Surfing has always been one of the most approachable, laid-back sports in the world, with no cost to entry beyond access to a public beach, a second-hand board and a pocketful of change for an after-wipeout ﬁsh taco. But with iconic luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Hermès creating boards for their exclusive clienteles, another side to the sport has emerged.
Among the most striking boards available are those from Haleiwa Surfboard Company, at which septuagenarian surfer and veteran artisan Mahlon (“Lon”) Klein typically crafts no more than 15 exquisite wooden boards per year. Located on Oahu’s North Shore, one of Hawaii’s most storied surfing destinations, Haleiwa incorporates indigenous hardwoods such as koa, mango, kamani, and monkey-pod into its unique boards.
#68: Hand-crafted by: Lon Klein @ Haleiwa
Dimensions: 7′-3″ X 18 1/2″ X 2 5/8″
Surfboard Company Deck: Koa, mango
Shape Design: Dick Brewer Bottom: African mahogany
Photo courtesy of John Bilderback.
Klein originally began crafting boards from lightweight woods, and some are used to this day by pro surfers Michael Ho and Roger Erickson, but he eventually sought out more attractive woods that are too heavy for competitive surﬁng. “My audience was no longer the surﬁng market but the art market,” explains Klein, who insists no two of his boards are alike. “I never thought of myself as an artist,” says the native Californian who moved to Hawaii for the surﬁng. “But I’m always trying to accentuate the beauty of the shape itself,” he adds.
Klein says that more than 200 hours of labor go into each handcrafted, triple-gloss-ﬁnished board, and the artisan has no interest in compromising his craft for mass-production. Haleiwa Surfboard Company’s worldwide following includes clients from Europe to Japan, and Klein reports that a member of the Moroccan royal family purchased a pair of the wood-clad “sticks.” The ﬁrm’s larger surf-boards are currently priced at $22,000 while a shorter ver-sion commands $14,000.
Far from the iconic beaches of Hawaii or California is England’s LUX Surfboards, a collaboration of Ellie Miller, the only female professional board maker in Europe, and artist Danni Bradford. “The Aureus,” is their ’70s-inspired board, entirely sheathed in 24-karat gold leaf and currently priced at the equivalent of $45,600. The deck features a triple elliptical pinline design and the hull includes a single gilded ﬁberglass ﬁn.
“A 24-karat gold surfboard had never been made before, and we were inspired by how unique it would be if we could achieve it,” says Bradford, whose studio is close to her favorite surﬁ ng spot in North Devon. “I’ve been riding Ellie’s surfboards exclusively for the last six years, and watching her grow as maker,” says Bradford, who adds, “It seemed only natural for us to combine our skills.”
“The board took months to complete, and it was incredibly painstaking,” says Bradford, who explains the gold was integrated into the construction of the board, not simply applied to the surface. The artist, acclaimed for her imaginative work with glass, says of her partnership with Miller, “I deﬁnitely think we’ll collaborate again on another board.”
In Los Angeles, designer Elisabeth Weinstock covers everything from handbags to soccer balls in exotic anaconda or boa skins. Her surfboards ($5,600), clad in snakeskin or other exotic leathers, are popular even with people who never venture into the waves. “Whether you’re a surf enthusiast or just appreciate the California beach vibe, this is the ultimate luxury objet d’art,” says Weinstock, who notes, “It was designed for the lover of the art of the sport.”
Kelly Wearstler, a prominent L.A. interior designer known for her trendy Holly-wood Regency- or Art Deco-in-spired hotel commissions, has also waded into surfboard design. Handcrafted from shaved Russian birch and sealed with surf resin, her $8,900 boards display compel-ling patterns, some organic and others more structured, that bring artistic expression to the sport. While you could conceivably paddle out on one of these glossy boards, they are primarily decorative, designed to bring the spirit of surﬁng indoors. Wearstler reports they were inspired by her love of the Malibu beach culture.
Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto.com/EpicStockMedia.
Hawaiian artist Tim Nguyen, whose idyllic images of his fellow Islanders are expressed with rich tropical colors reminiscent of Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin, presents his love of the Aloha State on a surfboard. His “Under Banana Leaves,” currently offered at specialty retailer Martin & MacArthur for $8,190, is the ideal piece of décor for a luxury Hawaiian estate — or even a Chicago penthouse whose owner yearns for the Maui sun.
“Art on surfboards is my expression of Island beauty, my passion for the ocean and the depiction of Hawaiian culture,” says Nguyen, who resides on the tranquil, unspoiled west side of Oahu where local traditions endure. “My board represents a scene in my imagination about a lush tropical garden,” reports the artist, whose frequent images of banana trees capture the magical qualities of Polynesian culture.
Russian Birch Board by Kelly Wearstler. Photo courtesy of Kelly Wearstler.
Roses surboard from Elizabeth Weinstock. Photo courtesty of John Milios.
The most expensive surf-board on record was created by New Zealand designer Roy Stuart in 2014 and priced at $1.3 million. The board, named “Rampant” was crafted from paulownia, an Asian tree known for lavender-colored blossoms and has a 23-karat gold lion emblem engraved into it. The hull of the board has a unique tunnel-shaped fin created from kahikatea wood, a towering tree native to New Zealand, along with a distinctive neon blue polycarbonate ﬁn for further balance.
The Aureus by LUX Surfboards. Photo courtesy of M. Corker / Shimnix Films.
In addition to iconic fashion labels delving into surf culture — Chanel currently offers an elegant board for $8,900 — auto manufacturers like Peugeot and Tesla have also applied their distinctive style and engineering to the once-pedestrian boards. Mercedes-Benz created the “Silver Arrow of the Seas,” an aerodynamic carbon-ﬁber board with the sleek good looks of a sports car, tailor-made for monster wave master Garrett McNamara. In 2014, the legendary surfer used the board to ride some of the most enormous waves on record off the coast of Nazaré, Portugal.
From Cabo to Costa Rica, these island destinations are offering year-round surfing experiences for both beginners and experts.
Photos courtesy of Mukul, Auberge Resorts Collection
Cabo, a year-round surfing destination, offers diversity in break direction and level of difficulty — in addition to unparalleled coastal scenery, according to Cabosbest.com.
While many choose to surf in Cabo during the summer months of June through August, the fall months of September to November are also a great time to catch waves.
Nestled between rugged desert mountains and the sparkling Sea of Cortez, Querencia is located on the best surf break in Cabo. Q Beach Club features the Q Surf Club, which provides a wide array of water sports and activities, including surfing, stand-up paddle boarding and snorkeling.
In recent years, Nicaragua has become an increasingly popular spot for surfers due to the consistency of the waves and good weather conditions.
Offering a range of new surf experiences for owners and guests, Mukul, Auberge Resorts Collection is furthering the growth of surfing in Nicaragua.
In partnership with the luxury surf outfitter Tropic Surf, Mukul is bringing its surfing experience to a whole new level. At the resort, led through Tropic Surf, is a coaching plan that helps guests go from a “white belt to black belt” in surf, and it is led by the resort’s “surf sensei.”
The property is also launching a Siren Surf Safari experience, an all-female experience designed to challenge and empower women through a curated itinerary of physical and wellness experiences. Women of all ages and life stages are invited to brave waves, meditate and take part in ancient healing rituals.
Surfing is deeply intertwined with Hawaiian culture and history, as the first written account of surfing was actually recorded there, according to gohawaii.com.
Whether a beginner or expert, surfers can take in the rich culture of Hawaii while learning the ins and outs of surfing in a beautiful, tropical destination.
Set to open in June and nestled between the uncrowded sands of Running Waters Beach, Timbers Kauai – Ocean Club & Residences at Hokuala offers surfers the best of both worlds.
Owners and guests at Timbers Kaua’i can have a private surf lesson through The Beach Club, with surfboards and gear ready and waiting. Partnered with island-favorite adventurers Kauai Beach Boys, The Beach Club allows owners to ride with some of the best surfers on the island.
Photo courtesy of Querencia
Across the globe, Costa Rica maintains its position as one of the world’s most beloved surf destinations. Consistent, high-quality waves with a variety of breaks make it a surfing destination for both beginners and advanced surfers.
The tropical destination offers a wide variety of world-class surfing options, including Witch’s Rock and Ollie’s Point, which are both a short distance from Four Seasons Private Residences Prieta Bay at Peninsula Papagayo.
Owners and guests at the Four Seasons may enjoy access to the luxury surf school offered by Tropicsurf at the adjacent Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica, which offers lessons at the resort’s Playa Blanca.
BIG ISLAND’S LATEST PRIVATE LUXURY DEVELOPMENT IN NEARLY A DECADE IS MAKING ITS MARK ON THE HAWAIIAN LANDSCAPE AND THE RESIDENTIAL MARKET.
By Samantha Myers
This is an extended version of an article originally in Unique Homes Ultimate 2017. Click here to view the print version. Also check out our breaking story on Kohanaiki’s clubhouse from February 2017.
There’s nothing like stepping out of a pressurized plane cabin into Big Island’s pacific breeze. But Kohanaiki — a private club community only two miles from Kona International Airport — takes that refreshment a step further. Handed lava rock-filtered water and a chilled towelette in a private shuttle, we headed to the source of this impeccable service — a place both breathtaking, and where you can catch your breath.
Like most homesites on Kohanaiki, our 3-bedroom hale offered an inland backdrop of Hualālai’s mountains and views extending to the pristine coastline. A tour of the 450-acre property via electric golf carts, the main form of transportation on property, and a walk-through of the brand-new, 67,000-square-foot clubhouse provided a true understanding of life here.
“The Kohala Coast of Big Island is famous for its year-round sunny, tropical vacation weather,” says James Lynch, sales executive for Kohanaiki Realty, LLC. “It’s a perfect environment for indoor-outdoor living.” Kohanaiki’s distinct architectural style, a contemporary interpretation of traditional Hawaiian design, was developed by a handful of esteemed architects. The sleek, atmospheric outdoor-orientated architecture is not only a selling point for its available homesites, but is also a paradise-like setting for its amenities.
With our freshly caught cuisine enjoyed at the signature open-wall sushi bar and chophouse Kōnane, and beach dining with seating that spills onto the white-sand beach, the open-air became our dining room.”This is a setting where shoes are optional, as life can be lived here pure and natural,” Lynch adds.
A tour around the Rees Jones-designed golf course offers ideal vantage points of the carefully planned and preserved landscape — where smooth greens interlace with black volcanic rock, environmentally protected anchialine ponds, ancient sites and six masterful oceanfront holes for golfers. You gain an appreciation of the land and what Kohanaiki has done to both preserve and accentuate its features while at the same time providing a comfortable lifestyle for its members.
“Kohanaiki appeals to people with a taste for adventure, an appreciation for the finer things in life, and a desire for a laid-back environment,” says President and CEO Joe Root. If you’re craving indoor activity on a rainy day, you’ll have to imagine the rain. But the clubhouse offers a fitness center, movie theater, bowling alley, bar and secret cigar lounge among other hidden treasures.
The shores are some of the best snorkeling and surfing spots on the island, and our time with the “A-Team” — expert ocean sport guides — set us up with snorkels and paddleboards instructing us to the best spots to see marine life. We didn’t have to stray far before we were swimming alongside schools of bright fish and watching a sea turtle dance around the reef. The next day, our charter on Kohanaiki’s yacht, the Kaikea, let us swim alongside thirty-plus dolphins and gave us front-row seats to a humpback whale show while enjoying breakfast on the boat.
In between water sports, we were able to visit the spa, which offers an extensive menu of treatments. We opted for a couple’s spa treatment in a heavenly private courtyard — the “Botany of Bliss” — which included a soak in a custom-blended herbal outdoor bath for two, followed by individual La’i massages.
The comfort provided by the spa and locker rooms was even unexpectedly rivaled by the golf “comfort stations” located throughout the property. These stations provide an air-conditioned retreat during a round of golf or a tennis match, and are fully stocked with any type of snack or treat imaginable, as well as frozen mai tai machines and cold wine and beer. One may find themselves spending more time here than out on the course.
While luxurious relaxation prevails in any corner of the property, our tour with Joe around Kohanaiki showed us details that one may not notice upon first glance, or on their own explorations. This included the wide-range of art celebrating the Hawaiian heritage and the history of Kohanaiki’s property. The collection includes over 200 art pieces, including prints, paintings and artifacts. “The clubhouse features one of the most robust and extensive collections of authentic, museum-quality art pieces on the island,” says Root. “It was important to give the clubhouse a sense of place through this robust collection of artwork. We have been collecting any of these pieces over the past decade, and are pleased with how they seem to weave in seamlessly with the design of the clubhouse and help to give it the character and historical context that make it so much more than just a building.”
A visit to the wine tasting room revealed a collection of rare vintage wines — 50 years worth of Château Mouton Rothschild — among some of the resident’s wine lockers, which are located throughout the property, especially around the eating spots. Residents can have a bottle of wine handy at any given moment. Kohanaiki has made it a priority to bring wine to their residents, a drink not as common on an island location due to costs of importation. While we were visiting, we attended a beachside wine dinner collaboration between Kohanaiki and Kosta Browne Winery, from California. Enjoyed with other members, the four-course meal featured pairings with 2013 and 2014 Russian River Valley Pinor Noirs (and others) alongside a delicious, delicate menu including crispy seared snapper and a dish of duck breast, confit and Colorado lamb. For dessert, it was a Tahitian vanilla bean crème brûlée enjoyed with a remarkable 40-year-old Tawny Port.
“Our membership is the best part of Kohanaiki,” says Root. “We have attracted an incredible group of well-traveled, sophisticated and successful people who have chosen Kohanaiki as their place to disconnect and just have fun with their friends and family.” With a $150,000 entrance fee and $25,000 annual membership fee, Kohanaiki is at the forefront of full-service luxurious living.
“In most cases these homes are our members second or even third homes. We try and make multiple home-ownership as easy as possible with our residential services program,” says General Manager George Punoose. “We take care of your entire pre-arrival, stay and post-departure experience by attending to all aspects of your home — housekeeping, landscaping, pool care and even grocery shopping.” Our visit to Kohanaiki was a testament to this service — upon our arrival, the fridge and pantry were fully stocked with over a week’s worth of groceries, the home was lit up and an iPad was connected to a sound system playing the ideal relaxing vacation music you’d want to hear upon arriving in paradise.
The property puts being social and incorporating family as primary ideals for their membership. “We are a family friendly resort and we’ve attracted families small and large, with parents and grandparents seeing this place as something their family will enjoy for generations,” says Root. “Kohanaiki uses vertical memberships that enable siblings, children and grandparents to be full members of the club. Whatever we can do to make it easier for families to come together is a good thing.”
The philosophies of Kohanaiki, instituted by a stellar team, have been reciprocated by the public. Kohanaiki is one of the hottest new luxury residential spots to own property on, not only on Hawaii, but anywhere — and they have the celebrity clientele and sales to prove it. “The recent grand opening of the new clubhouse was a key milestone validating Kohanaiki as the premier private, gated community in the Hawaiian Islands, resulting in record-breaking sales of over $60 million over the past 60 days,” says Lynch.
“Our members are a sophisticated set that have traveled and experienced the finest things in life,” says Punoose. “Our goal here is to still exceed their high expectations.” Here, at Kohanaiki, attention to detail is not sufficient. Instead, a staff that masters the details awaits Kohanaiki’s fortunate members who retreat in this otherworldly community.
Kohanaiki offers two ownership options: custom homesites where you can purchase a plot of land and build your own home, or choose a home from a full-range of turnkey and fully furnished developer-built homes in various sizes, styles and configurations. Kohanaiki also offers fee-simple real estate ownership. Fee-simple means that the real estate is owned forever in perpetuity and can be passed down from generation to generation. Less than 5% of all the land in the Hawaiian Islands is available for fee simple ownership, therefore, Kohanaiki represents a rare opportunity for families to own in a world-class oceanfront community here in the islands and build long-term legacy wealth.