Brand: Kazuma Surfboards
Location: Maui, Hawaii
Years in Surf Industry: 31
Interviewee: Matt Kazuma Kinoshita
BTR: What are some of your earliest memories of surfing and what inspired you to get into board building?
MKK: I grew up surfing with my parents. My earliest memories of surfing was with Brock and Clark little surfing in Lahaina, Maui when I was 6 years old. I was formally trained by Grandmaster, Ben Aipa who was also my surf coach as a teenager.
BTR: What are the positive and negatives of being a shaper on an island?
MKK: Being a shaper on an island is great because I know and surf with a high percentage of my customers. Basically quality becomes the absolute priority when you are constantly face to face with your customers/friends. The negative is that Maui is the focus place for kite surfing, foil boarding, windsurfing, sup surfing, big wave surfing and tow surfing so it is a place that many shapers want to be. Competition is fierce and with the huge tourism population, it becomes a prime target market for China/Thailand/Vietnam boards.
BTR: There is so much going on right now in the board-building world. Besides local competition you have to compete with overseas builders and mass producers. What advice do you have for the board building community, along with people inspiring to become shapers about the changing times?
MKK: The surfboard industry has changed drastically in the last 15 years because the local surfboard industry (worldwide) has been crushed by cheap import boards which has left local manufacturers fighting for a small but extremely difficult part of the market. The custom and high end market. What I see happening is many established builders are shifting from volume wholesale to focusing on quality, service and those small niche markets
BTR: Do you feel there is anything the board building community could be doing better to evolve with today’s market?
MKK: The one thing the local board building community needs to do is to focus on the shaper /surfer relationship. This with customer service, it is what the mass producer brands can’t provide and can minimize the power/influence of the media marketing you see controlling the direction of surf craft. We are to the point where the public believes that an experienced shaper is not important.
BTR: How will the new tariffs affect your business?
MKK: The tariffs proposed are too small to really change the direction of the market. The profit margins in a China /Thailand /Vietnam board is so high that it doesn’t change much in the end. The big import brands still have the Amazon business model to fall back on and if the import tax gets too high, they go direct to customer. Any and all local manufacturers thinking about competing on price will disappear.
BTR: Looking back over your 25 plus year career. What are some of the moments that you are the most proud of?
MKK: I am most proud of all the champion surfers I developed out of this small island. With these young superstars I was able to make big contributions to the design of all the new directions of wave riding boards. Surf, Sup, foil, tow, sup, kite and whatever they dream up next…