Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ike Kanakanui -- CEO of The Freedom Boat

Ike Kanakanui is a 27 year old entrepreneur from Key West, Florida who created the concept of The Freedom Boat (http://www.thefreedomboat.com/), and its sister businesses.  
Ike was born to an American mother and a Hawaiian father.  He spent his growing up years in San Diego, CA where he loved to surf and enjoy nature.  Living on the border to Mexico he also had exposure to Mexican culture, as well as visits to Hawaii to see his father and connect with his clan there.
As a young man, Ike struggled with school.  He graduated high school with no money and no prospects of going to college, so he joined the Navy.  They immediately sent him to Coronado Island in San Diego, CA to learn how to deep sea dive and sail.  Shortly thereafter he was sent to Sicily, Italy to work at the naval base, and it was here that he began to think globally, taking advantage of every opportunity to learn Italian and network with Italian surfers in his spare time.  While he was in Sicily he created the idea of one day having a boat that he would use to charter for surfing expeditions.
While deployed in Iraq, Ike enlisted the help of his high-school friend Dustin to create a website for his future company.  Ike wrote a mission statement and started putting together a team with the people he met through his travels.  Ike’s dad passed away at this time and he was allowed to leave Iraq to go home to the islands for the funeral.  While there he met up with cousins and other surfers and added a surf clothing line to his company.  The dream was taking shape.
After several years in the Navy, Ike had fulfilled his commitment and left with an international following, a paycheck and a GI bill.  He located to Key West and bought an actual boat to go with his website description, and enrolled in the community college to get a degree and certification in being a dive-instructor and boat captain.  During his studies the BP disaster happened and Ike became concerned with the marine environment. 
He applied for and won a grant to do reef research and filmed a documentary off the coast of South America, getting a much needed marketing opportunity for his boat. 
He will finish college this year and will sail his boat around Panama to California and begin his charter business.  He will rent his boat out for scientific research and also for surf expeditions, bringing along a videographer to document his expeditions.  He is also considering marketing his own documentary to the discovery channel.
Ike came to the table with no money but only a vision and a fearless spirit that believed in himself.  While his dream was incubating he gathered a following and put together a team.  Much of this pre-vision planning happened while he was on the front lines of battle in Iraq.  He moved his dream into reality when he was given a grant to do his first research expedition.  The fact that he made a documentary further highlights his entrepreneurial thinking.   He is a young man who will go far.
Submitted by:
Kim Congdon


  1. What an inspirational story about the journey of an entrepreneur who is so young! It's rare to see someone with such drive and focus especially when they are so young. I was impressed with how he never allowed obstacles to get in the way of accomplishing his dreams. For example when he graduated from high school, he decided to join the Navy and while stationed in Italy he started working on his website and also developed relationships with other surfers and started drafting his business idea of surfing expeditions.

    Even as he grieved the loss of his father he saw an opportunity of adding a surfing clothing line to his business. After leaving the military he continued his journey by finally going to college. I was fascinated by finding out about how when he developed a new passion for marine life after the BP disaster he decided to combine it with his previous idea of chartering boats. Clearly he is an excellent example of how entrepreneurs need to seize and take advantage of new opportunities.

  2. I found the story of Ike Kanakanui to be very inspirational. He has overcome so much at such a young age, and he is still pressing forward. He reminds me that hard work and determination can really pay off.

    Submitted by Leisha Dean

  3. After reading this article on Ike I became intrigued and went for a search for more information. After coming across a youtube documentation on the freedom boat I now have even greater respect for Ike and his team. I frimly agree with them that this planet is what gives life to all the creatures inhabiting it. So by protecting and loving the planet we can futher develope not only as nations but individuals as well. Also we can continue to maintain the balance of the ecosystem of the world which is in dire need of protection! (As a heads up for anyone who wants to watch here is the web address http://www.youtube.com/user/thefreedomboat)

    Submitted by Travis Athnos