Alternative Habitat

Alex Smith's dry-docked abode on the North Shore

Captain Alex Smith makes himself at home on the bow of The Brainstorm. Photo: Coots
For the handful of professional surfers fortunate enough to score a room in a plush team house, a winter on the North Shore is paired with private chefs, beachfront bedrooms overlooking some of the most sought-after real estate in the country, and rumored team masseuses. But this is a far cry from reality for most surfers on the North Shore. For the unsung masses, the surfers trying to make a name for themselves or those with sponsors unable to own or rent a home for the season, finding a place to lay their head is a battle in and of itself. For Kauai’s Alex Smith, who doesn’t have a main sponsor, an open mind and a little creativity found him with some of the most interesting digs of the season. Alex spent his winter on a boat, a dry-docked vessel in the mountains.

“I’m a bit of procrastinator. I always have been. So when it came to finding a place to stay on the North Shore this winter, I waited until the day before I flew over from Kauai to start looking,” recalls Alex with a laugh. “Lucky for me, my mom helped me find an old river boat that had been converted into a house and dry-docked up in the mountains at Pupukea. I was worried at first, but it turned out to be one of the sickest places I’ve ever stayed. Who needs a team house when I’ve got a boat?”

As Alex alluded, the boat, dubbed The Brainstorm, was initially crafted as a riverboat and lived a short life in Honolulu’s Ala Moana harbor. Unfortunately, the rough seas that frequent the harbor proved to be too much for the vessel. The Brainstorm’s tender disposition left the owners little choice and they listed the boat for sale. Where the previous owners had seen only a boat’s slow demise, the new owners saw an opportunity and parked the boat in the mountains above Pupukea, retrofitting The Brainstorm with Wi-Fi and a fresh water supply. For Smith, it was love at first sight.

“I could not have been more stoked to live on that boat. We had electricity, the Internet, TV, three beds…pretty much everything you could ask for. I loved being away from the scene a bit too. If I wanted to, I could spend the day cruising at the Nike house with my brother Koa, but I like to have some quiet time too, which was epic living on the boat.”

Looking back on the experience, Alex is adamant that he wouldn’t change a thing. “It was incredible living up there. It was always a trip to see people’s reactions when they saw the place for the first time. Girls really seemed to get into it and we had a few great nights. All things considered, I’d take the boat in the mountains over a team house on the beach any day.”

Alex still takes his slippers off before going inside. He lived on a boat, but he wasn't born in a barn. Photo: Coots
Wi-Fi, freshwater, and the security of a mosquito net, all with great views and a helluva yard. Photo: Coots
There's no place like this home. Brother Koa and Alex a long way from the circus at Pipe. Photo: Coots