Legendary Trademarks: Sailboards Maui
Sailboards Maui, is the historical name of the first windsurfing shop in Maui and the initiator of the windsurfing custom boards and wave sailing lifestyle.
I can’t forget the first time I stepped in the original shop when I landed in Maui, October 1981. Mike Waltze invited me during the Windsurfers World Championship in Okinawa two weeks before. “You should come to Maui and report on the first wave contest in windsurfing history. Is starting in two weeks and is called the Maui Grand Prix”, Mike said.
I was in my first trip around the world following windsurfing events. I was going east. Next stop was Honolulu, so …what the hell, let’s discover Maui! Mike introduced me to his two partners: Bill King (“call me BK”) and Fred Haywood at that time a famous former surfer and USA Olympic team swimmer. That day the ‘intellighenzia’ of the windsurfing world wave pioneers were there at Mike’s cozy corner. The stars Robby Naish and Matt Schweitzer, the unknown Pete Cabrinha, the blond Richard White from Kauai, Craig Yester from Oahu, Ken Winner and Cort Larned, the Simmers, the Agueras and few others. The two Euro stars were my pals J.P. Boghossian ‘il marsigliese’ and the German Jurgen Honscheid. Miki Hideki was representing Japan. Rick and Bill Whidden ran the skippers meeting commanding a young flagman guy (Paul Ehman).
Behind the shop, in the garage, silent and suspicious, shaping a clarkfoam piece, there was what it looked like a ‘very local’ man. His name? Jimmy Lewis. He was the one responsible for all the beautiful and colorful custom boards in the shop. Here is how Bill King, now happily semi-retired accomplished man, remembers the starting of the company from his ocean view residence in Kula.
Bill King: Peggy (my wife) and I started windsurfing in about '78. Fred Haywood was an old friend of mine. Back then the only windsurfer dealer was ‘Windsurfing Hawaii’ on Oahu, so Fred, Mike and I got together and formed Sailboards Maui to bring in the Windsurfer Rockets and other equipment. The location was Fred's old family home, which was on the rental market. Fred was still doing real estate and Mike wanted to concentrate on his riding. So I got to run the business. After about a year, we could see that custom boards were the happening trend in the industry (I was also getting tired of unloading Matson containers of 12' Rockets). So we brought Jimmy Lewis in and built a small factory in Fred's old garage. Then we ran an expression session after the Pan Ams in Kailua. It was a terrible year for wind in Kailua, so when they got to Maui and it was about 15-25 knots, the pros were sold on Maui for high performance sailing. It became sort of our motto.
Pietro: Who chose the famous logo?
Bill King: The logo was created by John Severson (father of Jenna de Rosnay), sitting in Fred’s old house and going over ideas with all of us. I still think it is one of the best ever done. After Sailboards Maui was born and became a success, the word was out, Maui became the Mecca and a custom board became a must for wave riding and jumping. Craig Maisonville and Hi Tech took the ball, becoming leaders in the field. Sailboards Maui after few successful years split the ownership and in 1986, Bruce Brother a rich lawyer from the Gorge bought the shares from Fred and BK and become Mike’s partner. Mike was keener to ride, to compete and to have his own equipment ready. Bruce was overseeing the business and he hired in his factory (now located Uptown Paia in front of the old sugar mill) three great shapers: John Price (the guy that ran the factory), Mark Angel and Ken Tilton. Soon Dave Mel, the person that became the heart and soul of Sailboards Maui, joined them. Being a leading shaper in the second half of the eighties and then the sole proprietor from 1990 until today Dave knows the rest of the story of Sailboards Maui.
We have tracked him down first in his shop located downtown Paia and then in his wonderful home & shaping room at Hoolokai just past Jaws on the Hana Highway. In this brief interview you can breeze the delicate touch of the person that carries the logo and the honor of Sailboards Maui.
Pietro: How did you become involved in Sailboards Maui?
Dave Mel: In 1986, I took a job at Sailboards Maui. They had the philosophy of sailing everyday and working around that, which suited me fine as I had come there to sail first and foremost. John Price was running the Factory and shaping alongside Ken Tilton and Mark Angell. John had a fantastic shaping technique and I watched as he and Mike Waltze tried different designs and rockers making special boards for contests, and big wave models for Hookipa. I watched him mow an un-real big wave board for Rich Meyers but when I came in the next day, John had packed up and moved out! A new owner, Bruce Brothers, had bought the bulk of the company from Mike Waltze and I guess John didn't see that as a good thing for him and off he went!
Pietro: Oh I see; now you could have been the leader….
Dave Mel: It was a golden opportunity for me as they offered me his job. Working alongside Mark Angell, we fiddled with John's designs (mostly asymmetrical wave boards), which rode waves fantastically but were quite slow getting out. That year I shaped boards for Mike Waltze, Matt Schweitzer, Phil McGain, Alan Cadiz and Fred Haywood. I had arrived and loved every minute of it.
Pietro: It was just the beginning of a long relationship with top sailors. Who do you remember with greater pleasure?
Dave Mel: The next few years our team grew with Sierra Emory (at 15 years old), a fantastic sailor in any conditions. Around this time I met and shaped boards for Francisco Goya. I think he was 18 years old and he loved windsurfing more than anyone I had ever met. A very demanding sailor, we made him a lot of boards blending our ideas and shaping his visions. He quickly became one of the top young guns at Hookipa, almost always being the last guy in the water. At this time, I bought the factory from Bruce. In a licensing agreement, I picked up the rights to distribute in U.S., Japan and Canada. Francisco was hanging out with Sean Ordonez who had somehow gotten fired as the glasser for Angulo. I offered him a job as a shaper and Sailboards Maui had the ball and we were running down the beach with it.
Next thing I know we're making boards for over half the pro sailors in the world! Francisco, Sierra, Brent Pickering, Sean, Brian Talma, Bjorn Dunkerbeck, Josh Stone, Jason Stone, Cantagalli, Nick Baker, Dave Osborn, Jan Boersma, Natsuki Iijima, Bruce Wylie, Phil McGain, Stu Martin, on and on! A fantastic few years highlighted by marrying my Japanese sweetheart and the birth of our daughter, we built a nice house overlooking the ocean just past Jaws in Haiku and had another baby boy.
Pietro: Is it the reason why you look at the Japanese market as the premiere source of your business?
Dave Mel: Maybe. In 1998 we began producing custom and semi-custom boards in Japan. I travel to Japan twice a year for custom shaping and we also produce a semi-custom, which has a molded core, but is hand laminated. The airbrush is also hand done rather than using stickers for graphics. These are the highest quality "production type" boards I have come across. The attention to detail at Burleigh Heads has kept Sailboards Maui's name a top brand in Japan.
Pietro: How important has been the family for you?
Dave Mel: As I wanted to spend time with my family, I built a shaping room at home and for the last 7 years have been mowing my boards in a totally relaxed environment with an ocean view. I still have the shaping room that is the closest to the ocean that I have ever heard of. We opened our retail store in Paia town in 1996 and moved it closer to the beach in 2001. You can now find us at 22 Baldwin Avenue in Paia. Drop in and let's talk story. Aloha.”
Aloha to you Mr. Sailboards Maui. See you down in Hookipa.