Who Surfs?

From fiercely competitive alpha types, to clueless but enthusiastic newbies, all sorts of people surf. Through the following Q&As with a cross section of surfers, we probe the collective psyche of Oahu’s surfing population.

Photo: Dana Edmunds

The Wave Warriors

Seth, 40; Moses, 48
Found: at Kewalo Basin

Do you guys surf together often?

SETH: Almost every weekend. We wake up early and charge either the North Shore, or just go out here at Kewalos. He catches a lot of waves. He’s pretty, ah, ah—  MOSES: You can say “aggressive.” Totally. Seth is a much better surfer than I am, but his attitude in the water is much more relaxed. I’m like Hurrrrrrarrrrgh! The aggressive, giant tiger shark. And Seth is like this really spiritual ... turtle. He’s like the yogi, I’m the samurai. I’ll paddle out to the peak, say hi to everybody and see what happens. And if they want to take it to “wave warriors,” that’s fine by me.

So he’s the mellow guy, and you’re the wave warrior.

SETH: No, we’re both wave warriors. MOSES: Yeah.

What exactly is a wave warrior?

SETH: When you take off on a wave and lay into a hard carving turn, and just, you know, release massive amounts of spray—my nickname is actually the Spraying Mantis—it’s like you’re unleashing hot fury on those turns. And, of course, when that happens, you’re feeling that warrior spirit coming out. MOSES: You see, he’s definitely more relaxed than I am. When you say to me, “Moses, what is a wave warrior?” To me that means to attack. I’m going to take every best wave.

You like to spray people who are paddling out?

MOSES: Yes! SETH: Absolutely.


MOSES: It’s fun! SETH: Well, I’m the Spraying Mantis. I got that name as a surf teacher. I was flying down the line, and this student is in front of me like a sitting duck. That’s when I laid into, kind of like, a snowboard turn. I’m maybe about two feet away from him, and that’s when, of course, that white spray just goes WHOOOOOOOSHHHH! MOSES: It’s like any aggressive or any competitive sport—we do it out of, like, being wisenheimers. We’re never trying to hurt anyone. We’re just breaking balls.

Have you ever sprayed the Spraying Mantis?

MOSES, (Thinking for a moment): Yes! Ha ha ha! I just remembered, yeah! SETH:  Yeah. Yup.

How did it feel?

MOSES: Awesome. You should try it!

Has the Spraying Mantis ever sprayed him back?

SETH: I haven’t sprayed him yet, but I look forward to the opportunity.

photos: dana edmunds

The Head Bangers

Michelle, 30; Anela, 29
Found: at Diamond Head

What’s your worst surfing injury?

ANELA: I had a concussion, and she let me drive home. By myself. MICHELLE: Don’t put that in.

By herself?

MICHELLE: That never happened.

Where was that?

ANELA: Waikiki.

What happened?

ANELA: I was paddling out, and this guy boxed me in and knocked me out with his longboard. And then he told me I was dangerous. I yelled at him. “What the heck? You kicked your board into my face, and you’re calling me dangerous?” I got a concussion, and I drove home, and then I had to go to the emergency room.

What’s your side of the story?

MICHELLE: It’s exactly what she said, but it involved a lot more cuss words.

And you let her drive off with a concussion?

MICHELLE: Well, we had multiple vehicles. I guess I could have come back for her.

What’s your worst surfing injury?

MICHELLE: I broke my nose and gave myself a concussion, in the same incident. ANELA: It wasn’t with me ’cuz I would have driven her to the hospital. MICHELLE: That is very true.

What were the circumstances?

MICHELLE: It was head-high, bombing, glassy Diamond Head, and I was just flying down the line. And I don’t know what happened, but then my board just came straight in my face, like, square in my nose. Broke it. And, like, bleeding all over. Then I had a really bad concussion.

Did you drive yourself to the hospital?

MICHELLE: Actually, a friend drove me. ANELA: Oh my god. I did not know that! MICHELLE: Yeah, somebody drove me, and, yeah.

She left out that part of the story before, huh?

MICHELLE: Yup. Oops. ANELA: I see how it is.

How does that make you feel, learning that just now?

ANELA: I’ll totally hold it against her. And she’s going to owe me on something. MICHELLE: I’m a bad person. ANELA: I’m just kidding.

The Surf Family

Hans, 43; Lei, 35; Hunter, 3
Found:  at Kaimana Beach

Hans paddled out with Hunter on the nose of his board. Hunter is too young to surf , so they just watched. Lei, too pregnant to surf, remained on the beach.

How did having Hunter affect your surfing?

LEI: After he was first born, Hans and I started switching off. One of us sits on the beach with him, and one goes out and surfs.

Do you give each other time limits on staying in the water, or do you let your consciences be your guide?

LEI: We have time limits, yeah. HANS: When I see her wave at me from the beach, I’ll take the next wave in. LEI: But then he stays out. He’ll be like: “There weren’t any waves. I couldn’t come in.”

How old was Hunter when you first put him on a surfboard?

HANS: Nine months. LEI: We’re going to have another boy, and when they’re both older, we will all surf as a family. That’s my dream.

What if the one you’ve got in the oven doesn’t like the water?

LEI: He is going to surf. HANS: He will like it. LEI: Before Hunter was born, I had this dream that he’s going to become a really good surfer, and he’s going to go out in the lineup and block for me, so mom can catch all the waves. And he’ll say, “It’s OK, Mom, you can drop in on me.”

Can’t Hans do that for you?

LEI: No, he gets mad if I even look like I’m going to drop in on him. HANS: She gives me crap for that all the time. LEI: Every other guy out there is, “Oh, come on baby, you can drop in.” But not him. HANS: [sigh]

photo: david thompson

The Kooks

What kind of tricks can you do?

TARYN: I can high-five other people while surfing. I can sometimes do board transfers.

What’s a board transfer?

TARYN: When you hop on somebody else’s board. They usually fall off. It’s more of a board tackle. The element of surprise is key.

What are your tricks, Lexie?

LEXIE: We basically do the same thing. High-fives. Board transfers. It’s a team thing.

So, basically, you two go out there and high-five each other, then mug people and take their boards?

LEXIE: Yeah, I’m from Jersey. TARYN: Sometimes we hula hoop and surf.

What’s the skill level of the crowd out here at Waikiki?

TARYN: From complete kooks to decent folks.

What’s a kook? Wait, let me rephrase that. Are you kooks?

TARYN: Absolutely. LEXIE: What exactly is a kook? TARYN: A kook’s somebody who doesn’t know what they’re doing. LEXIE: Uh, we know what we’re doing. Sort of. We get free lessons from people out there, all the time. TARYN: I’m just humble. The ocean can be really humbling, because the wave can come and just eat you alive. Or a shark. Or you can be minding your own business and, all of a sudden, somebody tackles you. TARYN: That too.