By Léo Azambuja

Tamba Surf Company owner Saa Tamba and employee Tessa Bueno.

Tamba Surf Company owner Saa Tamba and employee Tessa Bueno.

From its humble beginnings in a tiny retail space in Kapa‘a 17 years ago, Tamba Surf Company shot to fame and became a household name in surfing circles around the world.

The reasons for its success include all the values dear to Hawai‘i; humility, hard work, ‘ohana, friendship, unity, kindness, patience and, of course, aloha.

“I always wanted to have a surf shop, for some reason, I don’t really know why,” said Saa Tamba, a Kapa‘a High School graduate who had never worked in a retail store before opening Tamba. “I had no idea at all on how to do it.”


Tamba hats have helped spread the brand.

So after seeking advice from a couple businessmen, he sold his Harley Davidson and opened a credit card to make his dream come true on Sept. 11, 1998.

As a new surf shop owner, Saa ran through a list of major surf brands, searching for products for his store. But he soon found out the commercial side of surfing is purely business, quite different from the camaraderie that built the sport’s foundation.

He reached out for a well-known, established surf brand, and was laughed at when they realized how small his store was at the time, 300 square feet. He was told by a rep he needed at least $15,000 to open an account.

“That’s when I realized, I thought I was going to be talking to one surfer,” said Saa, his Pidgin English strong on his voice. He thought surfing reps would be stoked and give him props — and support — for opening a surf shop on Kaua‘i. “But it wasn’t like that, I was talking to one business person. I was just so blind on how it worked, the retail business. I called another company, same thing.”

20151221_164443Undeterred, Saa settled on representing up-and-coming brands. But after a while, they too got big and left him. Rather than fold, he took it as an incentive to start his own line of clothing. Now, all the clothing and most of the accessories in the store are from Tamba; T-shirts, jackets, shorts, hats, slippers, wallets, wax, deck pads and even custom-made surfboards.

Meanwhile, some of his friends were becoming famous in the