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Biking to Boca’s Rhythm

Raul Torres

Photos: Rae Huo

Spend time in Kakaako or on a bike anywhere on Oahu, and you’ll probably get to know Raul Torres. Torres, affectionately known as “Boca,” which means “mouth” in Portuguese, is the founder and owner of Boca Hawaii. Known today as a one-stop shop for biking, running and swimming needs, the heart of Boca Hawaii is its training. In fact, coaching is where Torres got his start in business.

The congenial 49-year-old, originally from São Paulo, Brazil, first visited Hawaii in 1989 to compete in the annual Kona Ironman Triathlon. He loved the Islands, so he stayed. He had already been training his roommates and friends to bike in Los Angeles, so, in 1994, he started coaching on Oahu.

Because Torres was an experienced triathlete, who has now completed 20 triathlons, he knew a thing or two about equipment. “Some people said they wanted a training facility,” says Torres. He found a good location in Kakaako and, at the request of his students, started selling water bottles, nutrition bars and T-shirts, including jerseys with the Boca Hawaii logo. In 2003, Boca Hawaii the store was official. Those accessories soon included high-end bikes and accompanying gear. “My store consists of products you need to do a triathlon,” he says.

Raul Torres with one of his training classes.

While the store is successful in its own right, Torres’ first love will always be coaching. “It’s the heart of the business,” he says. Torres offers intensive cycling, marathon and triathlon training, with multi-clinic prices ranging from $75 to $595; he holds weekly spinning classes in the Boca training center upstairs from the store (a space shared by his sister, Andrea Torres, who coaches aerial gymnastics and owns Samadhi Hawaii). On Monday afternoons, he teaches a spinning class at the Honolulu Club and a free swimming class at the Palolo Community Pool.

Over the years, Torres has coached thousands of athletes, many of them successful executives. This year alone he’s training an estimated 500 people. “Every person in my life has done a training with me,” he says, with a laugh, listing off his accountant, attorney, neighbors, his children’s teachers and more. He met his wife, Hina, during a training clinic; every Boca Hawaii coach and staffer is a former student of his. Even his two teenage children are triathletes.

Though triathlons and marathons are individual competitions, Torres has built a network of camaraderie, not only in Hawaii, but abroad. “There’s team building and goal setting,” says Torres of his clinics. “It shows you how much you can control your own destiny.”

When Torres isn’t coaching or swimming, biking or running, which is rarely, he organizes races. He coordinates multisport races through Boca Hawaii, including this year’s two triathlons, one marathon, one 5K run and one cycling race, and the upcoming Kawela Endurance Triathlon on Aug. 16. It’s a way for the Boca students to stay motivated, test their training and evaluate their progress. Torres says he holds additional running races with a partner as part of 808 Race Hawaii.

For the past few years, he’s also advised on race routes and loaned his sound and race-course equipment to local organizations, including the Hawaii chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation’s annual Jingle Rock Run, Sharon’s Ride for Epilepsy and the American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure Hawaii.

It’s easy to see how connected Torres is. Walking outside Boca Hawaii while being interviewed by Hawaii Business, Torres ran into three people he knows, two of whom he’s trained. He encouraged them to sign up for the upcoming race.
“You have to be excited, show people they can do it,” explains Torres.

Boca Hawaii
330 Cooke St.
591-9839
bocahawaii.com

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