Entrepreneurs Inspired by the Ocean
Entrepreneurs’ passion for the sea helps fuel their businesses
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Clark Little aims his camera just before a wall of water hits him at Ke Iki Beach. The inset is a picture of a turtle from his book “Shorebreak.”
Photo: Joseph Nishimiya
Seven years ago, Clark Little’s wife, Sandy, bought a generic photograph of a wave to hang on their bedroom wall. Little looked at it and said, “I can probably get a better one.”
He bought a small camera housing for his point-and-shoot camera and swam into Waimea Bay, not realizing those first few shots would change his life.
“I got addicted. I upgraded to a Nikon camera with a professional housing and it has been a wild adventure since,” says the Pupukea resident, who specializes in shorebreak wave photographs.
Born in Napa, Calif., in 1968, but raised on Oahu’s North Shore, Little spent 17 years working at, then managing, the city-owned Wahiawa Botanical Gardens. He figured he’d retire with the city, leaving photography as a hobby.
But once a British website found his photos and sent a newsletter linking to his images online, Little quickly gained worldwide recognition for his unique photography of shore breaks on the North Shore. His work has been featured in exhibitions in Japan, Brazil and throughout the United States, and has appeared in such national media as “Good Morning, America,” “Today,” National Geographic, The New York Times, Life and Surfer’s Journal. He had an exhibit at the Smithsonian, opened two galleries and recently published a book, “Shorebreak.”
And he’s only been doing this since 2007.
“(My photos) really seemed to strike a chord, especially what a wave looks like if you are standing in two feet of water with a 10-foot wave full of sand throwing a tube over,” says Little, 45. “People may have seen waves with surfers on them or shots of waves from the shore, but not many empty waves from inside the ocean a second before they explode onto the sand.”
His love for the ocean goes well beyond photographing it. He grew up surfing and, lately, he’s been swimming with sharks and photographing them. He loves the ocean’s dynamism and unpredictability and respects it immensely.
“Everyday at the ocean is different,” Little says. “Each swell and every weather pattern will bring together so many variables that each day I go shoot is a brand-new day. … After a session where I push myself, I feel so alive and so calm and balanced. It is a feeling I only seem to get from the ocean.”
Tony Moniz says his company fulfills people’s dreams of surfing off Waikiki. “It never gets old,” he says.
Every morning during the winter, Tony Moniz makes the one-hour commute from the North Shore to Waikiki, where he runs four surf kiosks on the beach. His drive home can be up to three hours, depending on traffic.
He lives with his family during the winter right in front of the surf break Off-the-Wall, which brings massive surf to north-facing shores. His daughter, Kelia, is a team rider for Roxy, and his two youngest sons compete in surf meets. (He has two other sons, both of whom have competed, too.)
He rents a house on the North Shore every winter to support their love for the ocean – and he’s in Waikiki to support his own.
“I grew up on the beach and this is where I want to be,” says Moniz, 54, decked out in a white polo shirt, light blue shorts and a kukui nut lei. “To be working here, this is beyond my expectations.”
Moniz, who grew up in Kalihi surfing the breaks on Oahu’s south shore, started Faith Surf School in 2000, giving surf lessons in Waikiki seven days a week. He moved his business to the beach – he runs four beachfront stands, two at the Outrigger and two at Sheraton properties – five years ago, offering surfing and stand-up paddling lessons, canoe rides and surfboard rentals on the beach where he had learned to surf.
“I love that people are so happy,” says Moniz, smiling. “We give people their dream of surfing in Waikiki. It never gets old.”
After high school, Moniz got a full-time job with the city pumping cesspools. But his passion for the ocean was too strong, and he gave up the steady paycheck to be a professional surfer. He sold his truck and drained his savings to fly to Australia and compete in surf meets. He came back broke but determined. Moniz started placing in the top spots in meets, earning a share of the winnings and nabbing sponsors to pay the bills.
For three decades, he competed and traveled the world, surfing waves small and massive. He worked in sales during the late ’80s, repping various surf companies until he, along with his wife, Tammy, started an apparel line, Faith Riding Co., in 1995. It grew too quickly, he says, and literally ran out of money. “It was just my personality,” he says. “I’ve always been, ‘Go big, charge,’ but that was naïve.”
That’s when he decided to start a surf school, which took him back to what he loved the most: surfing.
“When I look back on everything,” he says, staring off into the Pacific Ocean gleaming in front of him, “the only thing I’d changed is I would have done this earlier.”
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