In almost every surf interview for Maui Time, Lloyd Ishimine’s name has come up as a positive influence. His pure enthusiasm and contributions to surfing are what has helped elevate the quality of the sport.
He was born on Oahu, where he lived until five, and then the family made the move to Maui. He quickly became involved in surfing, paddling out at Kahului Harbor with his older brother Lowell, who started pushing him into bigger surf right away.
Speaking highly of the people who inspired him in the early years brings back special memories. “The late Alex Deponte was the man in those days,” he said. “He was by far the most talented surfer on Maui. Guys like Michael Ho would come over from Oahu to surf with him, and help revolutionize short board surfing in Hawaii.”
We got Lloyd to talk about the days when he would surf Honolua Bay on perfect, uncrowded days. “Nobody used leashes back then, which helped the crowd situation,” he said. “The man charging Honolua the hardest at that time was George Opelo. He really helped raise the level of surfing in everyone.
“I remember watching Ma`alaea break as a kid, and there was this guy Barney, was the only one out,” he continued. “I could almost see the waves peeling in his eyes, as he excitedly spoke about the beautiful offshore waves. Sometimes it would be one other guy out there and me, pulling into perfect barrels all day.”
Lloyd was also the star of Ma`alaea Burns, an underground video showcasing some of the best waves ever ridden at Ma`alaea. He is active in the Save Ma`alaea campaign, and only wishes he could spend more time helping the cause.
Influenced by Mike Cummings, Lloyd Komoda, Jerry Lopez and Mike Smith, he began shaping surfboards in 1972. As he progressed over the years, friend and mentor Glen Minami helped fine-tune him into the master shaper he is today. “When I was a freshman in high school, I took to making boards for myself and my friends, and never really thought about making a living at it,” he said. “I was working as a busboy at the Sheraton through high school, and surfing as much as possible. After high school, I got into construction, which I worked at until about four years ago.”
That was when Lloyd decided to make shaping his full-time profession. He built his surfboard factory underneath his home, where he shapes 5-10 boards a week. Good friend and team rider Eric Totah is responsible for glassing Lloyd’s Hawaiian Energy surfboards. “Eric is an unreal glasser, he pays close attention to detail,” Lloyd said.
Now shaping boards for the Honolua Surf Company and their team riders, Lloyd is kept busy and turned in with the vast variety of surfers and waves on the island. Analu Deponte, Alika Moepono, Donnivan Polendi, Archie Kalepa, Alden Paoa and Sam Chandler test his boards and give him the feedback he needs to stay on the cutting edge of shaping. “A few people from Hana are also taking my boards to new levels of surfing,” he said. “Carl Bertleman, Kamaki Everett, and his brother, Keli are leading the way, with their progressive approach to new school surfing; Keli is starting to get a lot of exposure.”
Lloyd describes his own competitive career more like a hobby. He primarily surfs for his own pleasure, and finds his passion for surfing lies in big waves. He likes the outer reef where he can be away from the crowds, and surf with friends.
The subject of tow-in surfing came and went fast; he didn’t have much to say about the new sport. He quickly changed subjects, and spoke about paddling into big outer Sprecks. “It used to be a few guys and myself surfing the outer reef before tow-ins,” he said. “Tow-ins have made it easier to take on the big wave challenge.”
Lloyd lives in Haiku with wife Leslie and 16-month old daughter Gabryele. The Ishimine household hosts a large number of feline and canine friends, with one more family addition expected sometime in the future.
With such a busy schedule, Lloyd has time to primarily surf Ho`okipa, but when it’s big, his favorite places are Pakukalo, Ma`alaea, Pier 1, Spreckelsville and, of course, Honolua Bay, where his reputation for pulling into big tubes is legendary.
When asked about the positive changes he has seen on Maui, he answers, “There’s more surfers, so it means more people buying new boards. Crowds here have gotten so out of hand, but I like to see the evolution of short board surfing progress, and feel the future level of surging is going to be explosive.”
Lloyd plans on surfing the rest of his life, and making boards. Cruising and being happy is his version of Maui Time. His advice is, “Do good to others, and good will come to you.” And to kids: “If you want a future in surfing and life, stay off drugs, they will only take you backwards. Just keep surfing. I’d also like to take this time to say happy holidays to all, and mahalo to everyone riding my boards.”
If you are interested in Hawaiian Energy Surfboards, you can call Lloyd at 572-5145, or pick one up at Honolua Surf Company, or Coconut Boy.
This story originally ran in MauiTime’s December 23, 1997 issue.
Photos: Erik Aeder Photography, Sterling and Ron Loomis