Surf Shacks 064

Gabriel Tennberg
North Shore, Oahu

Russell Brownley

Perched on a little stretch of beach on the iconic North Shore of Oahu sits an old wooden A-frame that is a picturesque surf shack in every way. The residents are the beautiful smiling Tennberg family. Gabriel Tennberg, or GBO as friends call him, is a busy dude. Don’t let these laid back, perma-vacation, house on the beach in Hawaii fool you. Between running his own business, Mucho Aloha, while also designing for other brands based in California, Hawaii and Australia — plus raising four kids, he and his wife Juliana have their hands full to say the least. We were fortunate to finally catch up with Gabriel to get a glimpse inside his epic surfers’ dream home and talk a little shop.

Russell Brownley
Russell Brownley
Russell Brownley

Who are you? Tell us a little about yourself?

I’m just a simple guy from Kauai that likes to make cool stuff and surf occasionally. Dad and husband… Love my family, they’re the best.

Between Mucho Aloha, beer, hot sauce, and shaved ice brands, The Pacific Project, VP of Design at the biggest brands in surf — you definitely have an impressive resume and your hands in a lot of cool stuff it seems. Tell us about your professional life and the businesses you’ve started.

Ha ha, long story short here… I married my beautiful wife just after college and headed to California not sure what was next. I really had no plan other that to start the next chapter in this life adventure. I got started in design by helping at a small brand in San Clemente, running around to get boardshorts made back when stuff was still done locally a lot. I had zero background in product design and manufacturing, that time was my schooling. I learned from one of the best dudes, Lawrence Quigley — Squiggs to friends. The rest is history as they say. I was fortunate enough to work with some of the best brands: Billabong, Element, Hurley, DC and Quiksilver. Somewhere along the line I got creative with a good friend Jeff Yokoyama and birthed the brand Mucho Aloha. That’s a big part of my life now, making beer and other cool stuff.

What was the small brand in San Clemente you mentioned?

That small brand was Lost Surfboards. I was basically a runner — as in run around and get anything done that needed doing. A lot of that was garment development and production. That got me interested in the design component, and I just started dabbling.

When did you go to work for Quik? What was your role there?

At Quik I was VP of Design and I personally handled boardshort innovation.

Tell us more about your current brands.

My current brand involvements are Mucho Aloha, where I’m a founding partner. I wear a lot of hats, but my main focus is creative direction. Stacey MFG is a young brand out of Currumbin, AUS. Lee Stacey is an amazing shaper and all around good dude that has a good crew surrounding him. I’ve helped him develop an apparel component to the brand. Tons of fun and a bright future there. Aloha Exchange is a shop on my home island of Kauai started by two of my best friends. I work with them on everything from branding to custom product development.

As an entrepreneur you wear a lot of hats (and looks like you are dabbling in a lot these days). What type of work do you enjoy the most?

Oh man, yes lots of hats. My favorite thing to do will always be taking an idea from concept, to sketch, to real life product. Watching ideas come to life, and then seeing someone get stoked and enjoy that product. The full cycle of design.

Russell Brownley
Russell Brownley
Russell Brownley

What does a typical day in the life of GBO consist of?

Nowadays I’m out of the rat race and working from home which is amazing. It’s a hustle, but it”s the best. Days kinda depend on the surf a bit, but a typical day has emails, surf, designing, more emails, hanging with the fam at the beach, a coupla beers at sunset time. Rinse and repeat.

Where are you from originally? And how long have you lived here on the North Shore in this beautiful A-frame?

I grew up on Kauai, south side. After high school I moved to Oahu for college, then on to California back in 1997 (yikes!). Sixteen years, four kids and a couple homes later, we moved back to Hawaii. Been on the north shore for going on 5 yrs now.

How would you compare living on Oahu to living in SoCal?

Simpler in some ways, more complicated in some. Life is what you make it. California has its conveniences, but Hawaii has its natural playground. Lot’s more time in the water for sure…  warm water is so much easier and fun. We had great community in California, and we have great community here. Surround yourself with good people wherever you are.

What are your favorite parts about your home and the area in which you live?

My favorite parts about the north shore are waves of course, but also it’s such a great small community vibe. Everyone knows everyone. Being in this house is rad. It’s been here for so long that everyone out here knows it — like “oh you guys are in the old A-Frame.” Lot’s of people have lots of memories here, so we try to keep it open for everyone to hang and enjoy.

You seem to have this pretty dialed. Give us some of your favorite local gems.

Ha ha, I can’t be broadcasting the secret spots… I surf out front of the house a lot because it’s right there and usually pretty good, in between Rockies, Rights and Pupukea. Restaurants is a bit tough, slim pickings. Pupukea Grill food truck is a favorite. Rajanee Thai and Banzai Sushi are regulars in Haleiwa Town. Outside of that we’re driving to town for the good foodie scene.

Russell Brownley
Russell Brownley
Russell Brownley

Tell us about your fam.

My wife Juliana is awesome, she homeschools three of our four groms. They’re all so smart, creative and beautiful. My oldest daughter Selah, 16, is a senior at Kamehameha School. My son Shiloh is 14 and shredding. Two younger daughters, Evi 9 and Liv 6.

What made you decide to leave the big surf brands behind and do your own thing?

It was a perfect storm of conditions. I was at Quik at the time, flying back and forth to France all the time as the company was consolidating the design team and moving things over there. We’d been wanting to move home and raise the kids in Hawaii but it’s hard to pick up and move your whole life. Then Selah got accepted into Kamehameha, and it was the catalyst. The rest just worked out.

Russell Brownley

What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in starting / running your own business(es)? On the flip side, what have been your greatest successes so far?

Yeah it’s a hustle! On the plus side you create your own destiny to a certain extent. Freedom of time and planning. On the other side, it’s kinda all on you to make it happen… Lots of trust and faith came into play. No more direct deposit checks! I’ve never worked so hard for so little money, but we’ve also never been so happy. Life is simpler, pleasures are more simple. Rewards are greater. Future is bright!

What are your goals for the future with Mucho Aloha? Any exciting new projects ahead you can share with us?

Most of my entrepreneurial focus is on Mucho Aloha. We’re in plans and discussions to get a brewing operation going in Hawaii. I really want to bring the brand home. Some plans for SoCal on the horizon as well. Design-wise I’ve narrowed focus to two great brands: STCY Mfg out of Australia and Aloha Exchange based out of Kauai.

Any parting thoughts, words of wisdom, sage advice?

Be content and enjoy the moment. Love over ambition.

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Matt Titone

A goofy-footed graphic designer who hails from the first state, Delaware. After attending Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL then graduating from SCAD in Savannah, GA with a BFA in Graphic Design and Illustration, Matt moved to NYC and found work as a freelance designer and art director before moving west to Venice, CA in 2006 where he ended up co-founding ITAL/C Studio and tries very hard to avoid crowds & traffic. While not in the studio, he enjoys surfing as much as possible, snowboarding, paddle tennis, hiking, camping, and watching the Eagles play at Sports Harbor.

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