Matt Kinoshita is committed to bringing out the potential in the children of Maui. Through his experiences as a surfer growing up on this island, Matt has become a role model for youth. Between shaping surfboards, coaching kids and being a husband and father, Matt gave us the opportunity to meet someone humbled with success and happiness.
Matt was born on Oahu, but moved to Maui when he was one. After winning his first surf contest at age eight, he knew where his future would lie. “Having guys like Analu Duponte, Lloyd Ishimine and Mike Yamashita coaching me made it a lot easier to break into the Maui surf scene. It seemed like in those days there was much more respect in the water; when guys would take me surfing I would get waves and learn the ropes.”
Matt’s purpose in life is his dedication to the young surfers on the island. He spends a good part of his day driving kids to the beach, not only to teach them surfing techniques, but to enrich the children’s lives through his own positive image. Matt attributes his blessings to his parents, who taught him the values that he instills in everyone he comes in contact with.
He is driven to taking the sport of surfing to another level and to be recognized as a legitimate professional sport, with golf as an example. “There is a similarity to surfing and golf; the way you have to be mentally prepared. If your mind is somewhere else, your golf game will suffer and so will your surfing. Surfing is as much mental as physical. As far as golf goes, I try to play as much as I can or as much as my wife Ann will let me.”
Matt will coach most any kid who is pursuing surfing for pleasure or profit down the road. “They don’t have to be on my team for me to coach them; I’m at the beach all the time willing to pass on my experiences to anyone wanting help.” He genuinely wants to see kids improve and grow into athletes and volunteers; all this time asking nothing in return. His insight into other people’s surfing ability is one of his strongest qualities; he can see what someone is doing wrong and offer his guidance to really help.
After years of watching and learning from master shaper Ben Aipa, surfboard making became Matt’s livelihood. He started shaping boards seven years ago and now has one of the most recognized surfboard names on the island, Kazuma Surfboards. “Kazuma is my middle name and my father’s name as well; I’m very proud to use it. My motivation for shaping boards is the kids. I shape boards how I like them, and they seem to work”.
Matt’s travels have taken him to exotic places, his favorite being Fiji. “I go there to surf and feel what Hawai`i must have been fifty years ago.” He has seen Maui become populated over the years, but instead of frustration, he shrugs it off and breathes in the acceptance of change.
“The positive side of surfing today is that the level of surfing has risen amongst the new generation, and it’s very exciting to see the change. I think there will be a whole new push towards professionalism and a clean image for surfers in the future. I’m coaching kids with 4.0 grade point averages who totally rip in the water. There should be nothing holding back a future world champ from Maui. My life would be totally complete if a kid I coach becomes a world champion.”
Matt puts on shaping demonstrations at Shapers in Kahului from time to time and is more than happy to pass on tips from his trade to anyone interested. Hi-Tech Surf Sports sells his boards exclusively on Maui. When asked what Maui Time means to him, Matt answers “Being able to be a half an hour late.”
It’s been an honor interviewing Matt Kinoshita; the man shaping the future.
This story originally ran in MauiTime’s September 16, 1997 issue.
Photos courtesy of Matt Kinoshita