Vance Knode

Christina O'Connor photo

Last month Vance Knode, owner of Soul Surf Hawaii, received an email from Nate, a 20-something surfer who wrote that he was moving to the Mainland and had some surfboards he couldn’t take with him. As a part of his company, Knode creates mosaic art on used surfboards, so he met with Nate hoping to find new canvases.

After looking at several boards, one board remained, and Knode asked if it was for sale. “Oh, that’s Danny’s board,” Nate responded. Nate went on to tell Knode about Danny. The two were buddies from high school who had been working construction together and surfed together almost every day at North Beach in Kaneohe. A couple of years ago, Danny went to visit family in California. But when he didn’t return, Nate got worried and asked around about his friend. He later learned that Danny had overdosed on drugs and died.

“Nate was pretty upset after telling the story,” Knode recalls. “He looked at me and said, ‘I will give you the board if you can do something positive with it.'” Driving around that day, Knode kept thinking about Danny and Nate, when it came to him: He would create a North Beach scene mosaic on the board and then auction it for charity.

All proceeds will benefit youth drug prevention and rehabilitation program Teen Challenge of the Hawaiian Islands. “They focus a lot on younger teens … getting them into rehab and getting them off of drugs, showing them that there are better things out there,” Knode said. He also is seeking donations to help purchase tiles and other materials for the board. Donations beyond the cost of materials also will go to Teen Challenge.

Knode created his first mosaic surfboard a few years ago on a whim. “I had an old board, and I don’t like throwing surfboards away,” he explained. “They are bad for the environment, so I like to keep them out of the landfill.”

The main goal of Soul Surf, which launched six months ago, is to create a youth surf program. Proceeds from Knode’s art sales – and merchandise including hats and stickers – go toward the program, which he aims to have running by the end of the school year. “(Surfing) gets kids out of the house and it keeps them off the street,” says Knode, who has been surfing since high school and also volunteers at his youngest son’s middle school.

With Danny’s board project, Knode hopes to be able to contribute funds to Teen Challenge in order to help prevent drug use among youths.

“I think for Nate, it’s about closure,” Knode adds. “Nate says he hopes that it raises a lot of money for the organization, but also just that it honors the memory of a really great friend.”

The auction will take place in November; a date is yet to be set. To make a donation or for more information, visit,, or call 225-1139.