Hawaii courses through the veins of 18-year-old budding superstar, Ezekiel Lau, or at least that’s what his high school says. Zeke – as he’s known - is a student at Kamehameha High School, one of several learning centers around the islands that cater purely to kids of native Hawaiian ancestry. Although still very young, it’s seen Zeke take a very serious stance toward the continuation and preservation of Hawaiian surf culture. “When I get older for sure I want to come back and be able to give back to the kids in Hawaii and help all that new talent. I definitely wanna be a part of it,” he says.
It was also here, on a sunny day in November 2010, that Zeke first learned of the death of one of Hawaii’s modern heroes, Andy Irons. A.I. was an idol and friend of Zeke’s, the two having shared a coach in Dave Riddle. The influence of both Andy and Dave is very evident in the mechanics of Zeke’s surfing; big smooth arcs, stored up speed unleashed in furious gaffs, and a lofty aerial game. More recently, Zeke’s competitive results have also begun to reflect that of a future champion. In the past two months, Zeke joined Andy on the winners’ list of America’s most prestigious junior series, the NSSA Nationals, at Huntington. He followed that up with a third in the star studded six-star Billabong Pro J-Bay, and then a win in a four-star event in Japan.
Above all that, Zeke rates recently winning the NSSA National trophy for Outstanding Performance, presented by the Irons Family, as his most cherished title. The loss of Andy was a monumental blow for both Zeke and Hawaiian surfing. When we caught up we sought an answer as to how his generation was faring, who has stepped up to fill the void, and what it means to be carrying The Rock into 2012 and beyond.
The Hawaiians destroyed the NSSA Nationals recently, taking out four divisions. How would you describe the state of Hawaiian surfing?
There is just so much talent coming up at the moment. I think it has a lot to do with the waves we’re surfing, we can try push the limits way more than people from somewhere else. We’re all really close and really click together. No matter where we are we link up and just push each other that much more.
Is the current generation bearing the fruits of Andy, Bruce and what was basically the most successful group of Hawaiian surfers in history?
Coming up with the younger Hawaiian generation we’d get to watch everyone go out and do their thing, like John John Florence, Dusty Payne, Ola Eleogram and Hank Gaskell. All the boys that I grew up surfing the amateur ranks with, I got to see and learn a lot from what those guys are doing.
Being from Hawaii, are there certain things that you have to be wary of growing up?
I think coming up as a Hawaiian surfer you already have a kinda target on your back for being scrappy (prone to fighting and aggression) and a having a punk reputation. You almost have to prove yourself not to be like that. The way we grow up in Hawaii everything is so small and compact, and everyone is so close together and things start to get, it gets pushy, and it feels like if you’re not the strongest one, it’s just weird. It feels like survival of the fittest sometimes. We get a bit more hungry, and you gotta know when to switch it on and off. You just gotta watch the things you say, and the things you do.
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