homepage logo

LahAina Surf Shack teaches keiki more than riding waves

By Staff | Jun 7, 2018

Aina (Kohler) Valera (right) of LahAina Surf Shack gives youngsters a surf lesson at the beach in West Maui.

LAHAINA – Lahaina ladies Aina (Kohler) Valera and Chyna Colorado have been close friends since the seventh grade. They surfed the same waves over the years and both have that liquid culture flowing through their veins.

In 1998, they graduated from Lahainaluna High School; but, for the better part of the past 20 years, they have traveled separate paths.

Aina played college basketball for four years and softball for one. She toured with a few traveling basketball clubs and finished her career playing in Australia. She is a firewoman, wife and mother of twins.

Chyna, with a passion for all things marine, earned a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Policy Degree, paddled for Kahana Canoe Club, organized kid camps for Maui Ocean Center and lectured on cruise ships. She is a surfing and paddleboard instructor, the environmental projects coordinator for the World Indigenous Science Network, a wife and mother of two.

Since Aina’s return to Lahaina last year, the 38-year-olds have rejoined forces and are making a splash in the waves again – this time with purpose.

“I’ve been wanting to own a business for the past few years; I just couldn’t pinpoint one thing I wanted to do. Ideas have included sports programs, food carts and coffee shops. When the opportunity came up to buy Mike’s Surf Clinic, a surf school across from my kids’ elementary school (King Kamehameha III Elementary School), things started happening,” Aina said.

And, within months, the LahAina Surf Shack opened its doors at 117 Prison St.

Coincidentally, at the time, Chyna was employed by Mike’s.

“I’ve been teaching surfing and stand up paddle for various companies for more than ten years and had become increasingly disillusioned by the industry because of the disconnect from the land of surfing’s origins and its people,” Chyna observed. “It seemed like opportunities were being lost or ignored completely as focus tends to be on the mechanics of the business. I was truly coming to the end of my want to teach anymore when Aina moved home and bought the company I was working for.”

Now, she works for her surf sister as the head of environmental education programs and outreach.

The surf shack is a regular commercial venture, with retail, rentals and lessons, but the ladies have a deep commitment to the community that raised them; and, if the past four months are an indication of their kuleana, West Maui will surely benefit.

The ladies are broad-minded and creative.

“The first thing we came up with was the idea of after- school programs,” Aina advised. “We then came up with different ideas for teaching lessons, adding an educational component that we are implementing with our surf and SUP lessons.

“Why not teach our children in the community as we teach our visitors the culture, values and respect we have for the ocean and land?” Aina asked.

“Once we got the hang of the business side,” she continued, “we started thinking of ways to give back and expand not just to cater to tourists, but to kids and families in the community.”

That’s how the idea for a community surf day was born.

“We realized,” Aina explained, “that not all the keiki in our community have parents that surf or have access to boards. The Native Hawaiian art of surfing that originated here is not being passed down to its future generations, as it should. Parents are working two jobs, boards are expensive, time is costly. If we can play a role in creating healthy habits and lifestyles to just a few keiki, it’s all worth it.”

The first free community surf day was in April at Break Wall, a combination of free lessons and beach cleanup.

“The kids loved it, the parents loved watching, ten- and 11-year-old kids who were born and raised in Maui were riding a surfboard for their first time,” the new business owner exclaimed.

The second free surf day was held in May at Launiupoko.

“Again, our volunteer instructors taught numerous kids and adults to surf the way we were taught growing up here,” Aina said.

“At both events,” Chyna added, “kids were there immediately at start time, and we stayed steady with lessons. I’d say the number was somewhere between 20-30 people learning how to surf throughout the day – a mix of kids and adults. Once the kids got tired, the adults jumped in!”

With the kids out of school for the summer, the duo have planned two surfing camps on June 4-8 and June 11-15, from 8 to 11 a.m. at Break Wall, open to grades one through six. Reef and marine education have been added to the mix of ocean activities.

It’s not free. The cost is $125 per session or $35-a-day drop in rate.

“Surfing and ocean education programs should be accessible to all children,” Chyna commented. “Through business profit, grants and donations, we hope to be able to make upcoming kids’ camps increasingly low cost and have special community events more frequently and have our shop be a place where everyone feels welcome.”

Aina is more than enthusiastic.

“By the start of this next school year, we are hoping to start numerous youth week-long after-school camps. They will range from ocean education and exploration camps, to basketball, baseball, soccer and art camps. Within these activities, we plan on implementing cultural education and nature conservation activities and awareness. We have big ideas and big dreams. All we need now is to one-by-one bring them all together with the new name ‘LahAina Surf Shack,’ a place where everyone is welcome to learn, to laugh, to love!”

For questions, more information or to enroll, e-mail lahainasurfshack@gmail.com or call 661-2700.