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About the Founder

                                                                    
                                                                          

Founder and President: Cory E. Smith

 

"Cory is a revivalist, an Indiana Jones of the Pearl World“ says Eve Alfille, President of the Pearl Society, Evanston, Illinois.  "As a passionate ocean person he was always out there from the beginning “ says Shellei Addison, publisher and author of “Pearls: Ornament and Obsession” published by Simon & Schuster.  “He was out there on the remote pearl farms working with the people and earning the trust of the pearl farmers”. Vogue Magazine reported in October 1998, "Cory acquires pearls for the world’s finest jewelers”, and Paul McHugh of the San Francisco Chronicle insights Cory well, “This is a man that is a natural lover of the sea and all things connected with the ocean environment. Among the things he prizes highest are the ways in which humans are able to connect themselves to the ancient and vibrant marine realm.” 

Cory Tahiti 2005


For two decades, Cory Smith, a former avid surfer and long time diver has continuously harvested a living from passions aligned with the ocean; surfing then pearls. His education is typical of the entrepreneurial mind. Smith educated himself in classic eclectic style; a fusion of 3 years at Cabrillo College and select courses at the University of California at Santa Cruz blended with extensive travel and being mentored by savvy local businessmen while operating a hands-on small business from the age of 19. The experience he gained in the surfing industry as a young man set the course for his entry into the world as an international pearl trader.

1979-1992: President Santa Cruz Surf Shop and Santa Cruz Surfboards
1992-1997: President I.N.C. International Nucleus Company-Tahiti
1993-1997: President Oceans 3 Pearl Company-Tahiti
1997-Present: President: Pearls Krisana, Inc.

 


As a teenager, he entered the political and expressive world of surfing retail and manufacturing as the proprietor of the once famed Santa Cruz Surf Shop and Santa Cruz Surfboards, coined by the San Francisco Chronicle and the surf industry's Action Sport Retailer magazine as the first environmental surf shop in the world. Santa Cruz is in the hub of the surfing world launched primarely during the 1980s' as amazing local surfing talent and the powerful waves of the area mixed to bring the world's eyes for the first time somewhere different than Hawaii. Soon Santa Cruz became known as "cold" Hawaii and Santa Cruz Surf Shop was in the middle of this explosion. Within just a few short years, his small shop and surfboard company grew to international recognition by way of his sponsored and talented surf team he called the "The Santa Cruz Surf Crew", attempting to obvert the limiting and competitive word "team"  with the more inclusive word "crew", representing all the personalites of his company's 60 member group.  Many of his crew became surfing household names as they conquered huge waves and discovered previously unridden ones around the world. Throughout the ‘80s and early ‘90s, his company’s name and talented surfboard riders graced the covers of magazines, calendars, surfing posters and starred in surf movies throughout the surfing world.



Image 1 & 2. Smith organized an effort with Surfer Magazine producing an acclaimed adventure article and surf movie release called “Wilderness Surfing” where Smith and a handful of talented exploratory surfers penetrated the rarely ridden and un-filmed Pacific Northwest. The youngest of the trip at 23, and characteristic of his style, Smith negotiated the politics of the protective reigning inhabitants and his own crew of proud high quality surfers and individualistic film makers which brought readers and audiences around the country intrigue and held them in suspense as the story revealed itself with hostile locals and the unseen surfing secrets of the wild North.  Image 3 & 4 Member of "Santa Cruz Crew" on the cover of an Australian Surfing magazine and another profiled in his growing ranks as a professional surfer.


Upon visiting Cory shortly after he opened his new environmental surf shop, Yvon Chouinard, famed environmentalist, mountain climber and founder of Patagonia, Inc., responded to one of his questions about the absence of ocean consciousness by many in the surf industry; “There are not many people like you and me”. Cory accepted this as the ultimate compliment of his young career, privately assuring himself he was on the right path.

“Interdisciplinary”, a new term at research universities as Stanford reflects the current expectation to bridge fields broadening a researchers’ ability to gain insight and solve the complex problems of today’s world.  Cory’s retail formula was ahead of it’s time, an “interdisciplinary” application by forethought and display of the vast wonderments of the sport he loved as;  historical and evolving, physical and spiritual, a fluid natural world and futuristic, and just a plain rush ……knowing well there would be no sport without them. 


Richard Schmidt, finalist Hawaii Triple Crown,
 former rider for Santa Cruz Surfboards, at Pipeline, Hawaii


 “The ocean will always present itself with something more awesome than your ego”--- Cory-quote on a placard hanging under a museum prepared jaw of a 14’ Great White as an answer to undeserving surfer egos that too often came into his store everyday…to jack their own jaws.

14' Great White


"Cory initiated through thousands of petitions to put famous Duke Kahanamoku on a commemorative U.S. stamp. The Duke considered the father of modern surfing, introduced surfing to Santa Cruz and the mainland in the 1920s’. As an Olympic Gold medalist even swimmer President Kennedy sought the Duke for coaching. That stamp was finally issued in 2002, 12 years after Cory’s first petitions were sent to the USPS and the Hawaii State Senate".

(continued)
At 12 Cory learned the art of falconry, soon he had a house full of all types of animals from fish to reptiles to raptors. His sportive and naturalist mode exposed him more and more to the environs and patterns of life by way of planned and often impromptu occasions with Killer Whales, Birds of Prey, Elephant seals and even Great White sharks. He witnessed a language, a culture, a government with these animals, something unseen to humans but very much a reality in the process of life. His interests continued to parallel the natural world, but so did his own inherent business nature. Somewhere, somehow his future lay close to the natural realm with a capitalist sparkle. His thoughts and ideals continued to open as the face of Mother Nature caressed the imagination of his mind through his falconry and surfing. As his ocean experiences expanded through surfing, he believed the depth of the ethereal forces behind surfing was beyond that of the daily gymnastics of riding a wave, he believed it was about our umbilical cord connecting us to the sea, therefore essentially to ourselves.

 


After many years of operating a small yet influential surf shop, he conceptualized his new environmental-consciously themed Santa Cruz Surf Shop in part to enlarge his own enlighten self interests, but in part as a reaction to what he believed was a disconnect many surfers seemed to have, especially the young ones, from the realness and lessons surfing offered through the ocean but they were blind to it. He wanted to remind his customers what they surfed over and stepped on every time they went surfing. He wanted to link the modern version of surfing not only to surfings' ancestors of Polynesia and Peru, but also of the natural world that made surfing a worthy experience, to show in a virtual sense all the elements which made surfing a complete experience, at least how he had experienced it.

In place of a rack of surfboards, he had a 600 gallon cold water aquarium filled with creatures from the local surfing areas. He hatched a baby shark from an egg brought in by a customer another donated to him by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  His ceiling was laced with antique surfboards from the 30s’ and 40s’. Cory built three museum boxes which featured Peruvian and Polynesian artifacts and another full of seven million year old marine fossils found just down the street from his store and tagged by the Capitola Museum.        
   

Cory discusses the Peruvian contents of
his store's museum boxes with Beverly
Byer of NBC local news

Further explaining the attributes
of the ocean in surfing as seen
through his 600 gallon cold water aquarium


Today both businesses continue under seperate new ownership and guidance. NHS Inc. grouped Santa Cruz Surfboards with its' long established international brand of Santa Cruz skateboards, snowboards, mountain bikes and clothing adding management for the new surfboard division of past members of Cory's Santa Cruz Surf Crew, building one of finest X-Sport companies in the world. After 13 years in surfing retail and surfboard manufacturing, life altering events enlightened him to pursue his developing love and hobby; the beautiful Black Pearls of French Polynesia, which he discovered in the 1980s' while surfing the outer islands of Tahiti.

Santa Cruz Surf Shop

Santa Cruz Surfboards Factory


The 80's were a golden era for his business and surfing, but that soon changed after a series of personal and business compounding events from 1989 to 1992. One of Smith's friends insisted that he travel to Central America to revive his spirit for a three-week surf journey that ended up being a journey to the soul. There, after a happening that Smith can only describe as an "Epiphany" or "Great Awakening", and to the surprise of many and within 6 weeks after his return, he decided to quickly liquidate his stateside assets, exit the surf industry and move to start a new life and business in Tahiti.

Cory surfing the Pacific Northwest
in the surf movie and Surfer Magazine article
 "Wilderness Surfing"

Enjoying a soulful session in Santa Cruz


Cory took off one month later to Tahiti in June 1992 this time to further his interests in the mysterious pearl industry bypassing the remote surfing reefs that brought him there originally more than a decade before. He had played as a hobby with Tahitian Pearls in the 80’s after becoming impassioned by pearls through his surfing and diving experiences in Tahiti which he felt were embodied and symbolized by the pearls themselves.

Smith reaping rewards along an isolated Tahiti outer island reef pass


Without any real knowledge or specific contacts in the Tahitian pearl farming business, nor an ability to speak the local language, proper work visas’ or liquid working capital, his new business developing in the pearl industry soon took off anyway by way of blind persistence and ubiquitous luck.


This modern photo technique (above) shows a surfer in Tahiti catching a wave reflecting the unique
quality and power of the surf that brought Cory to Tahiti as one of the first handfuls of surfers to surf these islands. Only a few Tahitian surfers exsisted on the main island of Tahiti at this time leaving the abundant outer island reef waves empty and undiscovered. Captain Cook's journals reports locals riding waves on the reef passes on pieces of wood fashioned for surfing in the 1700's. Polynesians are an ocean people with great navigational skills and are the ancestors of today's surfing.  

 


A professional surfer during the Billabong Surfing Pro at the now infamous "Teahupoo" on the main island of Tahiti, now known as the world's most dangerous wave and the most revered surfing contest event of the year. Teahupoo was discovered by the outside and professional surfing world in 1998. Cory first discovered for himself and surfed Teahupoo alone on a smaller day in 1983.

Same day as the photo on the left, Cory was an invited guest on the Billabong Pro judging stand, built over the water close to the surfing reef, visiting with Gaston Tuapua(rt) an old friend and contest security chief also former security for the Tahiti President, a famous comic-style Tahitian with the punch of a truck, who toured the world as a fire dancer, and who also is V.P. of the Tahitian Surfing Association. The surfing association held a 2002 barbacue in Cory's honor as one of the first players in Tahitian surfing, presenting him to dozens of Tahiti's young up coming surfers.   

 


Pearl nuclei (small round mussel shell beads that serve as the nuclei in the propagation of pearls) was to become Cory's new working capital in the pearl business. Pearl nuclei which he obtained from a former U.S. pearl wholesaler now turned bankrupt creditor whom Cory had previously provided a large test consignment of pearls he had purchased from a broker in Tahiti in 1989 while his pearl hobby was growing. Upon his June '92 arrival in Tahiti, customs agents seized his  200lbs of nucleus due to lack of proper documentation (requires the license of a local pearl farm to import) also his hopeful stock of future working capital.   


Staff preparing nucleus for sale

Pearl grafter, a happy customer of Smith's
I.N.C. International Nucleus Company

Nucleus sale meeting, mayor of Taaha


These pearl nuclei, conjoined with his enthusiasm eventually became the financial seeds of Smith's next adventure; as a pearl nucleus wholesaler, he called his company I.N.C. International Nucleus Company, which quickly blossomed into local pearl trader, locally known as Ocean 3 Pearl Company. Taking advantage of a former Tahitian surfing contact living in the French Polynesian capital city of Papeete, and coincidentally who had a friend with a small pearl farm, his nuclei was soon released from customs and later that same day as he arrived, loaded himself and his 200lb cooler of nucleus onto a small smelly inner-island supply ship and with a tip from his new friends headed out to the pearling region of the Tuamotu archipelago in 20 foot swells, 600 miles from Tahiti, attempting to find a market for his pearl nucleus. Here Smith began to enter into the remote and risky world of the South Sea pearl farmer.

Inner-Island trading ship

Hand line caught 125lb Yellow Fin Tuna

Tuamotu with pearl station

In his move to Tahiti, Smith successfully began trading his pearl nuclei to pearl farmers throughout the Tuamotu atolls, often trading for pearls. Shellei Addison adds again, "He was out there on the farms working with people and meeting farmers. He earned the trust of the small independent pearl farmers and eventually created an independent source for his next significant business journey as a Pearl Trader".

New unfurnished Tahiti office with
Korean pearl buyer. $31,000 sale.

Business expanding. Furnished Office

Prepared pearl harvest for foreign buyer. $780,000


Smith acquired an office in the capital city of Papeete, and began brokering loose "pearl lots" to the large pearl companies from Asia, representing his newly trusted allied group of Tuamotu pearl farmers he befriended while living in the Tuamotu. Slowly, his Asian counterparts who were his largest customers for his brokered pearl harvests, which have controlled the world's pearl business since its inception nearly 100 years ago, began revealing their secrets to him. Several years later, his U.S. pearl business was born as he began to bring his Tahiti experience and beautiful pearls stateside.

"His passion and persistence has earned him a high regard in the pearl industry" adds again Eve Alfille, and Paul McHugh continues; "His background gives him a unique ability to share not only his enthusiasm, but also his acumen and his ideals. He understands perfectly that the health of the globe and her human children depends on the health of the seas. And so, as a businessman, he is able to offer products from the sea with a special conscious flair."

His recuperative struggles and incredible stories are featured in a brief selection in a book titled; “Surviving the Tough Times" by Dennis Powers, Esq. Smith's story is a story almost uniquely reserved to the American entrepreneur…..exclusively and extensively following his passions, he has built, succeeded, lost and rebuilt again the American Dream; personal freedom by way of one's own design.

Cory living with small pearl farming family

Previewing a pearl harvest in advance
of an incoming buyer with staff at the
Tahiti home of a pearl farmer


A recorded interview with KSCO radio host Michael Olson, outlining some of his experiences as a pearl trader, is housed on the Internet at www.metrofarm.com and www.KSCO.com (This is a dated radio program and might not be available from time to time during archived inventory shifts)

The pearling efforts of this small town surfing aficionado who spent his youth finding his soul training falcons and camp surfing along remote areas of California coastline was rewarded with a maturing list of global business and personal relationships. As his company grew he produced pearl exhibitions and attended trade shows showing off his beautiful pearls and pearl jewelry collections throughout the U.S., London, Bermuda, Hong Kong and Australia. His clients have included Tiffany, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Fortunoff, Princess Cruises and many fine independent jewelry stores and jewelry manufactures across the country.

Cory's Tahitian boys
His finest South Sea discovery.


Additional images and Quotes…

 

"I call him Christian Fletcher"---Tetuahau Temaru, son of current Tahiti President, Oscar Temaru 

 

“a surfer among the intellectuals and an intellectual among the surfers”---Rod Lundquist, 1960’s Northern Californian big waver surfer, hang glider and  English Professor

 


“I spent a week with Cory in Tahiti, visiting his office and staying on a pearl farm with him. He has built a remarkable and well executed business for himself in another country, he is certainly an American entrepreneur”---Dennis Powers Esq., Author and Law Professor, Oregon State University

 

“Cory my friend, you are a conscientious capitalist, a star gazer and chronic soul wonderer, a perplexing blend of a man”    ---Bernard Burnett, managing director of Burnett Fisheries Australia

 

“Had Cory exploited his meta-physical brain rather than his keen business brain over the last 20 years he would have been on the cover of Time by now, or dropped out all together”---Kym Sui, owner Treasures of the Mind,  Hong Kong


“In my performance of a due diligence contract with an investment group interested in Mr. Smith’s nucleus and pearl wholesale operations I accompanied him for three weeks in Tahiti and Hong Kong observing his business and evaluating the pearl industry. Firstly I was astounded by the beauty of French Polynesia and the environment surrounding the culturing of pearls and secondly, equally impressed with Mr. Smith’s business contacts and innate abilities to web together his vision stringing cultural nuances and unordinary business hurtles to flow in the direction of his dream. At the middle of the second week Mr. Smith along with a worker from the pearl farm speared an abundance of fish that fed us and the entire staff of 15 for dinner. The same time the following week Mr. Smith and I were in Hong Kong dining on fish, certainly not as fresh, meeting with his prospective pearl buyers. Mr. Smith is living a dream with professionalism and passion, amid the city scapes or spearing a fish for dinner, something which I have rarely witnessed in my 13 years of practice.”---Brian Prosser, CPA  Novato, Ca. 



Purchasing select pearls from a small pearl farmer

Assisting a pearl farmer in value sorting their harvest


“This spirited young man and an often visitor to the island on which I practiced medicine, would bring to me many locals who were afraid to visit my office, as I am French and mistrust still resides in many Polynesian people. It was as if Cory was personally responsible for their well being. Many were suffering with ailments often chronic in nature and difficult to manage. He was positive in his mind that together we could find something to make his Polynesian friends feel better, sometimes a child, sometimes an aged woman. He would attempt to reimburse fees to my office on behalf of “his” patients from offerings he would bring from America; a camera, a pair of binoculars or an expensive deep sea fishing reel. Year after year it was the same. Cory Smith reminds me of Captain Jonathan Smith, the New World explorer of America who married local Indian princess bride Pocahontas, immersing himself in blind eyes-wide-open awe in a foreign culture, living his passions a bit on the edge…and with an open heart and mind.”---Dr. Timothy Palast, doctor of family medicine, French Polynesia

 

“Cory will wield his insightful and creative skills in any endeavor of his choosing as he did at the helm of a unique and  formidable surf shop--- Steve Pezman,  founder and publisher  of Surfer’s Journal


Showing off his finest necklace
to Bermuda's Prime Minister

Cory's Bermuda Pearl Exhibition
co-sponsored with the oldest jeweler in Bermuda

Gemological Institute of America
instructor Angelic Crowne(rt) attended
with Cory from Calsbad, CA.
 


“On September 8, 2001 I issued a letter of intent reflecting our decision to capitalize Mr. Smith’s pearl company. Absent the events of 9/11 a few days later, we were prepared and would have eagerly participated in assisting Cory’s pearl company to become a prominent international enterprise. I personally attended his pearl trade shows, visited his contemporaries and associated pearl farms in Tahiti and the Philippines and can state assuredly this is man with vision, professional resolve and a distinctive capacity to feel comfortable in diverse worlds. It is not often our company’s board would unanimously approve $5,000,000 in capital funding”---Abbey Moleno, CEO of VenturePath, Silicon Valley

Cory with Abbey Moleno of VenturePath
and former President of Tahiti, Gaston Flosse


“The Amphora Pearl has been the gem of our family heirlooms for almost 25 years. I found the pearl diving off Cox Island, North West Australia off Exmouth Gulf when an old Maxima shell approximately 1 foot in diameter was found in 35 meters of water and when opened a thud sounded in the slush bucket. On looking down I saw the most beautiful and largest natural pearl I have ever seen. Cory got along well with our family and the boys at the pub took to him grand. One morning my wife found Cory out front in the bush using Kangaroo dung as a pillow, not sure if that was his choice or the boys at the pub. It was then we decided to give in to his requests and sell him our heirloom Amphora Pearl for $50,000, the object of his passion and why he came to visit us”---Master Pearler Captain Francis Jones, Managing Director Australian Pearl Farms, Pty Ltd.

 

 

Amphora Pearl


 


Pearl grafting technician
in Australia (inserting nucleus)

The harvest; whites,
cremes, silvers and golds...

Wild Pearl oyster diver


“Hemmingway broke the mold, but I am not so sure Cory is not building another” ---Augustine Roush, Roush Entreprise S.A., France

With Robert Wan, largest producer of Tahitian Pearls
visiting one of 9 pearl farms

Cory's trade show booth
exhibiting at GJX Tucson

Seattle Nordstrom store opening


“I tell Cory many times he need get tattoo every time he visits different islands in my country. He need tattoo every time something happen with him and his spirit with Tahitian people and the islands, he is Tahitian, I know because I watch him. I know my friend Cory, his body will take many tattoo, even his face”---Hiroiti Faatauira, TahitianTattoo Artist and Polynesian Mythologist (Cory never found the time for a tattoo. There is a layering of cultures in Tahiti, a clash of old values and new. Canoes and BMWs'. The tattoos of Tahitian ancestors told the story of the person, like wearing your autobiography. Advanced adults with more life experience, starting with tattoos early in life at mid-body, would be covered eventually up to the face...the most honored of Polynesian society)

Manihi

Beginning work day selling pearl nucleus
Pearl farms in background

Fiesty local pearl farmer


Cory (in water) working
on pearl farm hauling up oysters

Pearl buying on pearl farm