Where You Live: Ben AipaUPDATED 7:09 PM HST Feb 11, 2014Video Transcript
There are certain people who define Hawaii and what makes our islands such a special place to live. Native son and waterman Ben Aipa has been a guiding influence to surfers here and across the globe for decades. He's a living treasure, and the focus of tonight's "WHERE YOU LIVE" series. Here's KITV4's Andrew Pereira. :24 "CUTTING RAIL" What is it that shapes a man? For Ben Aipa, it's not fame and notoriety that comes from being the name behind one of the most recognizable surfboard labels on the planet. His true identity was forged seven decades ago in the red dirt and ckbone of a Kauai sugar plantation. BEN AIPA: "HARD WORK IS NOT EVEN IN MY VOCABULARY, OK, IT'S JUST A NATURAL THING FOR ME. I THINK BACK EVERY TIME AND I'M SO STOKED I CAME FROM THAT TIME, THAT ERA -- LEARNING A LOT; I MEAN REALLY LEARNING A LOT." Lessons of wherewithal and grit that Aipa carried with him from Kauai at the age of nine when his family moved to Palama Settlement in Honolulu. It's there in the community pool that a kid once fearful of the ocean, would learn to swim. BEN AIPA: "AND I USED TO SNEAK IN THERE LIKE ABOUT THREE O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING, AND JUST GO THAT DEEP. AND THIS WAS GOING ON FOR TWO WEEKS AND THEN I GOT BUSTED." Like most things Aipa, Ben turned a negative into a positive. The man who busted him at Palama Settlement, also made him an offer to forgo the pool entrance fee. BEN AIPA: "I NEVER HAD TEN CENTS, SO HE TELL ME, 'HEY, YOU KNOW WHAT, YOU WORK IT OFF.' AND THAT'S HOW IT STARTED FOR ME." Aipa became an accomplished competitive swimmer all the way through high school at Farrington. His prowess in the pool was matched only by his toughness on the football field. However it was one particular day in Waikiki that would forever transform him, forging a love affair with the ocean that still entices him today. BEN AIPA: "THE WHITE WATER TURNED ME AROUND ... I CAUGHT THE WHITE WATER, I RODE IT ALL THE WAY TO THE BEACH. MY FIRST WAVE. I GOT HOOKED. MY VERY FIRST WAVE." Aipa was 22... ancient if you ask any grom. But soon, Aipa was surfing more and more. After that first wave, fisticuffs in the lineup with surf shop owner Joe Kuala would set him on a course with destiny. Aipa surfed nonstop 365 days, determined to get better than Joe. Three years later, Aipa apologized. BEN AIPA: "THE MOST HAPPIEST THING OF ALL, THIS THE GUY WHO GOT ME TO SHAPE MY FIRST BOARD. THIS THE GUY THAT OWNED THE SHOP CALLED INTERISLAND SURF SHOP, AND THAT'S WHERE I STARTED." Aipa soon began shaping full time, and tackled the powerful waves of the North Shore like he tackled full backs. His 240 pound frame became a plus, and a new style of surfing was born. BEN AIPA: "I NEVER REALIZED THAT, THAT I WAS GOING TO SET A THING BECAUSE I WAS OVER- SIZED, BIGGER THAN EVERYBODY ELSE. IT WAS LIKE POWER AGAINST POWER, OR POWER WITH POWER." Aipa took his experience in the ocean to the shaping room, dreaming up revolutionary designs like the stinger and swallow tail. Surfers like Mark Richards, Eddie Aikau, Buttons Kaluhiokalani and Mark Liddell went along for the ride. BEN AIPA: "SURFING HAS BEEN VERY, VERY GOOD TO ME. SURFBOARD BUILDING HAS BEEN VERY, VERY GOOD TO ME. SURFERS HAVE BEEN VERY, VERY GOOD TO ME, AND I ENJOY IT." Through it all, the father of modern surfing, Duke Kahanamoku, has been looking over Aipa's shoulder... Duke was both mentor and inspiration. BEN AIPA: "HE JUST PUMPED ME UP AND PUMPED EDDIE AIKAU UP, AND YOU KNOW, IT WAS JUST THERE FOR US." Aipa is now passing the torch to the next generation of shapers... Sons Akila and Duke have followed in their father's footsteps. BEN AIPA: "BUT, UNDER THEIR OWN NAME; UNDER THEIR OWN NAME. NOT, OH BEN AIPA'S SON, NO, THAT'S AIKILA AIPA YOU KNOW. THAT'S DUKE AIPA, AND I THINK HIS DAD WAS BEN." AP, KITV4 NEWS. Aipa estimates he's shaped over 36-thousand surfboards since he first started in the mid 60s. If you want to see this full story again -- just visit KITV dot com -- later tonight. We'll also post a link on our KITV4 facebook page -- so you can SHARE with with your friends.