Foreword by John Streit. 
As I sit here trying to think of an introduction that does Brett Carey justice, there are simply too many facets to cover in a short foreword. I knew when I emailed Brett, a Sandbridge local transplanted to the Big Island of Hawaii, for this feature that he would send back intelligent and insightful answers. Boy, was I right! In fact, the story he tells went above and beyond any expectations I could have imagined. So I decided to go with an unfiltered approach: the words straight from the man himself. A tireless worker, scholar, public servant, doctor, technological innovator, outside-of-the-box surfer and overall great person. Take a minute to catch up with Brett. I guarantee you’ll have a better day afterwards.
Words by Brett Carey.
For the best for years, my wife and I have been living on the Big Island of Hawaii. My entire physical therapy career has been spent here.  In four years I have started two businesses. The first I helped cofound named: We built the first-ever interactive physical therapy treatment app on the Apple app store and have around 100,000 downloads to date. We have three other apps, one of which was built through a partnership with San Fransisco based start up: Gain Fitness.  Irehab has a variety of other products built to make it easier for physical therapists to communicate with their patients.  It has been super fun to be working in the technology business! 
I also started Hanu Exercise Rx, a personal training service. Through this I have been able to train some of the islands world class surfers as well as individuals in the private luxury community here known as Kukio. I really have enjoyed working with surfer Keala Naihe. He suffered a terrible ankle injury at Sunset Beach on Oahu and took almost an entire year to come back full strength.  According to Big Island pro CJ Kanuha, Keala has come back really strong. Keala has been really receptive to learning the principles of exercise science and has taught me a lot about the demands of being a pro surfer, which in turn has helped me to refine the training programs that I give our pros.  

keala pic
Last year I started talking with another San Francisco-based company called Therapydia. They are the collision of tech and physical therapy. It is amazing to see how Silicon Valley is disrupting the health care industry as a whole. Currently I feel that the biggest innovations in health care are coming from individuals outside of the health care industry. Last fall Therapydia flew me over to San Francisco to meet in person and discuss the idea of me joining the team and becoming responsible for Hawaii operations. I didn’t get to surf in Nor Cal because I was recovering from an injury at the time, but I did get to drive down to Mavericks and get the feel of the place. We are set to open our first Hawaii-based clinic within the next several weeks, which will overlook the world class surf break Kahalu’u. The community here in Kona has been so supportive of my efforts. Last year I was invited to join the West Hawaii Community Health Center Board of Directors. The board oversees all operations of our non-profit health center. After moving to Hawaii and not being able to chair the Virginia Beach “Ride for a Cause” surfing event (Brett’s creation carried on by Pungo Board House), there was a huge need within me to become involved in some other sort of charity.
My approach to surfing has changed a lot in recent years. One of my biggest inspirations for surfing has actually come from someone who doesn’t ride a board at all. I have met and watched Mark Cunningham bodysurf Pipeline. Even on the most crowded days, he sits a few yards in from everyone and catches the in-between set waves as well as all the waves that the second reef guys are out of position for. He is a stranger in the crowd. In a single hour, he ends up catching more waves than most will in an entire day. He figured out how to beat the system, or at least it seems that he is playing solitaire when everyone else is locked in an intense game of poker. From watching Mark, I realized that I needed to release my own ambitions that I had tucked away for so long. I let my disinterest in typical surfing start to seep out and let my surfing get strange!
I found my Mark-Cunningham-beating-the-system moment when I bought a $35 stringer-less bodyboard from Kmart and started to stand-up surf it through shallow reef passes that didn’t have enough water for a surfboard with fins to get through. On the parts of the reef where other surfers would kick out, I would paddle in, getting barelled in only a few inches of water. Standup bodyboarding quickly became an obsession. With very little time, you can get a ton of waves sitting inside a crowded line up — and get a lot of practice doing reverses, snaps and other maneuvers that normally require bigger surf and a lot of time. I even entered a random standup bodyboard contest in 2011 at the world-class “Banyans” surf spot. I had a few heats with pro CJ Kanuha and ended up making the semifinals. It was my first time surfing Banyans and rode my Kmart board the whole event.  
Concurrently, I was lucky to get a few surfboards by pro skater and shaper Ben Wei of Fifty Fifty waveskates. Ben makes really tiny boards under 5-foot that are made for the skater-turned-frustrated surfer. My days in skateboarding were focused on technical tricks, riding switch stance and doing flip tricks in and out of grinds and board slides. I never felt like any of my skate skills translated into surfing until I got a few boards from Ben and all the sudden I felt really enabled. His boards have tails that in some cases are thicker than the center of the board.  The rails are super thick which keeps water from coming up over the rails – making the board easy to get in the air. When Ben moved to Japan several years ago, all the sudden I couldn’t find anyone to make me boards. I started watching a lot of footage of Chase Hazen who wake surfs. He blasts big airs and turns off of 1-foot boat wakes and I couldn’t wait to see what wake surfboards would do in the ocean. Chase even told me through email that those boards wouldn’t work in the ocean, but I got a few anyways and have really liked them. Riding a 4’8″ in powerful Hawaiian surf is no easy task, but the payoff is huge. Those boards can be ridden really tight in the tube and are easy to do tail grabs and other tricks that are impossible on normal boards. I did manage to end up with stitches in my hand from trying to tail grab finger flip the board; my hand hit the fins and became a gnarly cut in which I could see bones exposed, but it healed quickly. While in Australia and New Zealand in 2013, I only took wake surfboards and was glad I did.  It’s way easier to travel with 4’8″ boards and a lot more fun.  
2013 was a crazy year. I had a stand off with a 15-foot tiger shark (confirmed by local authorities in helicopter). He circled me a few times and then came right up to me. I stood my ground hoping he would learn that I was not prey and soon he left me alone. In 2013, I was bicycling up to 25 miles per day, opting to ride a bicycle instead of buying a car. I was working way too much and surfing 6-7 days per week. On some of the huge days we had, I  rode a 9’0 and paddled in on a few when guys were towing in and wearing lifevests. The combo of living life to the fullest left me with a bruised sciatic nerve, and for a month it became hard to walk more than about 100 feet without severe cramps in my calf. I couldn’t lift my heel off the ground and had trouble bending my knee. It look another five months to become pain-free and gain my full strength back. During those five months I could only get in the water by prone surfing, so I started riding George Greenough inflatable surf mats. Those things are so fun, the mat molds to the shape of the wave. Since the mat has no stringer and no hard rails, your subtle body moments become really important. Through riding mats I learned so much about how waves move across the reef and proper positioning on waves. Oddly enough, I became better at surfing through the process of injury and recovery than I would have from just surfing alone.

Recently I got a Soloshot setup with a camera and can’t wait to start filming. My wife and I have been spending time on Hawaii’s most remote islands where surfing doesn’t really exist, and I am excited to get some footage at those places. I have a lot of ambition with surfing. I still think the average joe will advance surfing more than the average pro. Just look at Zoltan Torkos — works as a butcher at a grocery store and still landed the first-ever kickflip. I grew up watching the 90s Lost surf videos where non-pro guys like Justin Matteson and Joe Crimo were surfing below average beach breaks and inventing maneuvers that todays pros are still trying to learn. For me, I have a long list of day-dreamed maneuvers on much different equipment than anyone is riding. I have a long ways to go in order to complete these maneuvers, but with enough windy days with empty line ups, I will widdle away until I have something presentable. I figure that surfing has given me everything, either directly or indirectly. More than any money I have ever made. Any friends I have met and anywhere I have traveled have all been related to a love of surfing. I want to spend my life giving back to the art of surfing. Giving back by keeping surfers healthy and in the water, using the ocean for charity and pioneering new forms of wave riding that maybe others can learn from.

About The Author

4 Responses

  1. Aunt Char

    I like your story-keep it going. Love Aunt Char (AC)

  2. Aunt Char

    I like your story-keep it going. Love Aunt Char (AC)

  3. Diane mundy

    Hi Bret ….so glad to see you are doing very well …keep up the good work
    Aunt Diane

  4. Diane mundy

    Hi Bret ….so glad to see you are doing very well …keep up the good work
    Aunt Diane

Leave a Reply