KALAPAKI — Summer is just around the corner — June 20 is the season’s official beginning — and local ocean-minded companies are gearing up for what promises to be an unforgettable three months of fun, with new toys, activities and events.
Kaua‘i born-and-raised Miguel Graham, owner of Kama‘aina Surf & Sport in Kalapaki, said he will start a surf series for surfers just getting into the sport, basically for unranked young surfers. The planned schedule for the series includes six contests per year, he said.
“We want to create opportunities,” said Graham, who spent 15 years of his life as a professional surfer.
Another ocean-minded company in Kalapaki, Kaua‘i Beach Boys, has already unveiled a surprise they claim no other surf rental business in the world has.
“We are first company in the world to offer a commercial activity with the SUPsquatch, and as far as I know, we are the only ones,” Kaua‘i Beach Boys manager Marleny Cotrim said.
The SUPsquatch is a giant inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard, approximately 16-foot long, 6.5-foot wide and 8-inches thick.
The SUPsquatch — named after the mythical Sasquatch creature — has been on the market since December, when the Kaua‘i Beach Boys ordered two of them, Cotrim said. The boards arrived on the island in March.
The SUPsquatch is built by C4 Waterman, a leading SUP manufacturer in the world, and was developed by surfing rescue pioneer Brian Keaulana, son of legendary Makaha surfer Buffalo Keaulana, Cotrim said.
This beast of a board is designed to carry seven people, including three paddlers on each side and a captain nudged in the back. The captain hangs his body in the water from the waist down, stirring the boat with swimming fins and telling the crew what to do.
“It’s all about team work,” said Cotrim, explaining the six paddlers can actually ride a wave by following the captain’s commands.
But of course, much can go wrong, she said, with people falling down all over the place, tumbling in the water, and coming up for air, always laughing and having a good time.
“There’s nothing serious about it,” said Cotrim, smiling. “It’s silly, and it’s a lot of fun.”
For $20 per person, a group can rent the SUPsquatch for half an hour — and it comes complete with the captain, one of the surf instructors at Kaua‘i Beach Boys.
Kaua‘i Beach Boys and Kama‘aina Surf & Sport also offer a wide array of beach rentals. Until beachgoers catch the SUPsquatch fever, the majority of surf gear rental at Kalapaki Beach is from SUPs.
“People like it because it’s so easy to do,” Graham said. “It’s a short learning curve.”
Graham said a lot of first-timers rent SUPs, and his staff at Kama‘aina Surf and Sports offers a free introductory 5- to 10-minute lesson.
A brand new SUP can run anywhere from $1,200 to $1,600, plus an additional $200 to $400 for the paddle, according to Graham. But a rental only costs $15 per hour or $50 per day. And if you present a Kaua‘i drivers’ license, the price of the rental is slashed in half. The kama‘aina discount attracts a lot of local business, Graham said.
At Kaua‘i Beach Boys the most rented equipment is also from SUPs, according to Cotrim. The company also offers outrigger canoe rides, sailing lessons, Hobie Cat rides and rentals of basically all kinds of wave-riding vehicles, including longboards, body boards and shortboards.
Kama‘aina Surf & Sport doesn’t have a SUPsquatch or canoe rides. But besides rental of the usual suspects — beach chairs, body boards, snorkel gear and all kinds of surfboards — it offers many services to the local surfing community.
“We are a core surf shop,” said Graham, adding that they do ding and paddle repairs, sell new and used surfboards, allows sales of boards on consignments, and carry local surf brands along with other popular brands. Graham’s also sponsors a young surf team and a pack of mixed martial artists. In addition, he has been the contest director of the Annual Irons Brothers Pinetrees Classic in Hanalei for the last three years of the 11-year-old event.
Kama‘aina Surf & Sport will soon expand operations to Po‘ipu, Graham said.
Kaua‘i Beach Boys already operates in Po‘ipu. Most of its surfboards and SUPs in the South Shore are inflatable, which is a little safer for surfers who have to share a more compact surf break in Po‘ipu than in Kalapaki, according to Cotrim.
The technology for inflatable boards has developed in the last few years, and now offers boards that are both safer and sturdy, an opinion shared by Cotrim and Graham.
On April 22, the Kaua‘i Beach Boys organized the 1st Annual Percy Kinimaka Surf Invitational, a wave-riding outrigger canoe and SUPsquatch contest to raise funds for the Kaua‘i Junior Lifeguard Program.
Part of the all-day event included 16 SUPsquatch teams competing against each other in four-team heats — C4 Waterman brought two additional boards to the island, making it possible to run four-team heats
The event was held a day after the 10th Annual YWCA Kaua‘i World Challenge Canoe Race, Cotrim said, so there were a lot of experienced watermen and waterwomen on Kaua‘i, who competed in the SUPsquatch contest.
Because most competitors were already familiar with surfing and water sports, the public was treated to an array of tricks on the SUPsquatch, including 360-degree turns, Cotrim said.
Those who missed the fun can keep an eye for next year’s event.
“It’s going to be every year, right after the Kaua‘i World Challenge,” Cotrim said of the SUPsquatch contest.
Kaua‘i Beach Boys surf instructors tried to ride the SUPsquatch with two paddlers and one captain, but it didn’t work out very well, said Cotrim, adding the board can be ridden with four people and a captain, but it’s better with more riders.
“Six is the magic number,” Cotrim said of the amount of paddlers necessary to balance out and flatten the board on the water’s surface.
The SUPsquatch is also popular with large parties, she said.
In March, a group of about 500 people attending a conference at the nearby Kaua‘i Marriott Resort and Beach Club used the SUPsquatch as part of their team-building exercises, Cotrim said.
Children can play too, but they have to be at least five-years-old and be able to swim, she said.
Cotrim said the SUPsquatch could be seen as a wave-hogger, but it also puts seven people into only one wave-riding craft rather than having them ride individual boards and potentially over-crowding the surf area.