Room and Board
Many in the South Bay would live in a wetsuit if given the chance. Luckily there’s Nikau Kai in Manhattan Beach, which caters to the waterman in all of us.
Photographed by Jeff Berting
Aloha, Nikau Kai. The shop is the newest gathering place for the meek and the bold when it comes to experiencing the fastest-growing water sport around: stand-up paddleboarding (SUP). Along with his wife, Alison, Jason Shanks owns and runs the only business of its kind in Manhattan Beach, offering quality gear (think boards, suits and leashes) as well as private, semi-private and group sessions. A dedication to friendliness and family is held high in this local operation—in fact, it’s embedded right in the name: Nikau and Kai, meaning “palm” and “ocean,” are the names of their two young boys.
I certainly didn’t have to pull Jason’s arm to get him to agree to be interviewed about the ocean, and after getting acquainted with my Boardworks 9’11” Joyride with an adjustable Kialoa Pupu paddle, we were both in the water, heading past the break. “Knees bent and eyes forward,“ instructed Jason, just as he would say to anyone taking a lesson. As we paddled north together toward El Porto, I tried my best to ask questions in between sets.
He couldn’t make it 20 yards without offering or being offered a slight raise of the paddle, the SUP equivalent of “hello,” on this day’s morning commute. “Another friend?” I asked. “They’re all friends,” replied Jason.
That’s the laidback, accepting attitude he carries with him everywhere. I looked around as everyone enjoyed a corner of the world that Starbucks hasn’t acquired; who needs caffeine when you have the ocean to revitalize you? “How could you not be happy out here?” he asked. With a pod of dolphins just to our right, I have no answer but a smile.
Whether you spot Jason weaving in and out of traffic by Uncle Bill’s, on The Strand or out on the water, just say “hi.” You’re already his friend.
Nikau Kai Waterman Shop
1300 Highland Avenue in