Praying For Surf - And Business

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - November 26, 2008
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Jamie O’Brien in a gaping North Shore barrel - he won the Da Hui Back Door Shoot Out in January

The waiting game started months ago.

“We’ve been waiting very patiently since summer for this, and we really think this is going to be a busy season,” says Renee Nobriga of North Shore Swimwear. “Praying for surf, and I’m pretty sure it’s coming.”

Their prayers have been answered. The wait is over.

“You could almost draw a graph with the waves and our business in the winter - you have a huge influx of people,” says Chris Gibbon of Cholo’s Homestyle Mexican Restaurant in Haleiwa. “Usually from November on, there’s no looking back.”

The surge in business usually happens when professional surfers arrive in town for several annual events and the curious come out to watch them. For more than six weeks the action is red-hot - and so is the spending.


According to state visitor figures, the winter months not only generate big surf they also contribute to big sales. Visitors and local residents pump more than $9 million into the state’s economy every year. The waves are a driving force, and North Shore residents are happy to be part of the ride.

“We’re definitely ready for them,” says Eddie Crawford of the popular Surf-n-Sea surf shop in Haleiwa. “We’re all geared up and ready to go.”

Crawford says despite a tough economic year, he’s still hiring, knowing the crowds will follow the big surf.

“We are definitely hiring people, it’s a good thing because you hear all the bad news, but really we’re unaffected so far - knock on wood,” says Crawford.

Others have seen a slight drop in sales in 2008, anywhere from 10 percent to 20 percent.

But for the most part, the North Shore has weathered the storm fairly well, and people are spending money.

“We had our moments this summer, but it was just really unsteady. Now it seems to be picking up a lot better,” adds Nobriga.

“We try to keep the country, country, and that’s why people keep coming out here,” says Crawford.

Some even say they’ve seen a change in momentum since general election day on Nov. 4.

“It seems like it has picked up, and it seems like the election, for sure, the mood of the people seems a lot better, so that’s helped a lot for sure,” adds Gibbon.

While most acknowledge the high surf and professional events attract surfers - not all of them are big spenders.

“Surfers maybe don’t spend that much money, but the whole entourage that comes with them will help our business out for sure,” says Gibbon with a laugh. “That’s going to tell us a lot how the economy is really affecting us.”

In that entourage are visitors such as Walt and Barbara French of New Jersey.

“It’s terrific, and we’re having such a great time, the crowd is wonderful, and we’re celebrating our anniversary on top of it - it couldn’t be better,” smiles Barbara French.

Of course, with every peak comes a valley, and in this case the increase in visitors and local residents to the North Shore means more traffic out on the streets and in the lineups.

“It is a little tough at times to deal with, but in the end the traffic really helps out,” says Nobriga.

“When I’m trying to go surf it hurts; when I’m at work, that’s how I make my money,” chuckles Gibbon.

It’s a small price to pay in order to play out on the North Shore. Most agree it is certainly worth the wait.

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