Entrepreneurs Inspired by the Ocean
Entrepreneurs’ passion for the sea helps fuel their businesses
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“It’s about making people stoked on surfing with something that you’ve made with your own hands,” says Todd Pinder. “That’s what I love.”
Photo: Joseph Nishimiya
Todd Pinder grew up on the Florida island of Key West, which is protected by a barrier reef and has no surf, yet he got the urge to ride waves.
His mom would take him to Florida’s Atlantic coast town of Melbourne, where he would bodyboard in the surf. There a windsurfer from Maui told him about surfing in the Islands and Pinder was stoked.
“I decided right then and there I was going to make surfboards,” says Pinder, now 38.
He started shaping boards in his backyard in Key West, then moved to Melbourne to apprentice in ding-repair factories and under professional shapers. In 1997, with two boards, some tools and barely any money, he jumped on a plane to Honolulu, where he’s been ever since.
“I knew this was the mecca (for surfing),” he says, “and this was where I wanted to come.”
After years of ghost shaping for professionals such as Carl Schaper and Cippy Cabato, Pinder struck out on his own in 2007, renting a two-story, 1,000-square-foot shop on King Street in Moiliili where he shapes and glasses custom boards by hand.
His dedication and respect for the craftsmanship of traditional surfboard shaping sets Pinder apart from many other professional and backyard shapers in Hawaii.
“I like the traditional aspect of making surfboards, where everything is done by hand,” he says. “And I try to be versatile, whether shaping a kneeboard or a gun for Waimea. I’m always trying to impress the (shapers) I respect.”
It’s not easy being a solo shaper in this economic climate, where surfboards aren’t a necessity and handmade boards can cost $1,000 or more. Material costs are always rising and competing products, particularly the pop-out boards from China, are much cheaper.
Despite the challenges, Pinder can’t imagine doing anything else.
“When I get feedback about a board I’ve made or somebody tells me he still has the board I made him and will never get rid of it, that’s a pretty good feeling,” he says. “It’s about making people stoked on surfing with something that you’ve made with your own hands. That’s what I love.”
Kayak Kauai’s tours include trips on the Hanalei River.
Photo: Kicka Witte
Wherever he’s been – Puerto Rico, Alaska or Kauai – Miguel “Micco” Godinez was always drawn to the ocean.
“It’s ever-changing, it’s unpredictable,” says the co-owner of the Hanalei-based Kayak Kauai, an adventure tour company that offers everything from guided hikes to kayak rentals. “It allows me to live in the moment and forget about everything.”
Godinez grew up in Puerto Rico, surfing just outside an old section of San Juan. He would watch the sun setting over the colonial-era forts with the city’s old wall in the distance.
“I don’t know what it was about surfing, but it just clicked,” says Godinez, now 61. “It’s like trying to catch the horizon.”
In 1980, Godinez and his brother Chino paddled from Seattle to Skagway in Alaska. During that five-month expedition, they started throwing out ideas for an outdoors outfitter on Kauai that would offer guided tours and rentals. Four years later, the brothers founded Kayak Kauai and they have hiked, kayaked, paddled, surfed and explored every cave, crevice, canyon and coastline on the island.
The company has grown from just offering kayak tours to renting bikes, giving surfing and stand-up paddling lessons, guiding hikes along the Na Pali Coast and taking visitors on sea kayaks to watch the migrating humpback whales along the island’s southern coast.
Summertime is so busy for the company, Godinez doesn’t have time to surf.
“From May to August, all I do is sleep and go to work,” he says. “But no complaints.”
His business’s mission is to help people safely explore Kauai’s natural beauty with as little impact as possible. The company offers tours only by low-impact kayak or on foot, and the kayaks are made from recycled plastic polyethylene. He wants people to experience Kauai, not harm it.
“We feel good about what we do,” he says.
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