Through the decades, Orange County has been home to many of the great “surfing families:” The Hoffmans, the Alters, the Sizemores, the Calhouns, the Fletchers, on and on … it’s a great place to both surf and raise a family.
Today I wanna talk about one of the biggest and coolest Surf Ohanas (Hawaiian word for family) that currently live and thrive right here in Huntington Beach. The Pais.
This is a huge family and they all surf, work and play together. It’s amazing.
At this summer’s induction ceremony for the Surfers’ Hall of Fame, of which Aaron Pai is the host of each year, and they were foolish enough to give me the microphone, I couldn’t help but notice and point out, “They got more Pais out here than Marie Callender’s.” It’s true.
Aaron Pai, the dad, was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. The family moved to California when he was a kid and he became a surfer.
There is a huge difference between “became a ‘surfer’” and “learned to surf.” Aaron (AP is what everybody calls him) is a true, full-blooded “SURFER.” He also owns Huntington Surf & Sport. At this point I am going to let him tell it in his own words.
“I fell in love with surfing. It was 1968 and I got to see legends like David Nuuhiwa, Corky Carroll, Dwight Dunn, Carl Hayward, Bob Hurley charge Northside. Every summer I got to stay at Grandma Choi’s. She owned some apartments in Waikiki and I surfed Pops, Threes, Canoes
“(I) surfed all day … then I would come home to Grandma Choi’s and she would have a huge dinner prepared where everyone was welcomed! Everyone was welcomed at Grandma Choi’s!
“She taught me what “aloha spirit” was all about! Grandma Choi was a small woman with a huge heart!
“As a teenager I surfed Northside every day … saw surf movies at the surf theater … camped out at the cliffs at 16 years old … at School I wrote stories about surfing … and dreamed of owning a surf shop.
“Fast forward to 1978 and that is when the first Huntington Surf & Sport opened on 15th Street and PCH in Huntington Beach. I was surfing Northside and got hired out in the water to work at Huntington Surf & Sport. I was the first person to be hired at HSS and earned $2.65 per hour. I sold surf wax, surfboards, wetsuits.
“They offered to sell the business to me. With the help of my mom and dad – my mom (was) a teacher and my dad (was) a structural engineer – I borrowed $60,000 and my dream of owning a surf shop became reality! I was stoked to be able to take my love for surfing and build it into the walls, foundation and all of Huntington Surf & Sport.
“I was also stoked to take Grandma Choi’s “aloha spirit” and share it with all the guests that walk through our doors at HSS!”
In 1985, Aaron Pai married his wife, Sher, and the couple had Lindsay, Trevor, Taylor and Ashlyn Pai, who all have worked at the store. And that is when the family really began to grow and Aaron continued:
“Then, Lindsay married Scotty. Trevor married Jenna. Taylor married Delany and Ashlyn is engaged to Alrik. Lindsay and Scotty have four kids: Rosie, Izzy, Goldie and Sid. Trevor and Jenna have three kids: Rooney, Toby, Murphy. Taylor and Delany have three kids: Finn, Jones, Zowie.
“That makes 20 of us in DA PAI FAMILY! We all share a love for the ocean and surfing. Surfing is our life. We are a Surfing Family!
“Today, Sid is the youngest (5 years old) and charges the waves and I am the oldest and still surfing today!
“This past summer, the Pai Family was very honored to be the official Huntington Beach Community Grand Marshals of the Huntington Beach Fourth of July Parade.
“Now it’s 2023, the Pai Family’s passion for surfing and family has got us to where we are today. We have four stores (and an online store) all located in Huntington Beach and are dedicated to maintaining a hardcore commitment to our surfing community, along with making our world a better place through surfing. It’s a true joy to share Grandma Choi’s aloha spirit every day with the guests and the work crew that walk through our doors of HSS.
“It’s a true joy to be able to wake up, go to work, and see my family.”
Pretty cool huh? Hey, for me, it’s a true joy just to know these guys and that they exist. In this day and age where “family values” seem to have generally eroded to a large degree, it makes me happy to realize that ones like the Pai Ohana still exist and thrive.
Good on ya AP. And, lastly, who cannot dig a family that has a kid named Zowie?