It was about 2 years back now that I received a call from Sean that he was going to be passing through LA on a family trip and that he would love to meet up if I had some time.
At that point the only contact I had with Sean was knowing him through his waterman skill and through supporting his Indiegogo campaign for Kaha Nalu Hawaii. So to be quite honest I wasn't sure what to expect.
I grew up in South Africa where we have the utmost respect for Hawaii and in particular Hawaiian surfing. I still remember getting together at a buddies house and watching Sean Briley destroy barrel after barrel or watching the Hawaii 9-0 sessions on loop. So it was without hesitation that I agreed to meet up. and the rest is history in the making.
I am born and raised on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. If we were not playing sports, our family spent every weekend down at the beach and I grew up being connected to the ocean through surfing at a very young age.
I started to bodysurf at Makapu’u & Sandy's because it was the easiest way to surf as a kid riding The Bus (back then no boards allowed), and later on through high school Sandy’s was the gathering place. I got back into bodysurfing kind of for the same reasons, relative low cost for equipment and the wide variety of places to go on Oahu all year round.
Getting back in, I was introduced to Point Panic and after experiencing my first ride (in-and-out barrel all the way to the rocks), I knew that this was what I wanted to do. From then on, there was no need for a surfboard to enjoy the waves and with our crew. We started venturing around the island at bodysurfing spots that you wouldn’t associate with the sport, like outside Waimea, Makaha, outside breaks on the north shore, etc.
The story of Kaha Nalu Hawaii is my journey promoting Hawaiian bodysurfing and perpetuating our heritage and traditions. Being a bodysurfer, I realized that there was a void. There was no real awareness of what bodysurfing was, it was completely underground and I always asked myself why.
My ambition was to start the first real Hawaiian Body-Surf Brand. I have visions of having a shop one day and to create some cool gear that all bodysurfers would love (since there was not too much out there). I hooked up with some people that had run crowdfunding campaigns and with their help, we launched one of our own and the community support was incredible, and we raised $20k in 90 days!
On the ground and at the beaches, the KNH Team is pushing the sport into new areas. We are focused on the kids and helping to bring a bunch of them along to experience the different spots and stuff.
My first handboard was a Redwings Cleaver, and I’ve tried a variety of bodysurfing equipment like webbed gloves, Speedo handpaddles and some other handplanes/handboards that were available at the time. But, my attention was always on one of the main guys at Panics. Kaleo Galarsa, who used this crazy concave shape made out of a type of PVC, that was heated and bent to create the shape.
This shape, especially with the extra concave, was what Kaleo was ripping with (he’s easily the best and he would make the “unmake-able” sections, or an impossible barrel, but he would also carve the wave up and down (position himself high on the wave until the very last possible moment and then like a 2nd drop) he would carve his way through to the next section. Watching and learning from him is really how the idea for The Bula Board shape came to mind, something that was true Panics.
For me, I prefer the freedom of bodysurfing without a board on my hand, however the handboard definitely will help you to make sections that you can’t without it. So majority of my time is spent bodysurfing and when the day calls for it, I grab my Bula.
At first I tried to connect with some of the Old School crew to make more of the PVC boards, but as time passed I knew that I wanted to make something much more substantial, if I was going to offer it for sale. I ended up hooking up with long time handboarder and shaper Alvin Sakurai.
Alvin made me my first board and initially we were going to work together with him shaping custom boards and I would distribute them out, but that all didn’t work out and he taught me how to shape boards on my own.
So that’s how it started and I started collecting broken surfboards and started shaping them out and eventually hooked up with an old-school glasser/ding repair guy named Clem Camou (Jammin Hawaii Surfboards). I started shaping them and giving them out for all of the boys to test and began refining what shapes I really liked and what worked the best.
The Bula shape is effective because it’s focus is on lift and control. The concave literally will “stick” to the face of a pitching wave and will allow you to put all of your weight on it was you are dropping in, and a simple turn of the wrist changes your direction. All of this combined is what that “Panics” style of riding is all about, stalling high to save your speed and then dropping in a 2nd time on the wave to make the end section. The shape also is small enough that I can control it in the whitewash or through some underwater turbulence and not have to worry so much about ripping my shoulder.
Sean is an amazing guy and we could not have chosen a better more respectful guy to work with to help us both get our dreams out into the world. Stoked to have you onboard bro, Here's to a lifelong partnership!