Full Name: Kaulana Jameson Apo
D.O.B: April 9, 1998 (17 years old)
Hometown: Ewa Beach
Sponsors: Hurley, OAM, Unknown Surfboards, Brice Surfboards, and DVS Footwear
Go To Board: 5’9” squash tail Pixel model from Brice
Being a junior pro surfer can be a fully loaded proposition in this day and age of professional surfing. Results, sponsors, expectations, and stigmas can overwhelm many young surfers. The good news is the path to success is no secret. Having a cool head, being dedicated, working hard, staying out of trouble, and having a little luck can yield dividends in the sport.
For Oahu’s Kaulana Apo, this track was set some time ago. Strong encouragement and support from his family, particularly his father, Inky, helped Kaulana get his start in surfing. When asked who he attributes his introduction to the sport to, Kaulana remarks, “My dad, for sure.” With a close father-son bond, Kaulana and Inky still surf together often o this day. “He’s surfed all his life,” the seventeen-year-old continues, “and he always wanted me to surf. My dad would take me to the beach and we would surf every day.”
With an early start in the sport and strong family encouragement, Kaulana found himself beginning to surf competitively. At seven years old, the Ewa Beach local picked up his first sponsor. He bounced around with a few other companies before landing solid backing with blue chip surf brand Hurley, at age ten.
Truth is, with sponsorships come expectations and pressure. “Being sponsored was just for fun the first three years, then reality hit and it became a more long term goal, rather than just having fun every day.” Today Kaulana finds a lot of motivation and inspiration as a sponsored surfer. He understands the privilege of it, and knows kids the world over are chomping at the bit to compete in events and work with top notch brands.
This motivation led to great competitive success early on, with consistent victories in NSSA Nationals. As with most athletes however, there comes a point where one must overcome hurdles and rise above challenges. One these trials for Kaulana came in the form of back-to-back injuries. “I broke my arm one year before Nationals in the summertime. Then I broke my leg right after and was out for a while. Every Nationals prior I made finals, every year doing good. Then first year back, after my injury, I lost first round and it was like, whoa. I was 13 or 14. I was tripping out. From making it every year to finals to first round loss, it hit me. That made me want to push myself to be a better surfer and competitor.”
Kaulana has undoubtedly risen above this and developed into the better surfer and competitor he hoped to be. At 17 years old, Mr. Apo is already getting his feet wet in some WQS events. “This year I did the Bowls QS 1000. Then just went to the East Coast for Virginia Beach, which was a QS 3000. Then the Outer Banks which was a QS 1500,” all with the hopes of accumulating enough points so he can enter the HIC Pro at Sunset Beach this winter.
Kaulana also has WSL pro junior ratings, so if he doesn’t have enough points via the WQS he hopes to get in to the Triple Crown in the next few years with the two spots allocated for Hawai’i’s top junior surfers. Kaulana’s future goals for competition are to be on the prime tour within the next five years and hopefully make it to the Championship Tour one day.
With a competitive drive, this local boy is bound for big results in the future. “I prefer contests, it makes it that much more special when you win,” Kaulana described when asked whether he favors competition versus free surfing. However, that doesn’t mean the teen doesn’t love to travel for free surfing.
Kaulana recently had the trip a lifetime to the Mentawais with a group of good friends. “Best wave of my life, best barrel, best sessions with my friends, can’t really beat it,” the surfer explains. “Noa (Mizuno), Seth, Josh, Isaiah, Micah (Moniz), Benji Brand, Imai (deVault), Kalani (David) and uncle Tony (Moniz)… we just planned it, went to a bunch of islands. Surfing (Magazine) came along and took a bunch of photos of us, which was cool. We always dreamt of going, so we just went.”
Kaulana believes his strengths in surfing are turns and style. Some guys ooze style and some just don’t have it, but for this Hawaiian it seems to come naturally. “In all the surf videos Andy and Bruce guys have always been so styled out. And I don’t know, I just like style a lot. I always thought it was cool when I was grom.” Power + style, always a recipe for success.
Kaulana has started to ‘build a house’ in his young surfing career and seems to be on a pretty good path toward success in the competitive realm. Working hard on his craft and seeking to improve competitively through mental and physical preparation, it’s only a matter of time before we see this junior in the big leagues. Having solid backing from family and sponsors, as well as self-determination and motivation, Kaulana has a strong platform and a prime shot at professional surfing. That all being said, Kaulana hasn’t lost sight of the real reason he surfs, and that is for the fun and love of it.