Noah Shimabukuro is a talented Hawaiian surfer who blends the best of both traditional and progressive surfing. Noah’s smooth and stylish riding has garnered him worldwide attention. We spent some time with Noah to learn more.
What was your life like growing up?
Growing up in Hawaii was awesome. I was born on Oahu and then our family moved to Maui when I was about 10. My family relocated to a small town called Kula, which is in upcountry Maui. It has an elevation of about 3,500 feet and a 30 minute drive to the ocean. Every weekend, my dad would load up the family’s VW van with boards and my mom would make us food for the day. My dad taught us how to surf, dive, fish and anything else that had to do with the ocean.
When did you get your first surfboard?
When I was five, I remember my parents getting me a boogie board. My dad would push my brother and I into waves at the Waikiki wall where we learned how to ride waves and eventually stand up on them. My dad told me that when I got good at stand up bodyboarding, he would buy me a surfboard. So for my eighth birthday, my parents got me a used team board at Local Motion. It was a 5’2″ Pat Rawson thruster that was shaped for some guy I never heard of then—Kalani Robb.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
I think I was scared and excited at the same time.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a young man?
When I lived in Maui, it was Albert Jenks, Les Potts, Jeff Coleman, Wayno Chochran, Snake Ahi, Matt Kinoshita, Bob “Olé” Olson, Dave Kalama, Gerry Lopez and Laird Hamilton.
In the movies, Joel Tudor, Donald Takayama, Bonga Perkins, Kevin Connelly, Wayne Lynch, Nat Young, Derek Hynd, Mitch Abshere, Herbie Fletcher, Occy, Curren, etc.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out and why?
I really like Tahiti for its blue water and perfect barrels. It reminds me of Hawaii in a lot of ways, but without so many people.
Who or what inspires you?
Anyone who follows their heart in life.
I really like watching surfers who have great style. Rell Sunn, Joel Tudor—it’s like they’re musicians of the sea or something. They have this natural flowing rhythm that flows right through their surfing motions and onto their surfboards. It’s really beautiful to watch. Surfers like that inspire me most.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
Be humble, respectful and grateful for everything you have. You could always be worse off. I’ve been blessed in so many ways and have always tried to be grateful for that.
Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
Maybe use more sunscreen and wear earplugs.
What are you most proud of?
Coming from a really good family. I come from a really small town in Maui and I’m more proud of my siblings’ accomplishments more than my own. My baby sister goes to Yale and my brother is a lieutenant in the US Coast Guard, and is in charge of rescue missions in Hawaii. When I look back, I know it’s partly due to having really good family roots.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
Through surfing, I’ve got to travel and meet really cool, interesting people. I base my whole life around it. I check the ocean every morning to see what the surf is like and sell surfboards during the day to help pay my rent. It’s really everything I do. Without surfing, I would be a totally different person.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Being around positive, open-minded people.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
I really enjoy watching the younger kids come up—Tommy Witt, Tyler Warren, Oliver Parker, Andrew Logreco, JJ Wessels. Eli Gillis, and Dane Reynolds. I dunno … there are so many good kids coming up; it’s really unbelievable and cool.
Stand-up paddle surfing is now a bone of contention in the surf world. What is your opinion of the idea that SUPs should be banned from sharing lineups with traditional boards?
I think what they have done at San Onofre is really good. SUPs are down at Dog Patch and the surfers still have their spots. I’m a surfer first and know it can be dangerous for a beginner on an SUP. SUPs and surfers in lineups don’t really mix well together. I would hope to see SUPs used more to explore new surfing territory, cold water spots and maybe standing waves in lakes and rivers. You can surf colder water spots and more outer reefs with them. Lately, I’ve been enjoying just paddling long distances up and down the coast, and surfing spots that no one else is riding. I don’t want to take away from anyone else’s fun.
What is your favorite board? Your favorite surf spot?
Right now it’s a few of different boards. Pig, Scorpion, and Model-T 2. All shaped by Donald Takayama.
I like to noseride and get barreled. So, I like noseriding and tube riding spots. A point break left where you can do both is my favorite wave.
What is your take on the current state of men’s professional longboarding?
I think it’s going good, but, of course, could always be better. I would like to see some of the judging criteria be changed and how they deem the world champ be different. The way it is now seems to be really one-sided. I think the perfect world tour for longboarding would involve three contests:
1) A tube ride spot, like Puerto Escondido, where you can go both right and left;
2) A point break-style wave, like Malibu or Boca Barranca, where you could be judged on noseriding and style;
3) A beach break-style wave where you could be judged on high performance surfing.
I think a tour of this kind would really be great and reward the surfer who is the most well-rounded.
How did you go from competitive surfer to the manager of Donald Takayama’s shop in Oceanside?
I started riding for Donald right after high school and would travel a lot between California and Hawaii to get boards and do contests. I would stay at his old surfboard factory up in the menehune lounge and try to help earn my keep by helping him do whatever he needed help with around the factory. Eventually, he got me a part-time job working at his retail store during the summers when I would be around. I did that for years—helping work at the retail store—and got to learn the business that way. Eventually, the time came when DT needed a new manager. It’s been a very fun and rewarding experience to work for someone who’s been around the business for so long. I feel very honored and privileged to be working for Hawaiian Pro Designs.
What’s your favorite meal?
Pita sandwich from Cream of the Crop in Oceanside with Komboucha Tea.
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
The Whitest Boy Alive, Carla Bruni, Bob Marley, Manu Chao, random Hawaiian music and lots of rock and roll.
What are you most grateful for?
I’m most grateful for my family, friends, and being a surfer.
What’s next for Noah Shimabukuro?
More school, working, surfing and travel.