The New Normal: Koa Smith On Social Media Buyoancy And *Potentially* Being Immune To Coronavirus
“Everything else is crashing, but vlog stocks are skyrocketing!”
Few figures in the surf industry emanate light and positivity like Hawaii’s Koa Smith.
Koa’s spirit glows like a bioluminescent, his white teeth glisten like the gates of mythologized heaven, and his blonde hair bounces whimsically atop sunkissed shoulders 366 days a year.
Nevertheless, Koa, like the rest of us, is being affected by the coronavirus. So we decided to get him on the phone and see how he’s coping with the novel strain, both on a personal and professional level.
Stab: Hey Koa, where are you staying for all of this, and who are you staying with?
Koa Smith: I live on the North Shore of Oahu, and I’m super fortunate to live right on the beach with my brother and Travis, right in front of Pupukea.
Before all this went down, my girlfriend lives in New York, and I just kind of saw it…saw the cases turning up…and was like, ‘Hey, you got to get the fuck out of there. Like, tomorrow,’ you know? And so I got her out here. And then I also have my full-time filmer, Michael Feldman, with me as well. So it’s actually been a super productive time for me. Normally I would be like traveling the world and chasing swells and stuff like that, but now I can just focus on what’s in front of me. So I kinda have been buckling down and almost working harder than ever. Instead of unplugging and relaxing during this time, I’ve kinda just been doubling down on everything, which has been fun.
It probably helps that you can still surf in Hawaii, too.
Yeah, for sure. I mean, it had whispers of summer—it was flat and we’re just like, ‘Okay, I guess it’s time to start training and just doing other activities.’ And then all of a sudden the Pacific just woke back up and took everyone by surprise.
It seems to me like the North Shore is one of the places that’s stayed the most normal throughout all of this. Is that right or am I crazy?
Yeah, we really haven’t been affected too badly. I mean it’s like, as soon as you’d go shopping, that’s when it hits you and you’re like, ‘Whoa, this shit is still going on.’ But other than that, we pretty much live our same lives here.
It’s weird not being able to hang out with friends as much or hug people though [laughs].
And then we have the Sunrise Shack over here, and it’s like, so fricking slow. It’s crazy. We’re still open, but it’s pretty much like our own private shop right now. Like we just go there and hang out and eat food.
Also, for the past few weeks, there’s been cops on the beach with four-wheelers that are giving everyone tickets. You’re allowed to exercise on the beach, you’re allowed to move, but the moment you sit down, they’ll give you a ticket. And yesterday was the first day they didn’t come, and it was like the Pipe Masters was going on. There were like a hundred people or more on the beach. Like holy shit [laughs].
How good was Pipeline yesterday?
Oh man. Some of the best Pipe I’ve ever seen in my life. It was super consistent, like five waves sets. Really, really west. We were sitting almost in front Off The Wall, and it looked like a point break, just coming like all the way across. Plus dreamy conditions—light offshore. Oh my gosh. It was pretty crazy.
Was it easier to get waves and usual? How was the crowd?
I feel like the crowd is kind of just based on those heavy pipe surfers that are going to take any waves that come in, and they all were out there. But I mean, overall it was pretty mellow. There weren’t any foreigners or anything like that.
Sounds like a dream! Sorry, just back to the Sunrise Shack thing…what about your other shops? ‘Cause you have one in Honolulu, right? And then a few other places as well?
Yeah, we have one in Waikiki that’s still open, and that’s been really slow because most of the hotels are shut down, and then the three that are open have like 10% occupancy. So we’re having days where we do like $24, and it’s like fuck, but we want to stay open and be a little hub for people to grab take out and have a good experience.
Oooh that’s tough.
Yeah, for sure. I mean, now it’s just like, how long is this going to last, and how long can we last? It’s a little scary.
I can imagine. But it’s still pretty exciting that you guys have something that you’ve built from the ground up and is spreading across the world. You’ve got shops in Japan now, too, right?
Yeah, we have a couple locations in Japan. We have three food trucks, and they actually just opened up a main location in common store setup. It’s this two-story building that has a rainbow on it [laughs].
Wow. That’s insane. And are those still open, or did you guys have to shut them down?
I think everything’s shut in Japan.
Yeah, I figured. I mean, they had to cancel the damn Olympics. So I guess that with the stores closed, you’ve gotta focus on your other business, being social media. It’s funny, because people love to say that being an “influencer” isn’t a real job, but now it’s one of the only jobs in the world that you can still do.
[Laughs] I know, everything else is crashing, but vlog stocks are skyrocketing. If you think about it, people are literally locked inside, and there’s not much going on. So if you can share something that is impactful and cool, then it’s going to do pretty well right now, you know? There’s a lot of eyeballs waiting, thirsty for content, so it’s pretty cool.
So what’s more important to your personal brand—Instagram or Youtube?
Um, I guess it just kinda depends on the idea. Like right now I’m trying to do a consistent vlog that shows my day to day life, and that seems more suited to Youtube. And then there are those moments that are a little bit more of a viral idea. Like I did a quarantine rap, and then I did 11 quarantine-safe greetings, which were more catered towards the Instagram, and they like kind of took off a little bit. So really it’s about maximizing both.
What’s your screen time looking like right now? On a daily basis.
Let me look. I have a limit, so it only lets me be on social media for an hour each day. Sometimes I ignore that, depending on what’s going on, but I try to abide so that I don’t get stuck in the vortex. But okay, my daily average is two hours and 19 minutes right now. That’s actually pretty good.
That’s really good. That’s way better than most people we talk to.
Yeah. Well, it’s what’s the most?
I think Caroline Marks had six-something.
Oh man! I mean, it’s contextual too though. Like I’m not actually required to stay inside—I’m still surfing, I’m still wandering around—but I definitely try to focus on other stuff and not be on my phone, you know? I’m pretty hard on myself when it comes to wasting my time. I think it’s fine if you’re on your phone and you’re learning something or watching something educational, then that’s all good.
Caroline said four of those hours were on Tik-Tok…
Yeah…what’s your stance on Tik-Tok by the way? Did you start one or…?
I dunno…I dunno if I can handle it. I think Tik Tok’s cool—it’s just like those funny real moments that are just like shorter and better. So there’s definitely something there, but I just got to learn it a little more. It’s crazy how viral you can go though…
Dude, somebody showed me a video yesterday of a guy pulling a raw piece of salmon out of a glass of ice water with chopsticks. Like literally nothing to the video whatsoever. And I had like 840,000 views.
Yeah. If you could figure it out and jump into that algorithm, you’re laughing.
I feel like it’s a gen Z thing and I’ll ever understand it at all. Anyways, I also know that you’re pretty big into health and fitness. So what are three foods that you just have stockpiled in the house during “quarantine”?
First one’s bullet coffee. We make a nice big bullet every morning. We actually just launched a new Sunrise Shack coffee. Like we have our own beans now. And then we’ve actually been getting delivered farm goods like kale and broccoli and whatever’s like fresh on the farm, which has been really nice cause then you don’t have to go into Food Land with a mask on and risk getting the infection or whatever. And lastly, some blue chips and Bitchin’ sauce.
What have you been watching?
I’ve been watching Wim Hoff YouTube videos, where he walks you through different lengths of the breathing you can do. There’s a three-round and a five-round. If you just lay down, he’ll walk you through the whole breathing experience. And that is like the craziest, best little hack ever right there.
So are you technically immune to this whole coronavirus thing if you’re working with Wim?
I don’t know. I don’t know. But Wim says if you do the breathing then no virus can survive. So…
Wow. So Wim Hoff could literally save the world. If we could just get his message out to everyone…
Yeah, and I feel like YouTube is kind of the way to do it, so that’s pretty cool.
Leave it to us. We’ll spread the word.
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