In our search for amazing family businesses we came across HSLI that is a family surf instructor business in Hawaii. How is awesome is that right? One look at what they do and who they are and we immediately wanted to pack our suitcases and head down there to visit them. And one day we will.

They took the time to answer some questions for us out of their crazy busy schedule. They truly are an amazing example of what a family business is and what it stands for. Enjoy the interview and next time you’re down that way make sure you stop by.

1. Tell us about HSLI, what is all about?

Hawaii Lifeguard Surf Instructors (HLSI) We are a professional water sports company. locally owned and operated on the Big Island of Hawaii- West Side of the Island. We specialize in the ancient Hawaiian Sport and culture of surfing. We are a family owned and operated business, in operation since 1999. Surfing is our main aspect at HLSI but we also provide Stand Up Paddle Boarding and Kayaking Lessons and Tours. Lifeguard Courses are also held at HLSI. You will be surfing with a father, brother, son, uncle, mother, auntie, sister daughter or cousin here at HLSI. We welcome you to be a part of our OHANA (family)

2. Who came up with the idea of starting this type of business?

My father joined the original HLSI small business in 1994, after a few years he became partner, then took it into his own hands in 1999 and revamped HLSI into a family business.

3. What’s a typical day like at the business?

This could be an entire novel…so in short: It is a 24/7 business….

  • Starts off at 6am checking surf conditions and monitoring weather.
  • Contacting guests and concierge with the report.
  • Prepping and loading HLSI surf Truck with proper equipment and briefing Lifeguards on the days agenda.
  • Opening the HLSI HQ (store/office) at 8am and prepping for our students to arrive for check in at HQ
  • Students issued proper safety gear.
  • Lifeguard begins the HLSI 30 minute safety class and pre instruction course before students depart for the beach park for their surfing.
  • Surfing course is 2 hours x 3 courses daily.
  • Lifeguards and HLSI Truck returns at 4:30pm to unload and return/wash all equipment.
  • HLSI HQ closes shop at 5pm.
  • Surf and weather is monitored for next day.
  • Assigned Lifeguards meet before the days end to brief on next days agenda.
  • Reservations by phone and online are taken through the night until 8pm by HLSI- You will either speak with the owner or myself-no automated staff here. .
  • Social networking is done daily by myself to keep HLSI relevant and accessible to everyone online.
  • Website is updated at least once weekly to keep it relevant and up to date- all done in house by myself.

4. Working with family can be tough but also be very rewarding. What is one pro and one con about working with family in a business?

PRO: Trust, Reliability and Synchronization. Working with family we all have a common goal and are working to better each other and our business as a whole. We do not have to worry about being taken advantage of or ulterior motives of others in the work field. We think a like and have that connection that is hard to find to work and feed off each other. We trust in each other 100%. Through ups and downs we are all in it together.

Through the years we have had to learn these lessons the hard way. HLSI did not start out as a family business and this is the MAIN reason we are FAMILY OPERATED.

CON: We’re On Call 24/7- There is no hesitation or question about what needs to be done, there is no one else to fill our shoes. Everyone has a role and it must be on point or someone else will have to pick up the slack….and you will hear about it. Theres no sick days to go play- if your sick you better be deadly sick in bed. Were family so there is no shame- its a tell it like it is situation. You can be fired and hired within the same day or same hour! LOL- were not joking.

5. What is one thing you absolutely love about what you do for a living?

We get to share and teach others about what we love. Surfing and the ocean is very important to us. To be able to pass on and share our appreciation and love for the sport, culture and lifestyle here in Hawaii is priceless.- In a nutshell- we making a living doing what we love. I love that my children will be able to do this and pass it down from generation to generation.

6. What would be your advice to someone wanting to start a business with family?

Make sure whatever you start you are 100% passionate about it, and can picture yourself doing it until the end. It should be something you will proudly pass down generation after generation.  Ask yourself/ and the family- if you could do it for free, would you? if you answer YES- your good to go!

7. Has there ever been any bumps in the road while running this type of business?

Of course, its a live and learn situation- learn from our mistakes to get better at what we do. No one is perfect, no one has the perfect business. But we have our business and our family and that is how we operate. Together. We had to learn that you can not depend and count and trust in everyone. They do not all share the same values.

Others in the past have taken what we have to share and then opened business as our competition.

Our biggest challenge not only in our business but our entire family was losing a vital family member in 2009. My younger brother, Head HLSI Lifeguard, my fathers protege-  The everyday water man at HLSI was taken at age 20 due to a fatal car accident. We closed business immediately and could not even fathom opening again, but we had no other choice- the entire family income depends on HLSI. We took a few weeks to grieve then had to pick up the pieces and open our doors. It is what my brother would have wanted. His legacy lives strong here at HLSI. We are proud of him and proud of our entire family for pushing through and staying strong.

8. If you could offer one piece of advice to any new or seasoned business owners what would it be?

Do what you love and love what you do. Stay strong, passionate and proud of what you do, and always be open to new ideas, education and progression.

9. What’s the one thing you see most people do wrong when trying to learn to surf?

The reasoning behind it and the lack of respect for their surroundings.

You should be surfing for the experience and joy. Its not a job or a competition. The ocean is a very powerful and could be a deadly place. You need to always be aware of your surroundings. Safety first…fun immediately to follow.

10. Where can others learn more about you, follow you and get in touch with you?

Online– HLSI website:

Follow us on FacebookYouTube, Twitter and MySpace.

We are listed on most major travel sites and directories: yelp, trip advisor, travel zoo, google maps, yahoo, brownbook etc.

Call us– We love to speak with people direct- 808-324-0442

Email us– surflessons(at)