Panama Bocas del Toro
Caribbean Infused Panamanian Adventure
MADE in Hawaii
Vol 11 #6
Surfer Kaoli Kahokuloa Photo Mike Latronic
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Free Parking Sometimes you get everything you want on a surf trip- flawless travel, amazing accommodations, epic waves, perfect weather and photos to prove it. The Freesurf crew went south of the border with Keoni Jones, Kaoli Kahokuloa and Jake Davis and scored a wave laden archipelago called Bocas del Toro in Panama. Check out the proof in this issue. Photo: Mike Latronic
Bocas Barrel Master By Mike Latronic When you live in Hawai‘i, going on any kind of surf trip is a roll of the dice. Having been to the Pacific side of Panama several times, enjoying its playground of surf breaks, Freesurf went on a mission to the Caribbean side of Panama where we were greeted with plentiful waves, great food, friendly people and good times. Kaoli Kahokuloa was a standout performer everywhere we went, including this deep ocean slab called Silverbacks in Bocas del Toro. Serious, serious power. With a deep-water channel on both sides of the break, powerful peaks pitched ferociously, but the young Hawai‘ian met them with grace (most of the time). Not feeling a hundred percent, I opted to stay on the boat and shoot some pictures and watch the lineup a little bit before jumping in. I knew for certain my board was too small, my fever too high and the waves more powerful and perfect than we ever might have expected from the Caribbean Sea. But Panama delivered again and again and so did Kaoli and the rest of the crew to paint our cover photo and feature story, inside page 44 for this month. Picturesque and soulful, the wave is as mysterious and fun as the athlete who rides it. After a few sets, I could stand it no longer. Fever turned to madness. I put my camera down, jumped in, and the kids were claiming I got the biggest wave of the day, although I didn’t get barreled. Kaoli Kahokuloa was definitely the barrel master that day. pau
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44 Panama Livin’ La Vida Bocas
58 Kaoli Kahokuloa Haaaaaawai‘ian
64 Keoni Jones Always smiling, sharing stoke
88 Ross Williams Dream job on the dream tour
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Bienvenidos / E Komo Mai North Shore’s uncharacteristically late season swells have come to an abrupt halt. Lake-like conditions have spread across the coastline, giving sea lovers like me a chance to dive, collect shells and boat about the glassy waters, with the occasional longboard session on 1 to 2 foot bumps. Our office has cleared out as everyone has shifted their attention to chasing Town swells, and I have to admit I like it. Summer means a switch up. The bustling, sparkling city of Honolulu and its coastline take center stage, and industry folks hone in on Town talent. The waves and athletes become our fixation. Summer surf events are kicking off and the T&C Grom Contest and Oakley Surf Shop Challenge were both blessed with the season’s first solid south swell. 4 to 6 foot faces graced Queen’s and Bowls this past month for the two contests, as well as the Local Motion Surf Into Summer contest, reminding everyone that the South Shore has plenty of quality surf and allure. Nature is ready to show it all off. Reaching farther beyond our little rock in the sea, a group of surf adventurers took time off to explore Panama and the lesser-known islands of Bocas del Toro. Dotting the Caribbean side of the country, the nine main islands of Bocas boast everything from playful beach breaks to sucking right slabs, a haven for any eager surfer. A waterman’s playground, Bocas del Toro also offers a wealth of ocean activities including mangrove explorations, diving, fishing and water tubing, plus the local flavor is guaranteed to appease any traveler at heart. Two Hawai‘i athletes, Kaoli Kahokuloa and Keoni Jones and Californian Jake Davis, were part of the mission, and more of their adventure is unveiled in our feature story. A stunning display of Hawai‘i’s surfers sampling waves from their own tropical archipelago all the way to Central America’s, this issue bounces from Panama and Ecuador to Town and Waipio Valley- so enjoy the trip. The first day of summer starts June 21st and whether you’re finally out of school, taking your two-week vacation or just soaking up the extra daylight hours, I hope you enjoy the warm season and all it represents, because this is just the beginning! Thanks for reading and welcome to summer. Lauren Rolland Associate Publisher / Editor
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GoPro Athlete Summit at Turtle Bay Resort During mid May, Oahu’s Turtle Bay Resort played host for some of the most extreme athletes on the planet. From white water rafters and snowboarders to base jumpers and big wave surfers, the elite GoPro team congregated for two days worth of action on the North Shore. An opportunity for all GoPro athletes to meet and mingle with one another, the summit was also designed to teach the group how to create better and more meaningful content for video viewers. Workshops for video and media editing took place indoors while the action adventuring took place outdoors. The waves at Turtle Bay’s pool bar were invaded with SUPsquatchers, standup paddlers, surfers, canoe paddlers and cameramen, all vying to get the best selfie and the most epic moment. Freesurf caught Olympic snowboarder Shaun White and pro skateboarder Ryan Sheckler in the lineup, while seasoned surf pros like Jamie O’Brien, Shane Dorian and Monyca Eleogram also joined in the fun. Members of the summit also experienced activities like shark cage diving, free diving, mopeding, cliff jumping and canoe sailing. It was an extreme week for these GoPro athletes!
Billabong Rio Pro, Bourez & Fitzgibbons Claim Victory An epic Finals day at the Billabong Rio Pro and Rio Women’s Pro presented by Billabong, saw Michel Bourez (PYF) and Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) triumph after a day of barreling waves at Barra Da Tijuca. Stop No. 4 on the 2014 Samsung Galaxy ASP World Championship Tour, the Billabong Rio Pro marked Michel’s second WCT event of the season, outdoing defending event winner Jordy Smith (ZAF) and veteran Taj Burrow (AUS) before his win over California prodigy Kolohe Andino in a hard-fought final. Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) claimed her first major success this year, winning the Rio Women’s Pro presented by Billabong with a sensational performance against reigning two-time ASP Women’s World Champion Carissa Moore (HAW). While Carissa jumped out to an early lead, Sally fought back, posting scores of 9.27 and 7.00, securing her second career Rio Women’s Pro victory. The Australian surfer defeated Coco Ho (HAW) and defending event winner Tyler Wright (AUS) before defeating the Hawaiian for the win. Sally’s win moves her to No. 2 on the ASP Women’s WCT rankings behind Carissa, who remains at No. 1.
News & Events Freesurf Loves the Globetrotters
What do you get when the Harlem Globetrotters match up with Hawai’i’s #1 surf magazine? An epic ball-spinning-wave-catching surf session in the warm waters of Oahu’s North Shore. Two members of the Harlem Globetrotters, William “Bull” Bullard and Herb “Flight Time” Lang, met with Freesurf for their first ever surf lesson, and in exchange showed the surfers some moves on the basketball court. Freesurf publisher and current ISA World Masters surfing champion Mike Latronic paddled out to Puaena Point with Freesurf ambassador Chris Latronic and North Shore surf school owner/coach Uncle Bryan Suratt, and taught the Globetrotters some basics on the 12-foot surfboards. True to their athletic reputation, Bull and Flight Time caught wave after wave, showing talent and ease in the water, and even got comfortable enough for some ball tricks and spins while wave riding.
Fun & Games at VQS in Newport Beach
The Harlem Globetrotters graced the basketball courts in Honolulu and Laie on Oahu, Wailuku, Maui and Kailua-Kona, Big Island and showed off skill while entertaining the Hawai’i crowds. Be sure to check out www.harlemglobetrotters.com for the team’s full schedule, ticket purchasing, player bios and more. A fun and memorable experience for both the Globetrotters and Freesurf, be sure to catch more of the wave/ball action on an upcoming Billabong Surf TV episode on OC16, channel 12 and 1012 in HD.
The 2014 “Newport 500” Totally Crustaceous Tour Championships took place in hectic conditions this May at Newport Beach in California. Not even high wind advisories and sand storms could slow the competitors down!
Change for Balance
Congratulations to Oahu’s Dax McGill for placing 1st in the Spark Plugs Girls division and taking home $2,000. Along with this highlight for Hawai’i, the “Restrictor Plates” airshow also saw Finn McGill and special guests Gavin Beschen, Mason Ho, Balaram Stack and Dylan Graves all compete on specialty race car boards custom shaped by Sean Slater. These guys proved that even on crazy race car shaped boards they could still shred.
Dustin Barca Running for Mayor of Kauai Professional surfer, environmental activist, and MMA fighter Dustin Barca announced his plan to run for Mayor last month. For the past few years, Dustin has dedicated his life to fighting for better living in Hawai’i, particularly standing against companies like Monsanto and their impacts of the agrochemical industry on Kauai. “When I returned home from a traveling surf career, I started becoming aware of the issues our island is facing, and how they are compromising the health of our community and land. It’s time to move in a different direction, we can’t let things continue as they are,” says Barca.
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Kamehameha Surf Team Wins 5th Consecutive State Championship By Ikaika
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The Kamehameha Surf Team won their fifth consecutive Hawai‘i Surfing Association (HSA) State championship by beating Kahuku High School 75-49 on April 28th at Ala Moana Bowls. For the second year in a row it came down to the final event of the season between Kamehameha and Kahuku with both schools entering HSA States with undefeated records, setting the stage for an epic battle in contestable, 4 to 6 foot wave face heights on Saturday afternoon. Kamehameha dominated the field of competition, claiming first in all six divisions. Kamehameha Surf Team Boys Shortboard Captain, Chasen Kim, 18, led the charge with a two-wave heat total of 18.75 out of a possible 20 points. As a senior, this is Kim’s final year on the squad and has been a valuable member to the Kamehameha Surf Team since his freshmen year.
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Girls Captain, Cayla Moore, who is the sister of reigning ASP Women’s World Champ Carissa Moore, was the anchor of the team on Saturday. The junior at Kamehameha placed first in both shortboard and longboard divisions. Moore’s signature, front-hand gouge was on full display at Ala Moana Bowls as her sister cheered on the team from Magic Island. With their five-year, undefeated record in Hawai‘i safely intact and new State Championship trophy up on Kapalama, the Kamehameha Surf Team is training for the National Scholastic of Surfing National Championships in June. They will be the only school from Hawai‘i competing at Dana Point, California, the site of NSSA Nationals, which is the most prestigious amateur surfing event in the U.S. I mua Kamehameha!
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Perfect conditions rolled through on Finals day at Lakey Peak in Sumbawa, Indonesia and 14-year-old Brisa Hennessy was on a tear. The Oahu athlete found herself surfing against Australian talent Isabella Nichols, and the two girls traded high scoring waves as the lead changed several times. Brisa edged out Isabella with an 8.3 wave and a wave lull during the last 5 minutes of the heat, crowning her Champion of the Rip Curl GromSearch International final. This is Brisa’s first international title! “This is easily one of the best comps I’ve ever been to, the waves were absolutely firing and everyone was ripping,” comments Brisa. “It was a super close battle in the final, with Isabella on fire all day I knew I had to go big to take it out. I’m just really stoked to get the win in what has been an amazing comp.”
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Brisa Hennessy Wins 10th Annual Rip Curl GromSearch International Final
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Tatiana Weston-Webb Chain Resources Pro Junior Champ Kauai’s Tatiana Weston-Webb recently won the Chain Resources Pro Junior on May 2nd. The ASP Australasia Junior Qualifying Series event was part of the New Zealand Home Loans Surf Festival and was held in clean, 2-foot surf at Fitzroy Beach in Taranaki, New Zealand. “It was a really good day today,” Tatiana said in an interview on the Surf Festival website. “There were some tough heats with not many waves but luckily Chelsea (Tuach) and I had some really good waves in the Final. I just went out there and had fun and it seemed to work.” Congratulations Tati!
Mahina Maeda Wins Japan Pro Tour in Bali Congratulations to Oahu’s Mahina Maeda for her recent win in the Open Women’s division at the Japan Pro Surfing Association Tour in Bali. Mahina competed against the pros and grand champions of Japan in an event where only Japanese citizens are allowed to surf and compete. Mahina is a dual citizen of Japan and America, and began as an amateur in 2013, receiving her pro license at her very first JPSA event. “I have to say winning at Keramas was amazing because it is a very high performance wave,” says Mahina. “Coming off from a win at Ecuador and going straight to Bali for this event did give me a little pressure. But I kept my composure and surfed my heats and just had fun!”
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17th Annual T&C Surf / Surfer Magazine Grom Contest Presented by Chili’s Grill and Bar By Lauren Rolland Photos by Sean Reilly Nearly 300 groms invaded the waves and sands of Waikiki for the 17th Annual T&C Grom Contest on May 17th & 18th. Held every year at Queen’s, hundreds of kids and parents flock to the iconic beaches of Oahu’s south shore for two days of surfing, games, tasty bites (once again from Chili’s Grill and Bar) and ohana socializing. Each year the event maxes out with 300 competitors, but the beach fills to the brim with friends, family and other spectators to cheer on the sun-and-saltstoked groms. A friendly competition, the T&C Grom Contest features longboard, shortboard and bodyboard divisions with age categories ranging from 3 years young to 12 years old. One of the most endearing aspects of the event is the Kokua division, where keiki ages 3 to 6 show off their youthful talent on the inside waves at Queen’s. Water-winged and goggle-faced, these kids display the true meaning behind this contest, their smiles radiating pure joy. (continued)
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Gash in his leg
I was surfing punchy, head high beach break on a weird shallow tide, pulling into closeouts, going on every wave I could. I got sucked up over the falls and tried to pull back with my board between my legs. The outside fin went in and out of my leg so fast, I didn’t even know it had happened. The fin was that sharp. It missed all my major muscles, and did not cripple me, but the doc said it was perilously close to my femoral artery. This was the most pain I have ever been in. I now use only Pro Teck fins and love how they surf, great drive, smooth, and fluid, plus no more nasty fin cuts! I am now pulling into close outs with peace of mind, knowing that I will not get cut again! God Bless. -Josh Walker
Pro Teck Fins have flexible leading and trailing edges that reduce chances of fin cuts and enhance board performance. The flexible trailing edge allows the water to flow off the fin smoother with less turbulence than conventional fins. A “rudder action” occurs while turning the board as water pressure bends the edge, creating tighter more fluid turns, similar to the fins of dolphins. Pro Teck fins are available in three models and a range of sizes for all skill levels of surfing. From the rigid core Performance, medium flex core Power Flex, and flexible core Superflex.
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Sharing the simple fun of surfing with friends and family under the warm Hawai‘ian sun is this event’s main mission, and each year is a success with the help of contest organizers, volunteers, sponsors and of course, the kids. The T&C Grom Contest gives young surfers the chance to compete in a friendly competition at one of the South Shore’s premiere surf breaks. Plus, the event promotes the youth of Hawai‘i by hosting a healthy introduction to the world of competitive surfing. A very special Freesurf ‘Expression Session’ ensued on Saturday, where parents and keiki had the chance to tandem surf together, with fun and creativity earning top points. Kama the Surfing Pig even made a debut in the water, proving to be the cutest wave hog in the lineup. Both Saturday and Sunday provided gorgeous weather and contestable waves from the 2 to 4 foot south swell, giving the kids plenty of opportunity to show off skill (and bravery!) in the water. The top six competitors in each division took home a trophy, and every contestant left the beach smiling with an awesome prize pack full of goodies. The weekend proved to be yet another success, filled with sun, surf and sand, and was the perfect way to spend the weekend with friends and Ohana.
CHAOS MEETS CULTURE PRETTY VACANT
ISA / Rommel Gonzales
News & Events
2014 Vissla ISA World Junior Surfing Championship By Chris Latronic On its 50th anniversary, the International Surfing Association found themselves at La Fae beach on the beautiful peninsula of Salinas, Ecuador for another legendary junior surfing competition. This is the second time this small South American city has hosted the coveted World Junior Championship event, with this year attracting over 30 international surf teams from across the globe. In this double elimination World Championship competition, the top two surfers always advance to the next Qualifying Round while surfers in the third and fourth place positions go to the Repechage Rounds, giving them a second chance to advance. However, another third or fourth place finish, and they are completely eliminated for the competition.
The surf throughout the event week was in the 2 to 4 feet range with the left-hand point coming alive. 150 yard-long rides (at low tide) allowed for peeling waves from the top of the point all the way to the inside beach break. Every one of these prized rides was getting big nods from the ISA judges. The juniors were not holding back, displaying a montage of critical airs and big turns, while delivering a great show for the hundreds of spectators on the beach and the hundreds of thousands around the world who were watching the live webcast. A little visitor decided to make an appearance mid-way through the third day. Surfers and lifeguards reported a small shark feeding near the line up, prompting event officials to immediately clear the water and postpone the competition until the next morning. Better safe den sorry. Brazil’s 18 and Under Boys were
red hot, posting some of the highest heat totals of the event. Judges saw the completion of some extremely technical aerials including the “Kerrupt flip” which earned Brazil’s Elivelton Santos a near perfect 9.90. A few upsets went down as defending Boys Under-18 Gold Medalist Josh Moniz was eliminated slightly earlier than expected along with many other big junior names like Kanoa Igarashi (USA), Leo Fioravanti (ITA) and Takumi Nakamura (JPN). All who unfortunately failed to make the grand final. Hawai‘i’s Noa Mizuno showcased great surfing in the Under-16 Boys division, earning high scores in his multiple Repechage appearances. Mizuno came up just short, making the Repechage Final and then getting beat out by a last minute wave by Australian Joe Van Dijk. In the Girls Under-18’s, Bailey Nagy made her last year count,
surfing with grace and power. Nagy made it through numerous tough battles, but came up just shy of the grand final. The annual Aloha Cup tag-team relay competition is always a great surfing show. Hawai‘i ended with an impressive 74.54 combined score in the final, defeating Japan, last year’s champions. Hawai‘i’s relay anchor, Tatiana Weston-Webb, had the highest three-wave total, higher than all other competitors in the final, including all the sixteen boys. Tati had an impressive history-making performance this year and seems hungry for more. The ocean came alive on the final day of competition. The swell sent powerful waves in the 6 to 8 foot range, providing great conditions for the world’s best juniors to perform at their highest level. Hawai‘i’s Mahina Maeda, defending Under-16 Gold Medalist, led the charge in the Girls Under-16 division, advancing through all of her heats and (continued)
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ISA / Rommel Gonzales
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of their twelve surfers making it to the grand finals and two world champions, it was only by less than 400 points that Team Hawai‘i was able to squeak ahead of France to earn the team overall gold and the ISA World Junior Championship trophy.
ISA / Tweddle
topping that off with a successful defense of her world title. Tatiana Weston-Webb once again demonstrated her superior skills in the Under-18 grand final. Posting the highest total heat score of the entire event, Tati breezed through to her second consecutive World Junior title.
ISA / Tweddle
Overall Team Results: The final heat of the competition was the Under-18 Boys final. Brazil’s Luan Wood and Elivelton Santos struck first, quickly making Peru’s Lucca Mesinas and Hawai‘i’s Imai Devault play catch up. With a constant flurry of waves, selection was key. But after a few more good Brazilian rides, their lead became untouchable earning the dynamic duo the Gold and Silver in the Under-18 boys. Throughout the competition, the overall team points lead was almost up for grabs within the final days. Between France, Australia, Hawai‘i and USA, anybody could have taken the title. But with three 38
1. Hawai‘i- 21,168 points Winner of the ISA World Junior Team Champion Trophy 2. France- 20,872, Silver Medal 3. Australia- 20,628, Bronze Medal 4. USA- 18,418, Copper Medal 5. Brazil- 17,426 6. Peru- 15,062 7. Japan- 14,820 8. South Africa- 14,618 9. Portugal- 13,852 10. New Zealand- 13,474 11. Costa Rica- 12,252 12. Argentina- 11,866 13. Ecuador- 10,766 14. Venezuela- 10,740 15. Great Britain- 9,393 16. Uruguay- 7,959 17. Germany- 7,834 (continued)
ISA / Rommel Gonzales
News & Events
Boys Under-18 Luan Wood (BRA), Gold Medal Elivelton Santos (BRA), Silver Medal Lucca Mesina (PER), Bronze Medal Imai DeVault (HAW), Copper Medal
Girls Under-18 Tatiana Weston Webb (HAW), Gold Medal Kim Veteau (FRA), Silver Medal Tia Blanco (USA), Bronze Medal Leilani McGonagle (CRI), Copper Medal
Boys Under-16 Leo-Paul Etienne (FRA), Gold Medal Joe Van Dijk (AUS), Silver Medal Nolan Rapoza (USA), Bronze Medal Griffin Colapinto (USA), Copper Medal Imai Devault and Seth Moniz Girls Under-16 Mahina Maeda (HAW), Gold Medal Leilani McGonagle (CRI), Silver Medal Laura Poncini (AUS), Bronze Medal Maddie Peterson (USA), Copper Medal
ISA / Tweddle
18. Chile- 7,554 19. Barbados- 7,548 20. Mexico- 7,034 21. Tahiti- 5,630 22. Puerto Rico- 4,260 23. Wales- 3,600 24. Guatemala- 3,552 25. Italy- 2,440 26. Canada- 1,800 27. Ireland- 1,500 28. Austria- 1,200 29. Switzerland- 1,056 30. Trinidad & Tobago- 960 31. Russia- 960 32. Sweden- 480
ISA / Tweddle
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19th Annual Keiki Surf for the Earth Photos and Story By Shawn Pila Surfboards, pop-up tents and truckloads of kids with kendamas lined the beaches on Saturday May 17th, 2014 for the 19th Annual Keiki Surf for the Earth event, held at the newly renovated Kohanaiki Beach Park in Kailua-Kona. Each year in celebration of Earth Day, the Kohanaiki Ohana hosts a beach clean up and a friendly surf competition for keiki 14 and under. The community event aims to protect the environment, as well as perpetuate cultural practices and values by encouraging the youth to become stewards of our land and water resources. Rebecca Villegas, president of the Kohanaiki Ohana said this year’s younger crowd made for an exciting day. “It is really inspiring to see the little ones get excited about this contest because it is so much about participating and not just about competing. It’s a really safe, happy, healthy and unintimidating format for a lot of the kids to participate in,” Rebecca said. Around 90 keiki joined the fun in this year’s surf, bodyboard and Ohana tandem competition. With advisory level surf on the horizon, parents and staff members had their hands full. Luckily this wasn’t their first rodeo. Many of the kids also participated in environmental and cultural trivia, tree planting, sign painting and a funky-fresh dance off. Each participant received a cool trophy to take home and a handmade goodie bag stuffed with awesome prizes. 42
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Bocas del Toro
Caribbean Infused Panamanian Adventure
By Mike Latronic with Lauren Rolland Just the thought of a Caribbean vacation is enough to conjure images of white beaches, aqua marine seas, exotic food, friendly locals and palm trees swaying in a gentle warm breeze. A trip to Bocas del Toro, Panama delivers far more for beach, surf and ocean loving adventurers. Connoisseurs of great food, lively nightlife, fishing and diving take delight. Whether you are looking to find solace on an empty beach, trek through dense jungles, catch marlin, ride waves, party at dance clubs or put another notch on your backpackers map, Bocas del Toro has something for everyone.
If we didnâ€™t have photos, you might not have believed how good it was.
Jake Davis, fully immersed in the Caribbean.
Our traveling band consisted of Keoni Jones and Kaoli Kohakuloa from Hawai‘i and Jake Davis of California. The three amigos would meet up with two of Panama’s best young surfers, Juampi Caraballo and Jean Carlos ‘Oli Camarena’ Gonzales. On the short one-hour flight from Panama City, you catch your first glimpse of the countless islands speckling the area, some surrounded by mini islands... a mangrove maze of sorts. Most of the larger islands reveal great beaches, natural anchorages and great surf even from the air. Our travel crew of passionate surfer-adventurers was in for a treat and a few surprises. All tolled there are 9 main islands spotting this chain, plus a myriad of islets and cays, meaning there are literally hundreds if not thousands of places to surf. This Panamanian province is nearly 1,800 square miles with a small population base. Any surfer worth his weight in surf wax can understand Bocas del Toro is a land rich in opportunity for the hungry wave rider. Based on Colón, the main island hub of Bocas del Toro, there are also several more popular spots that are easily accessible by land or by taxi boats. Yes, taxi boat! Most people get from island to island for just a few bucks, making this archipelago a paradise for the budget traveler. While the coastline of Colón and neighbor island Carenero have become the “go-to” spots, the next island away, Bastimentos, offers an incredible experience as well. Aside from dozens of relatively unsurfed 48
Kody Kerbox standing eye to eye with an angry Silverback.
Richy Jake Davis finding out why this place is called Silverbacks.
Threading the needle is tricky at this spot. Keoni Jones, finding the zone.
Mike Latronic, set of the day.
Plenty of options here.
reefs and beach breaks, there also exists the anomaly. Its name is Silverbacks. A serious pitching ledge off a deep-water channel, this wave would take any advanced surfer by surprise. On a swell that might produce 3 to 5 foot hotdog surf at many of the other reefs, Silverbacks reared it powerful peak at 6 to 8 foot. This slab will usually pitch a throaty fat tube wider than it is tall. Seriously challenging and hollow, it is brief. With a stiff offshore breeze, beware. Experts only!
“That day was magical for us,” Hawai‘ian surfer Kaoli Kahokuloa describes. “It’s a world class wave, you won’t find it anywhere else.”
“That day was magical for us,” Hawai‘ian surfer Kaoli Kahokuloa describes. “It’s a world class wave, you won’t find it anywhere else.” Fellow Oahu surfer Keoni Jones chimes in and illustrates the wave a bit more. “It is not comparable to anything I’ve ever surfed, as far as deep, ledging, barreling waves go.” The boys suffered a few epic wipeouts during the learning curve experience and Keoni adds that “the pictures don’t give you the feel of how gnarly it is in the water.” Our California surfer, Jake Davis was equally in awe of Silverbacks. “I’m not the best big wave surfer in the world, but I definitely know a heavy wave when I see it, and that is hands down, on a world-wide standard, one of the gnarliest waves I’ve ever surfed,” Jake describes. “I definitely want to come back to surf that wave especially,” Kaoli
Latronic Mike Latronic, midday beachbreak sesh.
Oli Camarena. Panamanian flair in and out of the water.
Keoni Jones. Paraíso
adds. Reflecting back on those sessions, Silverbacks is truly a lifetime experience. For those not quite ready for the life changing drops at Silverbacks, there are the reef breaks of Paunch, Dumpers and Carenero to name a few, and also a long sandy beach producing hollow sandbar barrels called Bluff. Many thanks to Andrew Ludwig, a.k.a. “Panama Andy”, a very likeable fun-loving soul who, though a shrewd businessman, has a taste for surfing and was nice enough to take the group by boat to several of these locations in Bocas. The boat, I might add, is conveniently “parked” in a covered boat stall directly adjacent to Andy’s home, which is directly adjacent to his busy little hotel, Las Brisas. “We have so many different beach breaks, so many different reef breaks,” describes Andy. “All within one bay we have Tiger Tails, which is a small reef break with rights and lefts. Then you move over and you have Paunch, which is an incredible left that barrels and gets really a-frame and has really neat right sections. Then another couple hundred feet from there you have a wave called Dumpers, which throws a gigantic barreling left off a coral reef point break. Around the corner from there you have Curve, which has rights and lefts
Kaoli Kahokuloa racked up some frequent flyer miles.
You can be at 10 to 15 different surf breaks all within five or ten minutes of one another, so it’s no wonder why Bocas del Toro is the number one tourist destination in Panama. After a good day on the beach, boat or jungle there are plenty of food stops everywhere for refueling. Restaurants with delicious food are plentiful and cheap; the fish is fresh and the meat is local. The island people are friendly- an ethnic mix of Spanish, Indian and Creole- and many speak English, making it easy for a group of island hoppers to get around. The town of Bocas, on the island of Colón, is vibrant and full of young backpacker types from Europe, South America, Canada and the United States. And these sightseers come here for good reason.
and huge tubes. And if you dare go further, you have Bluff Beach, which is an epic tube, left to right, beach closeout that just is brilliant. It’s amazing to see how many different varieties of breaks we have.”
Kaoli Kahokuloa. Uncrowded lefts for days... Yes please.
Main island of Bocas, Col贸n.
Connecting two oceans, Panama City.
Kaoli Kahokuloa. Natural high.
Juampi Caraballo in el tubo.
It just happened we rocked up on a local surfing contest during our stay, at perhaps the most popular surf break in Bocas, known as Paunch. Our crew had just finished another gut-wrenchingadrenaline-filled morning at Silverbacks, but got to Paunch just in time to see Bocas local Juampi Caraballo win the final. Luck would also have it that we hit Panama in time for Los Carnavales, a week long celebration in Latin America that makes Mardi Gras in New Orleans look like a small get together. The entire country takes off work and proceeds to rage for days of debauchery, complete with street parades, live music, costume groups, colorful floats, dancing, drinking and socializing.
Panama Fun Facts Capital: Panama City
Population: 3,360,474 Currency: U.S. dollar (USD)
Government: Constitutional democracy. Time Zone: GMT-5 (same time as Washington, DC during Standard Time). Location: Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Colombia and Costa Rica.
Language: Spanish, although English is widely spoken and understood. Tipping: 10 to 15% is customary in hotels (where it is not added automatically) and restaurants. Taxi drivers do not expect tips, and rates should be arranged before the trip.
Panama has 1500 miles of coastline. The word “Panama” came from the pre-Colombian times and translates to “abundance of fish and butterflies.” More than 29% of Panama’s land mass is dedicated to national parks (over 15), forest reserves (12), and wild life sanctuaries (10). Low crime rate makes Panama one of the safest places in Central America.
Travelers and locals alike are abuzz with the excitement of Los Carnavales and the streets of Panama are alive with culture and tradition. Our band of surfers are more than happy to partake in the festivities and celebrate with food, music and good fun. Sun soaked salt infused adrenaline drained and still smiling, the Carnavale celebration was a perfect way to end a perfect surf adventure. Alive with good waves year round, there are plenty of options to quench any surferâ€™s thirst for waves, and we profited with some of the best conditions available in Bocas.
Panama fulfilled the travel impulse, but weâ€™ve only just had an introduction to these exotic waves and are eager for more, and savvy for another conquest.
Jake Davis. Closing out this wave in style.
Kaoli Kahokuloa The Flyinâ€™ Hawaiian By Chris Latronic
Spotlight / Kaoli Kahokuloa Taylor Ivison
Kaoli Kahokuloa is the flyin’ Hawaiian. All it takes is one surf session with the athlete to realize why. With a strong, light-footed build and an alwaysstoked smile, this goofy footed ball of energy is taking the power of Hawaiian surfing to new heights, literally. Unlike the traditional Hawaiian powerhouses like Sunny Garcia, Ezekiel Lau and others who utilize more of the face of the wave for maximum water displacement, Kaoli’s preference is a more focused above the lip approach. The surfer uses the same Sunny Garcia Hawaiian hack power and transfers it to produce incredibly dynamic lip launched aerial maneuvers like no other. On any given day, you can find Kaoli consistently flying rotators over lips at a completion rate that is somewhere above baffling. Fresh out of the junior professional surfing realm, Kaoli now faces the semi-charmed life as a working pro surfer. But having deep roots in his family and Hawaiian heritage, Kaoli stays grounded and never forgets his humble Hawaiian origins. After an exciting Panama adventure this past spring, we were fortunate to catch up with Kaoli to talk about life, family and future. Your family, how big? My family is big, I got nine siblings! We get along sometimes and sometimes we don’t, but got to love one another no matter what. Most times, we’re always surfing with each other! Family is very important to me because they always have my back. My family gives me support financially and mentally so I don’t make the wrong decision. Your childhood growing up? How was? I was a loner but I had a few friends that would hang with me once in a while, only because I was the only child for 10 years! How did you start surfing? I started surfing when I was four. My dad taught me because he loved to surf. Molokai, Waialua Beach is where he taught me on an old tanker. The guy I looked up to back then was TJ Barron from Endless Summer 2. How did you get into your first contests? I owe my parents and Andy & Jill Smith for their support in helping me get to the outer islands for NSSA surf meets, and really starting me off in the right direction. When did you know that surfing professionally was going to be your life? When I was 10 and just won the Irons Brothers contest for the 2nd time in a row and got sponsored by Quiksilver. What were your best 3 contest results? • 3rd at Billabong Tahara Pro • 3 time State Champ in HASA • 1st Regional NSSA Champ in Open Mini Groms
Kaoli and his new favorite wave, Silverbacks.
Spotlight / Kaoli Kahokuloa What’s your surfing life like today?
Skateboarding… shoes or barefoot? have planned in the future?
It’s awesome! Just trying to think of new things to do on a wave! I want to create an aerial that’s never been done before. My drive and motivation is my love and passion for surfing, the ali‘i sport of my culture. Surfing is my way of escaping reality and I am blessed to be Hawaiian. It’s a different lifestyle from other’s. Do you train? I try to train at least 2 times a week. When I was on the Hawai’i Surf Team, coach Kahea Hart taught us a great workout program. I’ve been sticking to that. How would you describe your style of surfing? My style is innovative creative.
I prefer barefoot! It’s super fun because you can still do surf tricks. But when you eat it, it’s the worst! Heard you were a kendama hobbyist? Yes! I got into it a year ago. It’s a craze because it’s the harder modern day yoyo. I got some moves. Moon circle - tap back - ken flip lighthouse - insta downspike (best 5 move combo). Your favorite surf trips and competitions around the world? My favorite surf trips were going to the ISA Junior Surfing Championships with the Hawai’i Surf Team. The most recent and awesome trip was in Panama with the Freesurf mag crew! Getting to surf Silverbacks and many other beautiful and exotic spots was mean!
Tahiti is a dream destination for a surf trip, hopefully soon, but competition wise, I’m looking forward to the US OPEN of surfing, possibly the Virginia Beach event and this year’s Triple Crown events. What are your future goals? Be a world champion, win the Eddie (Aikau Big Wave Invitational) and win the Triple Crown of Surfing. What would you do with one billion dollars? Take care of all my family’s debts and take everybody on a vacation for the rest of their lives. Go to Tahiti, learn the culture and surf as much as I want. Support the many good charities of the world. Start a new clothing company and make my own kendama brand.
Surfers and role models you look up to? What kind of trips or competitions do you God, Dave Rastovich and my Dad.
Full Name: Ka‘oliopu‘uwai O‘iwiaukana‘ikukahikaleipupuhiwahiwakau‘ia‘ilokokamiki‘aokilokilookapueo Kahokuloa. Meaning: The chant of the heart of my native people - native son, strong warrior, unique as the precious Ni‘ihau shell leis placed in the magical claws of the owl - the everlasting star. Age: 19 yrs old Birthday: April 16, 1995 Height: 5’11” Weight: 145 pounds Ethnicities: Hawaiian, Japanese, Caucasian Hometown: Kaunakakai, Molokai Homebreak: Rockpoint Sponsors: Body glove, Modex Surfboards, Tamba Surf Shop, DaKine # of boards in quiver: A lot Girlfriend: Yes Favorite board dimensions: 5’9” x 18” x 2 1/2” Favorite maneuver: Full rotation air 360 Favorite wave: Silverbacks, Bocas del Toro (Panama) Favorite surf movie: Lost Atlas and Stranger than Fiction Favorite movie: Frozen Favorite music: Rave Favorite food: Japanese Favorite tv show: Game Of Thrones and Glee Favorite non-surf athlete: Kris Bosch (kendama), Bonz Atron (kendama) and Malia Mills (basketball) Instagram: @kkaoli & @kkahokuloa Sequence / Chris Latronic
Keo ni Jo n
By S ean
More explosive than Waikikiâ€™s Friday night firework show, Keoni Jones is blowing up. Captivating beachside bystanders from the Caribbean to the Pacific, this Oahu native is no one trick pony. The innovative goofy footer can thread critical barrel sections on hand shaped creations, punt lofty rotations in Panamanian beach breaks and throw styled out laybacks on retro single fins. Always smiling, Keoni perpetuates his stoke in lineups across the globe. Itâ€™s not easy to stand out amongst a family of successful surfers and a pack of talented locals, but this young buck is determined to make his mark.
Keoni in his front yard at Rocky Point.
Spotlight / Keoni Jones
You are the youngest in an accomplished Ohana, what are the pros and cons of being the youngster in the family? I have big shoes to fill, but I have some pretty good role models to follow. It gave me the ability to learn quickly if I put the effort in. My brothers and the rest of the crew took me out of my comfort zone and helped me grow a lot. Growth is the most valuable thing in life. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Speaking of growing, you seem to have a rapidly growing presence in surfing’s limelight. What’s your mindset right now? I’m actually really motivated. It’s not always overtly, but I have high aspirations. Those who strive and are determined make it. And it’s never too late to turn a new page and make it happen. So here I am. I’m 22, most guys around here make it by the time they’re 12. Better late than never! Watch out! I’m coming to make an impact on the surfing world. You seldom participate in the competitive surf scene, where are you concentrating your efforts? I’m concentrating my efforts on having fun. I plan on keeping my time free for opportunities and adventures. Any recent opportunities or adventures to note? Oh yeah! I was stoked to jump on the annual Freesurf trip to Panama. It was my first time tasting the spices of Latin America, now I’m hooked! Tell me about your newfound love for Panama. Panama is awesome! The country is so alive with culture and people. By day, Bocas del Toro is a Caribbean siesta. By nightfall, the streets move to the beat of calypso and reggae. Aside from Panama, I see you blowing up the North and South Shore of Oahu. Where do you call home? I’m kinda hapa. I grew up on the North Shore, but I started going to school in town. Growing up I surfed Pupukea and Ehukai, but I really didn’t fall in love with surfing till I started surfing Ala Moana Bowls. I got the best of both
Spotlight / Keoni Jones worlds. You get the laid back lifestyle of the North Shore, but the chicks in town! Hometown, Oahu. Ala Moana Bowls may have been your first love, but it seems like a new lady has captured your attention... Rocky Point. It’s the most exciting wave on a daily basis and it’s right in front of my house. Is there a strategy to getting good waves at one of the world’s most competitive lineups? Getting a good wave can be tricky. They’re out there, but it’s easy to end up on the treadmill and have the worst session ever. Unless you really know how to surf the wave. Then it all clicks and you can find your peak.
not always barrel riding, it’s always that mixed bag. But the best session from recent memory would probably be at Ulu’s (Uluwatu). It was like 10 to 12 foot and it was the outside corner. I ended up time traveling and going back to the 1970’s. I rode a 7’6 single fin, shaped by Makani and there were only two guys out. The biggest carves of my life, it felt like snowboarding, all styled out getting all groovy. Ahhh it was sick. Got a couple barrels. It was a cruizy solo mission. I heard you’ve been shaping your own boards. I have been shaping a couple boards here and there. I’m on board number four or five, but every board I’m learning as much as I can. It makes surfing that much more interesting. The flow of water and everything that happens beneath your feet. You learn a lot about yourself. How you surf and how to ride different boards. What is something that most people do not know about you?
I always start off the session at Rodney Bowl (inside bowl). I get a bunch in, get my warm ups. Then I get a couple deep ones from the point, then float over to Rocky Rights or Chambers. That’s why I love Rocky’s. You end up surfing a bunch of waves, mixing it up.
I’m a Philippine citizen. So if anybody needs to buy property in the Philippines, let me know. What are some of your recent accomplishments? Being able to see myself on a poster. That’s a big accomplishment for me. I never imagined I’d see myself on the side of Surf N Sea’s window.
I noticed you have a different approach than most Rocky Point locals... I’m more laid back. I like to find my own zone in the water. Even though that’s kind of ironic because I surf one of the hardest places to get waves on the North Shore. But I’m definitely not the most aggressive person in the water. I like to see other people having fun and stoking out. That gets me excited to catch waves and take turns. But the reality is you can only go so far like that. Sometimes you have to put your foot down and make sure you get your waves, otherwise you suffer. It’s all about finding that balance. Sharing is caring. Have you always been stoked to share waves? Naw. I was such a $h!t when I was a kid. Growing up at Ala Moana if you want to get waves you end up sitting on the inside bowl and burning everyone that flies by. I was pretty agro growing up.
I was also in this cool 16mm film movie called Hangs Upon Nothing by Jeremy Rumas. It was filmed over four years throughout Indo and the South Pacific. Quite the experience. It wasn’t ‘bust out the 7d and lets get the shot’. It was running through the jungle with a 100-pound camera and a 50-pound tripod. It was nuts. Where would you like to see yourself in the future? I want to keep having fun, stay healthy, stay fit, stay motivated, keep traveling and enjoy the journey. Who are your current sponsors? Vissla, D’Blanc, Matuse, Futures, DaKine, Pro Standard... And my family, brothers and sisters, neighbors and the community. One quote to live by...
Tell me about your best session ever. Life’s a garden, dig it! I seem to have those all the time (laughs). The best session ever is the funnest session ever. And as I’ve been surfing, I gradually have better and better sessions. Not always shortboarding, and
APERTURE / B&W
Sean Moody. Pipe. by Zak Noyle
Dylan Goodale. Mexico. by Ryan Chachi Craig
Flynn Novak. Rocky Point. by Brent Bielmann
Left: Rocky Point. by Sean Reilly.
Right: Seth Moniz. Pupukea Sandbar. by Tony Heff.
Isaiah Moniz. Pipe. by Brent Bielmann
John John Florence. Backdoor. by Tony Heff
Andrew Richard Hara / Ena Media
The Valley of Kings By Shawn Pila
For most people, it’s just another popular tourist destination. A 700-acre valley of pristine wetlands with side cliffs reaching almost 2,000 feet high, dozens of cascading waterfalls, not to mention it’s home to one of Hawai‘i’s most secluded surf spots located on a beautiful black sand beach. It’s like heaven on earth. But for the local people of Honoka‘a it is so much more, it’s home; it’s culture. It’s their playground, their icebox, their everything. So, naturally, when the interdependent community caught wind that the state of Hawai‘i was looking into buying leased land in the area, their reaction was one of surprise and confusion. Already coping with issues of trespassing from the influx of uninformed visitors, the community banded together to form a unified voice with a mission in mind — to ensure the preservation of the culture and that the historical natural landscape rests in the hands of those who know it best. According to gohawaii.com, a Hawai‘i Tourism Authority website, Waipi‘o is the largest and most southern of the seven valleys on
the windward side of the Kohala Mountains. The road into the valley is very steep and is estimated at a 25 percent grade that only a fourwheel drive vehicle can handle. The road gains over 800 vertical feet in 0.6 miles and is said to be the steepest road of its length in the United States and possibly the world. Waipi‘o stretches a mile wide at the coastline and almost six miles deep into the back of the valley. The serene Waipi‘o River winds its way to the ocean, living up to its name, “curved water.” Visitors are attracted to the valley’s abundant foliage, wild terrain and waterfalls. But within the land, the history of the Hawai‘ian people is still very much alive today. Waipi‘o Valley is known as the Valley of Kings, and previously was home to many generations of Hawai‘ian ali’i (royalty). It was also the location of the ancient grass palace of the kings of Hawai’i. For many centuries, Waipi’o Valley and Hamakua had great political importance and was one of the main religious centers for the island. Many heiau (Hawai‘ian temple) were built within the valley including the most sacred,
Paka’alana Heiau, which was also one of the islands two major pu’uhonua (places of refugee). Within Paka’alana was Hale o Liloa (House of Liloa). Liloa was a righteous ruler in the 1300’s with multitudes of descendants, and only those with a righteous lifestyle were allowed to ascend the sacred platform of the high chief Liloa. Waipi’o has also suffered many brutal attacks including the attack of Ka’eo (an ali’i of Kaua’i) and his koa (warriors). They destroyed many of the heiau in the valley and teamed up with Kahekili (an ali’i of Maui) to battle the great, King Kamehameha. Kamehameha and his koa won the bone crushing battle, sending the warriors of Maui and Kaua’i back to their homeland. Historical and cultural sites are still found throughout the valley, including countless burial sites. Signs at Waipi‘o Valley entrance attempt to educate visitors about the sacred history of the land, with one reading “these sites are protected so please DO NOT DISTURB!” But an explosion of unwarranted exposure through tourism websites, bloggers and
travel books has increased traffic in the valley. More and more, people are found driving their all-terrain vehicles on the beach, getting lost by the waterfalls and trespassing. Valley native, Darren Gamayo, said many visitors accessing the beach have been unaware of what lies beneath the sand. “The past few years, they’ve been finding white particles on the beach,” said Gamayo. “They took some of those particles to a university and realized that those were actually human bone fragments…” It’s these issues and more that had politicians on Oahu working in support of State senate bill 3063. According to an article in the Hawai‘i Tribune-Herald on April 8, 2014, SB 3063 aimed at creating an avenue for the purchase of land in the valley from the Bishop Museum and established a working group to address issues of preservation. According to the article, many members of the proposed working group were business or government-affiliated representatives. Valley residents were quoted as being largely caught off guard and wondering what would happen to their leased land and the valley as a whole if the state were to one day acquire it. Local surfer John Fero said that’s one reason why he wants to raise awareness about the area’s history. “These lands were set aside for the preservation and conservation of our culture,” said Fero. “I’m not talking about the typical misinterpreted ritualistic ceremonial culture, it was set aside to preserve the practical side of our people - fishing, farming, stewardship of the land and everything she has to offer.” According to Bishop Museum’s web site, Charles Reed Bishop founded the organization in 1889 in honor of his late wife, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop,
Shawn Pila / Ena Media
Community / The Valley of Kings
the last descendant of the royal Kamehameha family. The Museum was established to house the extensive collection of Hawai‘ian artifacts and royal family heirlooms of the Princess, and has expanded to include millions of artifacts, documents and photographs about Hawai‘i and other Pacific island cultures. Today, Bishop Museum is the largest museum in the state and the premier natural and cultural history institution in the Pacific, recognized throughout the world for its cultural collections, research projects, consulting services and public educational programs. It also has one of the largest natural history specimen collections in the world. According to an article in the Hilo daily newspaper published April 15, 2014, SB 3063 successfully made its way through the House and Senate, but was killed per the community’s request. Both the bill’s language and the lack of community input seemed to raise a lot of questions for stakeholders in the valley. Jesse Keone Potter, president of the nonprofit group Pohaha I Ka Lani, an organization that works to preserve and restore indigenous Hawai‘ian culture, assists his wife, Kulia Kauhi Tolentino, with her educational outreach program in the valley. The Potter-Tolentinos
lease their land from Bishop Museum and their parcels are located in the Napo’opo’o region of Waipi‘o Valley. The area is a wahi pana (special place), with rich history and more than 400 terraced rock wall enclosures that date back to 800-1200 A.D. Their work preserves these structures and teaches students at local high schools and volunteers about traditional Hawai‘ian farming
“Waipi’o loves sharing and showing off her beauty and regardless of what any piece of paper, land holders or anyone says, she belongs to everyone that is willing to take care of her.” - John Fero
practices, focusing on kalo (taro) production, while educating others of the mana (power) of the area. And with their leased land being located on a the direct path to Hi’ilawe Falls, Hawai‘i’s tallest waterfall, the non-profit has faced challenges with random hikers, tour groups, and visitors trespassing on their way to visit Hi’ilawe. Potter was quoted in the April 8
article saying that’s one reason the bill struck a chord with him. According to the article, one part of the bill read, “the Legislature further finds that the acquisition of privately owned lands or interests in lands in Waipio Valley would enhance public access and permanent protection of these resources.” He spoke out against the enhance public access portion, recommending it be removed and that the language focusing on the protection of the valley’s resources be moved up in the bill. Other main points listed in their written testimony were removal of funding until appropriate planning; community input is essential, and acknowledgement of lessee’s vested interests. Eventually, SB 3063 was deferred, and the Waipi‘o community quickly organized their association, creating different sectors to help solve the problems from the ground up, local surfers included. “With the surfers, they might go on the recreational side of the valley,” said Gamayo. “They can come in as part of the community association and malama (take care) the beach and control the area.” And according to Fero, that’s exactly what they intend to do. Fero offers cautionary advice to those who don’t intend to respect
the sacred ‘aina (land). “Waipi’o is, was and always will be a gathering place, a place where differences don’t matter,” Fero exclaims. “Waipi’o loves sharing and showing off her beauty and regardless of what any piece of paper, land holders or anyone says, she belongs to everyone that is willing to take care of her.” Bishop Museum owns approximately 530 acres of land in the valley, and currently leases to 46 individuals. Some valley residents are still waiting with baited breath for their leases to be renewed. Until then, valley residents are linking together, holding community meetings to discuss options for a new working group and future possibilities for the valley. With Waipi’o truly being one of the last places on earth where one can genuinely escape from the outside world, local residents, farmers and surfers believe they are the premium stewards of the land and its water resources. As the Hawai‘i state motto goes, “Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ‘Aina i ka Pono,” the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. For more information on how you can help with the preservation and restoration of the Hawai‘ian culture in Waipi’o Valley, visit www.pohahaikalani.com. Author Shawn Pila took a very sensitive approach in writing this article. He met with the valley community members prior to entering and visiting the land, and honored the wishes of those whom did not wish to be involved in shedding limelight on such a sacred and secret place. It was his intention to publish this article in Freesurf Magazine in order to raise awareness about SB 3063, and help give a voice to all the Waipi‘o Valley Ohana. pau
Team rider Ivy Cerrone ,Photography by Mike Cerrone
76-6246 Ali`i Dr. Kailua-Kona, Hawaii 96740 (808) 326-1771
“Sand Trees” These formations seem to be formed when the tide sucks out and the water pulls down over the humps in the sand. It’s nature’s art at its best. I’ve never seen anything like them anywhere else in the world. - Heath Thompson
P A U H A N A
R O S S WILLIAMS Adding Local Color to the ASP WCT By Lauren Rolland At the start of this year, the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) announced their core commentary team for the 2014 ASP World Championship Tour (WCT). Ross Williams, along with Pat Parnell, Joe Turpel, Martin Potter, Peter Mel, Rosy Hodge, Todd Kline, Strider Wasilewski and Ronnie Blakey now light up the webcasts at every event on the WCT, which consists of eleven stops throughout the year.
Part of the Momentum generation of surfers who made an impact during the 90’s (which also includes pros like Kelly Slater, Shane Dorian, Rob Machado and Taylor Knox), Ross is known for his time on tour (10+ years), freelance writing for publications like SURFER Magazine and ESPN.com, coaching 15-year-old surfer Noa Mizuno and recently, joining the commentating team for the ASP World Championship Tour.
After returning to Oahu from the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach in Australia, Ross had some breathing room before his next event. Deciding to skip Stop No. 4 in Brazil, the family man had a chance to hang home, enjoy the company of his wife and three young daughters and get some late season surf in.
“It’s a great job for former athletes because of their wealth of knowledge, experience and respect in the sport,” Ross describes. “They know it.” Ross knows it through and through. The surfer’s trajectory in surfing has been well executed. From going pro during his senior year in high school to regular finishes in the top 15 on the ASP World Tour, the Pupukea local knew at a young age that surfing was his path and passion.
“Ironically, I think I surf more when I’m at home,” Ross mentions. Since he and the other commentators remain busy throughout each event, surfing comes next to the job expectations. But this career does allow for some decent water time, and somehow they’re able to squeeze in a session between the early wake up calls, morning shows and 8 to 10 hour days commentating. Ross not only stays involved with the industry, but also with the ocean and traveling the globe. To maintain a career in surfing is all he could ask for in life.
At around age 30, Ross suffered a bad ankle break, which shifted him from the competitive field into a different life altogether- becoming a husband and father. The toughest part of Ross’s job today isn’t the long days on camera and it isn’t the pressure of being on point 100% of the time. Those aspects are where Ross excels. The toughest part of the job is being away from home and away from family.
Natural, calm and confident as a commentator, you might be surprised to know that the webcasting job is anything but smooth. “We’ve got our monitor and our co-announcer we’re talking to, an earpiece where the directors are talking to us, the scoreboard that we’re constantly keeping an eye on and then the live action happening in front of us,” Ross describes. “If you’re not on your game you can be like a deer in the headlights and not respond to
anything. It’s all about multi tasking.” The surfer says he’s gotten more used to it, but that striving to keep the webcast interesting and dramatic while still being articulate at the same time can be challenging. It is something the team strives for though, which is apparent because the webcasts do run smoothly, with few hiccups from the audience’s perspective. As for the individual commentating members, Ross says the relationships are organic. “We’ve all bonded really well. We travel to every event together, we have lunch and dinner together, and it’s not like we have to. It’s not like ASP told us we have to hang out together, it just kind of happened that way.” Each member recognizes the importance of their job, “and at the same time we’re all having fun,” Ross illustrates. The members maintain a good attitude too, both on camera and off. They have been a wonderful team to witness thus far in the WCT and it’s easy to see why Ross was chosen as part of it all.
As with all things though, there is counterbalance. Ross expresses that the coolest part of the new gig is the travel aspect. “For more than one reason,” the athlete explains. “The places themselves are awesome, but it’s also memories for me. These are all places I’ve been before, so it’s nice to be able to revisit those memories.” Experiencing the world (and its waves) is touted as one of the best aspects of a pro surfer’s life. And the professional is first to admit that although travel can be tough, it’s a great perk to the career. Especially for someone as passionate as he.
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Giving credit where credit is due, Ross’s co announcer Pat Parnell makes a point to introduce Ross as a Momentum generation surfer during the webcasts. This plays a big role in the regular footer’s reputation, and the man recognizes how neat it is to be part of the prestige. “It was one of those transitional generations that made an impact, partly because we had Kelly Slater in our peer group, but then there was Taylor Steele’s films, so all the stars kind of aligned. It was really awesome to be part of that, to have influence.” The surfer also says he’s never tried to avoid the Momentum generation tag because “it is what it is. It kind of defines my
career,” Ross explains. “Obviously I’m proud of my surfing and what I’ve accomplished in my career, and I’m really fortunate to be part of a group that’s made an impression on people.” Now the athlete is making an even more lasting impression. As a 2014 ASP WCT color commentator, Ross is still as passionate as ever about surfing, and believes this love is what led him to the profession. “I’m really happy to have this career because it keeps me where I’m familiar.” With a few other webcasting jobs under his belt, a vast knowledge of surfing and a way with words, color commentating is like second nature to Ross Williams. “For me, my main goal is keeping the surf IQ really high,” which is what we’ve seen from Ross and Martin Potter and the other commentators with the last four 2014 WCT events. And what we’ll continue to see throughout the year. With a solid team like this one, the core audience should feel confident in the future of pro surfing. pau
Ross’s strengths are in his knowledgeable background of the sport and his ability to articulate the action happening in the water. “I try not to glaze over anything positive or negative that’s happening, I like to expose it,” he simplifies. The color commentator’s strategy is to include the audience in whatever drama is happening, instead of sugar coating the competition. “I like to talk to the audience as if I’m sitting on a deck with my peers and we’re watching surfing,” Ross says. Keeping it PG-rated, of course.
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Industry Notes Pro surfer Makua Rothman has been cast along with Maui boys Billy Kemper and Ahanu Tson-Dru and Hawaiian waterman Brian Keaulana. Point Break is scheduled to hit U.S. theaters on August 7th, 2015. Mark your calendars! SPL Introduces New Dome Port. Designing custom water housings since 1996, SPL has been a leading company in the water photography industry and is based in San Diego, California. SPL has recently introduced the new 5-inch dome port for GoPro housing. An added accessory with endless possibilities to help you get the shot!
Billabong XXL Awards. The Grove of Anaheim in Orange Country, California played host to the biggest awards ceremony in big wave surfing, the 2013/2014 Billabong XXL Awards. To kick off the show, Gary Linden (Big Wave World Tour founder and the driving force behind the deal between the BWWT and the new ASP), was presented with a lifetime achievement award. Kicking off the union between ASP and the BWWT, South African Grant “Twiggy” Baker was crowned the 2013/14 BWWT World Champ, and then the event transitioned into the highly anticipated XXL awards. Here are this year’s honorable winners: 2013/14 ASP Big Wave World Tour Champion: Grant “Twiggy” Baker Tube of the Year: Koa Rothman Billabong Women’s Best Overall Performance: Keala Kennelly Billabong XXL Wipeout: Koa Rothman Biggest Paddle: Mark Healey Surfline Best Overall Performance: Grant “Twiggy” Baker 94
Billabong XXL Biggest Wave: Gautier Garanx Billabong XXL Ride of the Year: Greg Long ASP Licenses Vans Triple Crown. The Association of Surfing Professionals, together with Vans, is pleased to announce a license agreement with Vans Triple Crown of Surfing in Hawai’i, to be held November 12 through December 20, 2014. “Hawai’i’s place in the history of surfing cannot be overstated,” Paul Speaker, ASP CEO, said. “They have a proud heritage of producing world-class surfers and boast some of the best waves on the planet. The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing is one of the premiere series in all of sport and we’re thrilled to be supporting it more comprehensively this season. And we’re very excited about reinstating the world’s best female surfers to Hawai’i as well as providing a platform for local talent to shine.”
Aquatography Workshops. Award-winning photographer Zak Noyle shared his passion for photography with Oahu’s budding artists at UH Manoa and Sandy Beach this past May 10th & 11th. Freesurf’s photo editor Tony Heff was guest speaker at the Aquatography Workshop, along with SPL’s Sean LaBrie, A-Frame Media’s Jeff Hall and others, all sharing the stoke and inspiration behind their careers in photography. “Everyone had a great time and learned a lot,” Zak describes. “To be able to call on my sponsors, family and friends to create such an event was truly amazing to see it all come together. I can’t even describe how awesome it felt watching these people try a housing in the water for the first time and seeing them fall in love with shooting even more. This is something I would like to continue and do, to share the passion and love of photography.” Hawai’i Surfers Cast in Point Break ‘Reboot’ Cast. Beginning June 26th, shooting for the remake of the 1991 movie Point Break will begin around the world.
Hawai’i Shapers Charlie Smith & Tom Parrish Partner with US Blanks. US Blanks announced the release of the 7’10” SP blank, which represents the latest collaboration effort of a 40-year working relationship between Charlie Smith & Tom Parrish. The 7’10” SP is the second of three blanks they have designed for the portfolio. The 8’4” SP was introduced in May 2009, and the forthcoming 7’4” SP will be released in early summer. The 7’10” SP is available in polyurethane in 6 density options or EPS foam in two densities. Either foam is available with any desired stringer configuration. Ben Aipa Honored at Surfboard Tradeshow. This past May 17th & 18th, California’s Del Mar Fairgrounds hosted the Boardroom Consumer Surfboard Tradeshow at the Wyland Exhibit Hall. Legendary shaper Ben Aipa was the first Hawaiian to be honored, and six shapers competed in a Masters Shape-off in an attempt to replicate a classic Ben Aipa surfboard made specifically for iconic Hawaiian surfer Buttons Kaluhiokalani.
Noel Marchan photo by Wayne Agsalda
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The ferocious Silverback and Keoni Jones, getting acquainted. Photo: Mike Latronic