This month we’re welcoming the newest member to the T&C surf team, 23 year old Waimanalo native Koa Yokota. He surfs. He skates. He rides 5ft twin fins. He lives in a converted handi-van on his family farm. You could say Koa marches to the beat of a different drummer. But really, it’s two drummers and he doesn’t march, he sways with his guitar while crooning into a silver mic, accompanied by three bandmates and they call themselves Fungi Queen. And yes, they actually have two drummers. You can check them out on Spotify and Apple Music.
Koa grew up like most Hawai’i boys do…surrounded by the sea, safely tucked beneath the mountains, close to the land. He was raised on his family’s farm in Waimanalo, where he developed a deep appreciation and connection with the ʻāina. Homeschooled until the age of 16, when he went on to early college enrollment and eventually graduated from UH with a bachelor’s degree in sustainability. Koa explains, “my original intention was to work with the surf industry to use more sustainable materials and promote eco-friendly and recycled products. By the time I graduated, I was drawn more towards the farming side of things, finding ways to support local farmers so Hawai’i can become more sustainable.”
Midway through college Koa took some time off from school to focus on competitive surfing, which led him to represent Hawai’i at the ISA Junior Championships in 2016. But competitive surfing left Koa with a bad taste, as many surfers / artists experience. “I did one more contest after ISA juniors, he says.” I lost in the second round or something, and was so bummed that I was like,"I don’t ever want to feel this bummed from surfing ever again.”
After finishing college Koa stayed close to the land and sea, eating the food he grows, trying out different boards, playing music, and happily freesurfing around the island. He landed sponsorships with Matunas, Dragon Alliance, goodgoodhoney, Globe, and previously Vans. It’s no surprise he gained success away from the contest zone. His surf style is a unique blend of cruisy and aggressive, drawing classic lines with a modern day flair. That style obviously translates into skateboarding, as evidenced by Koa’s shoe sponsor, Globe Brand. When he’s not working on his family’s farm, surfing, or playing music, you can usually find him ripping up Keoi or Kamilo'iki skate parks.
Freesurfing allowed Koa to explore more alternative shaped boards than the three fin thruster that dominates competitive surfing. “My go-to board is definitely a twin fin”, he exclaims. “On a normal 3-5 foot day I’ll ride a 5’5” high-performance twinny. “It has a retro outline but the rails are more tapered down, the tail’s more flipped up and shaved down a bit thinner.” Koa’s quiver is a broad range of sizes and shapes, from 5’2” all the way up to 7 foot, not including longboards. “I’m excited to try out a bunch of boards by both Makani (McDonald) and Glenn (Pang),” Koa says. “Then from there, hopefully start helping design new shapes.”
Finding success as a freesurfer also allowed Koa to commit to other creative outlets such as music. In 2020, he and a few friends started a band called Fungi Queen and are about to release their debut album. Their spacious indi-rock sound lilts through several genres, with bluesy undertones backed by a sub-punk vibe. The eclectic group comprises two drummers, a bassist, keyboard / vocals, and Koa on guitar, bass and vocals. Their musical influences range from the obscure Aussie group, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, to classics like The Allman Brothers Band and Grateful Dead. “We’ve been working on our first studio album that should be dropping within the next month or two, Koa explains. “Then after that, promoting, playing shows, and hopefully by next spring we’ll be touring the west coast.”
With the winter surf season on the way, and musical aspirations in full swing, Koa has a lot to look forward to. When asked about his recent collaboration with T&C he said, “T&C has been a very influential brand in the surfing and skateboarding worlds for the past 50 years. I think it’s really special to be able to represent such a core brand, I’m very stoked and grateful to have this opportunity” We’re also super stoked to have Koa on the team! T&C Vice President Ryan Sugihara stated "We're excited to have Koa represent us in the water and in the community. He's a great surfer that will be able to take advantage of our full line of surfboards. His values, lifestyle and many talents align with T&C and we are excited he's on board."