When he was 20 years old, David Elgas arrived in Hawaii with a bicycle and a boogie board.
“My dad taught me to surf at a very young age, said Elgas, nicknamed “Boogie-D” for his experiences in the water. “So it was actually the surfing that brought me to Hawaii. I showed up with my boogie board and felt that I could take on the big waves at that time in my life.”
The Arroyo Grande High School graduate didn’t know then that his affinity for the ocean would lead to a reality TV show. Nor did he know that he would garner a reputation not as a boogie boarder but as an extreme kayak fisherman.
Elgas, 48, is one of several fishing experts who will appear on “Pacific Warriors,” a six-part series that premieres Friday (10 p.m.) on Discovery.
According to the network, the show “follows a rare breed of men — and women — who risk it all to reel in the biggest fish in the sea.”
Elgas has earned a reputation as a record-breaking kayak fisherman, but began fishing on the shores of San Luis Obispo County as a child.
“Some of the first places I fished on the Central Coast were like Lopez Lake and Cayucos, where they have the charter boats,” he said.
He was also a regular at Pismo Pier, dropping in on waves with his boogie board. But after briefly studying business at Cuesta College, he decided to leave California.
“I was kind of not really sure what I was going to do on the Central Coast — kind of confused in life — and really wanted to come out and check out the islands,” he said.
Having made pizzas at Del’s Pizzeria in Pismo Beach, he quickly got a job making pizzas on the North Shore of Oahu.
“When I moved to Hawaii, it was just like everything I’d dreamed about — about the water and the ocean and the lifestyle,” he said.
Eventually, he said, he grew tired of driving in search of the right surf and veered toward kayak fishing. That eventually led to a business guiding kayak tours.
Meanwhile, his impressive fish catches — sometimes posted on YouTube — got noticed.
One of those catches was a 65-pound barracuda.
Elgas had been battling the treacherous waters off Kaena Point, trying to get through dangerous currents, before the catch.
“Mother Nature is our biggest battle out there,” he said of kayak fishing. “The weather can change on a dime out there. So we’re constantly dealing with rough winds, rough waves and rough currents. The winds, the waves and the currents — if you don’t know what you’re doing — can take you out.”
Kayaking alone, he managed to free himself from the current and get to safer water when the big barracuda struck his bait.
“The thing towed me right back into the current that I had been struggling for hours to get out of,” he said. “And it was one of those times when the motor almost breaks down. That’s the thing about kayak fishing — our body is the motor. So when you’re in those really radical elements with Mother Nature, and the motor breaks down, you’ve got some problems.”
That catch — which set a record for unassisted kayak fishing — helped attract the attention of the producers of “Pacific Warriors,” which follows a dozen fisherman and women catching huge fish in Hawaii. (“The fish we catch are bigger than the kayak,” Elgas says on the show.)
The stars of this show use kayaks — an ancient form of fishing — in extreme conditions.
Other fishermen and women include Isaac Brumaghim, a former canoe racing champion who had a viral video of a shark ripping tuna from his line; Kimi Werner, a spearfisher known to swim at sharks, who can hold her breath for over four minutes; and Jason Valle, whose late uncle was a friend of Elgas’s.
On the show, Elgas acts as a mentor to the younger Valle, a surfer and free diver out to prove himself to the old pro.
“This season Boogie is going to put Jason through the gauntlet,” a narrator says in the first episode, “molding him into an expert who can land 100-pound tuna and ono like a master.”
“I’ve been involved for a very long time, so I’m like a seasoned veteran,” Elgas said.
One of Elgas’ first challenges entails bringing Valle to the treacherous waters of Kaena Point, known for strong currents that bring large fish and endanger kayakers. When Valle’s fishing line gets tangled on his kayak, he jumps into the shark-infested water, prompting Elgas to later conclude, “Jason’s not respecting the water today. He’s putting himself in danger. It’s very important that I train him.”
When he’s not fishing on camera, Elgas continues to offer guided tours in Hawaii and Christmas Island. He occasionally returns to San Luis Obispo County, where his parents and sisters still live. But he doesn’t kayak when he’s here.
“I’m spoiled with the warm water,” he said. “I really have issues with wetsuits.”