From shaving ice to shaping lives

Former Matsumoto Store clerk Kanoa Dahlin has become a role model for hundreds of Haleiwa youths

By Greg Ambrose
Special to the

Most people who visit Matsumoto's find happiness in a cold cone of shave ice.

Kanoa Dahlin found the secret of life.

When young Dahlin started his first job working at the famous little Haleiwa shave ice shop, Stanley Matsumoto gave him much more than steady work.

"He tried to be a good role model for us younger workers," Dahlin says. "He showed us we could have good clean fun with our friends and that it's OK. He taught me how to work with people and what to expect out of life.

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Matsumoto Store is where Kanoa Dahlin learned the key to life from store owner Stanley Matsumoto.

"He taught me if I want something I have to work for it."

Matsumoto also taught the young Haleiwa surfer how to be independent, how important it is to be a good role model, and how to give back to the community.

Dahlin, now 21, has shown that he has learned those lessons well. Lee Kravitz has seen a lot of kids come and go over the years while running Haleiwa Alii Beach Park for the county. Some go on to succeed, some go to prison, and some just go. He likes what he has seen as he has watched Dahlin grow up.

Dahlin augmented the lessons learned from Matsumoto with more from silk screener Jimmy Cullen at Dandy Designs. He now is learning how to make surfboards from master shaper Ben Aipa, and is using those lessons to help the Haleiwa youngsters.

Dahlin started his own Hawaiian Grown label and taught the local kids how to print T-shirts. After making a contact in Japan, Dahlin buys used surfboards from friends and has the kids help pack them for shipment to Japan.

"He teaches them responsibility, and pride in earning stuff," says Kravitz. "Kanoa gets them ready for work, gets them experience, and they take better care of what they get because they had to work for it.

"That's the way he grew up, and it works. He's making sure there is another generation of kids who know how to work for a living."

Dahlin also gets blanks at a discount and shapes them into surfboards that he gives to the stoked kids at whatever price they can afford.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Kanoa Dahlin is surrounded by the youths who look up to him.

Aipa has known Dahlin since he was a beach rat, and is pleased to see what he has become."They are not super surfers, but they are super kids, because of Kanoa. He keeps the kids happy, surfs with them, talks with them, scolds them.

"He's a good asset in Haleiwa for the younger kids. He gets these kids to learn the value of what they are doing.

"I would take Kanoa as one of my boys, he's right on."

Dahlin didn't walk in to a job at Matsumoto's Store with no foundation, says Kravitz. "He has turned into a really super generous person, but his dad was exactly like that, a really giving guy."

Dahlin's mother and father, Earl and Dale Dahlin, were Mr. and Mrs. Haleiwa in the waves, excellent surfers who beat nearly everyone in competition. "Both my parents could have turned pro, but they gave that up when I and then my brothers came along," says Dahlin.

"They gave up the surfing dream they had, for their family dream."

When their family dream ended in divorce, Earl finished raising the boys on his own. It looks as though he has done a fine job of it. Kanoa is the oldest, and his middle brother, Kione, 19, has a job and has qualified for a Bishop Estate scholarship.

Youngest brother Kolohe, 16, attends Waialua High School and is a graduate of the Matsumoto's school of life. All three are exceptional surfers.

"I was stoked to see my younger brother working at Matsumoto's," says Dahlin. "I think working there is the most perfect teen-age job. Most workers there are local surfers and local girls from the area, and working there makes for a really strong bond between the teen-agers.

"You also meet famous people because Matsumoto's is known worldwide. I met Konishiki there, models, actors, I've met everybody there."

Dahlin dismisses any accolades with an endearing modesty. He does what he does to pass along what others taught him by their good example.

"Haleiwa is a poor community, so I started the surfboard thing to offer kids boards at decent prices. I have them work for me packing boards and printing T-shirts because it gives them some money and it keeps them in the surf. It keeps them from using drugs or getting into gangs. We can help them have clean fun, just like Stanley Matsumoto did for us."

Although he is relentlessly optimistic, Dahlin is convinced that society in Hawaii is headed in the wrong direction but he is too busy working on a solution to simply stand back and complain.

"Just driving from here to Waialua you see kids acting up and trying to be gangsters. Where will that get you in life?

"I want to keep these kids together and teach them solid values and give them a sense of unity between one another. I want to show them it's OK to hang out and have good clean fun and not have to worry about the bad side of peer pressure."

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