screenhunter_05-oct-13-16-10Chamber Spotlight Finding your way to the Third Stone If you wander over to the old Waialua Sugar Mill site, you probably notice the North Shore Soap Factory and Island-X Warehouse. As you walk into the parking lot, you may not pay much attention to a small shop on the side displaying t-shirts, hats, board shorts and some surfboards with the sign “III Stone” (known as Third Stone) above the doorway. Indeed, folks not familiar with surfing could easily miss it or may just be lost. However, this storefront provides an illuminating glimpse into a vibrant North Shore industry and culture just beyond its doors.

Third Stone, with its bustling surfboard factory behind the retail store, is owned by Stephen “Steve” Matthews and located at 67-106 Kealohanui St. in Waialua; phone 808-63STONE (808-637-8663). It’s known in the industry as one of the best places to get a custom board. Its specialty, and what the business was founded on, is glassing (applying fiberglass to the surfboard). “We’ve been making and selling boards for the past 25 years,” says Steve. “It’s hard to find someone we haven’t had as a customer.” Inside the retail shop you may find a few seasoned surfers talking story or, as well-known area surfer Owl Chapman puts it, “sharing knowledge and aloha.” At that point, you may begin to understand the meaning of the business’s name, Third Stone, a term occasionally used to refer to Oahu, also known as “the gathering place.” You start to get it.

This is a window into and also one of several surfrelated businesses cooperating and working together in a successful and surging industry which has rooted itself throughout the entire mill site since the Waialua Sugar Mill closed 20 years ago. What has emerged inside the old abandoned buildings and warehouses are some of the best surfboard makers, graphic designers and film makers anywhere. Who knew? Well, those in the surfing community, of course. In the late 1980’s as a grom (surfer speak for surfer under 16 years old), Pete Matthews, Steve’s brother, began fixing dings (cracks) on surfboards while living in Southern California. At the age of 17, Pete moved to North Shore, Oahu, and learned the surfboard trade under several legendary surfboard builders. In 1991 Pete opened Third Stone surfboard factory in an old farmhouse near Sunset Beach.

Meanwhile, Steve, seven years younger, attended Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, and majored in recreation and business administration. He also worked with his brother whenever he visited, which was often. As part of his education, Steve grabbed any opportunity to work on mockups of the family business. Regularly traveling back and forth, he finally decided while on spring break in his last semester of school that it was time to stay here and work with his brother fulltime. Over the years, the location of Third Stone changed from a garage to abandoned houses to a small factory Steve built in back of Chun’s Store. Then, in 2002 after nearly a year of waiting and negotiations, he secured a 4,000-square foot open warehouse building at the sugar mill site through a lease with Castle & Cooke. It was the last building available for lease.

He was only 21, but he had a vision, knowledge, and initiative. Now, Third Stone has a second story and more than 6,000 square feet divided into rooms that house the retail store, business office, and various factory operations where shapers, glassers, graphic designers, silk screeners, and film makers are hard at work. “I can tell you a story about each room,” says Steve. The business has grown and evolved over the years and with it the brothers’ knowledge of the surfboard manufacturing industry. Involved in the film production end, brother Pete started traveling around the world with some of the world’s major retailers and ended up settling in Bali more than 10 years ago. But Steve chose to stay and nurture his business. He moved from the clothing line and business end to every aspect of the operation.

Today Third Stone is a surf shop that does it all, and you’ll never know who you’ll talk to if you venture inside. Hours of operation are: Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Saturday, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sunday, closed. North Shore Chamber of Commerce News North Shore Chamber of Comme