we wanted to do was let our kid getting breathing treatments surf. But the days he paddles out, he doesn’t have to go to the nurse at school.”
According to Pipeline to a Cure’s website, doctors in Australia realized that cystic fibrosis patients who surfed had significantly healthier lungs than non-surfing patients.
When I met Calvin, he took the train from his home in Orange County to Shaper Studios, a surfboard-shaping house in San Diego. He was there to make a surfboard for his 11-year friend, Taylor Ross, who surfs and has cystic fibrosis. He was also interviewing her about what it’s like to live with the disease.
“It’s way worse than my asthma,” says Calvin, who was bouncing up and down and trying to come up with a design for what he and Taylor would place on her 5’2” block of foam that they were turning into a surfboard.
Calvin likes drawing “weird” designs. He also likes “helping people,” he says. ” If it’s this hard for me to breathe with asthma, I can’t imagine what Taylor goes through,” he told me.
To date, Calvin’s own line and collaborations have helped him raise over $17,000 for Cystic Fibrosis. He even donated all the royalties from a recent collaboration with Volcom to the cause.
The rest of the money, “I’m just saving,” he says.
Designs like broken hearts with eyes, happy faces, robots, and monsters are typical of what you might expect from a kid with a big imagination.
But Calvin’s artwork has resonated with an influential crew of surfers, and brands.
“I think people just like that he’s a kid and that his designs scream, ‘I can do this too!’” says his mom, Nicole.
They have also injected a freshness that resonates with the action sports market, which often tries to design for Calvin’s demographic.
According to his father, Roger Saxton, when Calvin was ten, his older sister was doing a report on the Iliad and Odyssey. Calvin convinced her that he could draw a better Cyclops. That same day, he convinced his dad’s friend to put the Cyclops design on his surfboard.
His father then printed the design on a few t-shirts. They quickly became a hit among an influential crew.
Professional surfers like Andrew Doheney and Dane Reynolds, who have contracts with major brands, started wearing Calvin’s designs.
After that, “Kids just kept asking for shirts,” his dad says.
They gave dozens of tees away for free, but as it got expensive, Calvin started selling them to whomever asked.
When he was only ten, his parents insisted that if he was making a profit and had a tax ID, he should also learn to give back.
“Having trouble with breathing himself, Pipeline to a Cure was the perfect fit,” says his mother.
The motivation to help friends with a disease he could somewhat relate to has encouraged the young artist to collaborate with other surf companies, and auction art whenever he can.
He has his own line of surfboard fins with Captain Fin Company. He has a sock model with Stance socks. He has a t-shirt line with the publicly traded surf company, Volcom. He exports surfboards to Japan. He has his own website, kidcreature.net, and sells Kid Creature tees at surf shops in Australia, France, Spain and select shops in California.
He also just signed a deal with Ron Herman in Japan, which will unveil Kid Creature in Tokyo this summer.
When asking Calvin about being an entrepreneur, he just shrugs his shoulders and laughs.
“It’s cool, I guess,” he said, before running off to a ping-pong match in between shaping his surfboard with Taylor.
While Calvin still attends Horace Ensign Junior High School in Newport Beach, California, most of his classmates have no idea that his doodles have helped raise over $17,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. He doesn’t talk about the fact that he has two businessmen distributing his brands and exporting his surfboard models or that he works at Volcom’s office twice a week after school.
“I just like helping people,” laughs Calvin. “I just like to have fun… and be weird.”
Luckily for a lot of people, Calvin is nonchalantly turning that weirdness into something that also does a lot of good.