In their own words, 8 of Hawaii’s most eclectic surfers tell of their most recent international travels, their most dangerous moments on the road, and the important lessons learned along the way.
Mason Ho / Indonesia, South Africa, Portugal
Photos Rory Pringle and Pete Frieden
The gnarliest situation I can remember while traveling recently was when we had around 10 people skinny dipping. We all tried to walk out to this reef shelf far out in the ocean. Long story short, there were urchins, jellyfish…It was dangerous. Another time in Portugal, we found this crazy wave that peeled off a funny looking rock. It looked like a fun little 3-foot left wedge. So I got all excited and was about to paddle out, putting on my suit and waxing my board and that’s when a 15-foot wave washed through the place and exploded over all these jagged rocks. I’m so happy I didn’t paddle out.
On one of my trips this year, I saw a 6-year-old boy named Lukey get barreled over a super shallow reef shelf in the jungle. It was very cool seeing talent like that in such a remote place with not much surf equipment around.
Every trip I go on, I feel like I learn something new about myself and the world. Lately, I’ve realized if you enjoy yourself and be super polite no matter what, then you will most likely have a good and safe trip and meet many new friends.
It can get exhausting if you don’t know how to travel, but my Dad and Uncle showed me the formula. Now, it’s mostly candy.
Leila Hurst / Cuba and Mexico
Photos Gage Hingeley, Marco Bava and Ryan Craig,
A friend called me and said “Let’s go to Cuba for three days”, and I said “okay!” I didn’t know exactly where we were going, but I was totally in. We went with no plans other than to explore. We brought a longboard and a shortboard, surfed some beautiful waves in beautiful Caribbean blue water. We walked for hours exploring around the town and got the coolest taxi rides you could ever get. Our taxi was bright pink. It was a really cool experience, and I hope Cuba never changes.
Surfing is always an adventure. Most of the time, chasing swell doesn’t end up the way you want it to.
Mexico was more of a real surf trip. Alana Blanchard and I have always wanted to go on a surf trip together and we finally pulled the trigger. We had such a blast, got such fun waves – the best waves I’ve ever got to surf in my life, Alana and I were on cloud nine. We played in the ocean all day, ate amazing Mexican food and got very sunburned.
Alex Smith / Namibia
Photos by Alan VanGysen
I was in Morocco, and my brother Koa Smith called with news of the swell. As soon as I hung up the phone, I booked my ticket without a second thought. I went with Koa, Benji Brand, Koa Rothman and Anthony Walsh. The wave is in a different league, the way the swell expresses itself on the sand bar with such perfection. It’s hard to believe what you’re seeing is real. Between the animal life, contrasting desert weather and massive swell, the place has a very intense energy and it’s beautifully powerful. If the trip taught me anything, it was to always say yes to a strike mission.
Ezra Sitt / Indonesia
Photos Jake Marote
After going to Indonesia the past five to seven years in a row, I’ve learned that you can get the most bang for your buck there. We had a great crew in tow: Micah Moniz, Jake Marote and a few others. Over the years, I’ve realized it is important to look at the maps and get pretty good at them. I knew there was solid swell for our whole trip, so Micah and I pulled the trigger.
The craziest part of the trip was after a full moon party, one member of our crew drove off a cliff on a moped but luckily was fine. A few guys even tried to mob us outside a event party and we had to defend ourselves. Jiujitsu has showed me how to deal with people if attacked.
Indonesia has taught me a lot in the past years, it’s become a part of me. I show a lot of respect and love the vibe, and at the same time you have to know that it can get heavy in one second. I don’t litter, I don’t look for fights, I don’t treat people badly. I just do my thing, respect everyone and get barreled.
The waves in Indo are absolutely perfect: Padang and Desert Point delivered some of the most flawless waves I’ve seen. Nias is also one of those waves that is just ridiculously perfect but can hold you underwater for a long time.
Shawn Briley / Indonesia
Photos Pete Frieden
I’ve traveled extensively on surf trips for almost three decades and I’m very thankful for the opportunity to now share some of my favorite places with my family. This year, I spent six weeks traveling through Indonesia: Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa and Java surfing, zip lining, paddle boarding and spending time with friends. I caught an epic swell at Desert Point, super fun waves at Lakey Peak, and a slabby right at Desa Limasan.
The place that has changed the most is Bali. The Balinese are incredibly nice people and their culture is still very vibrant. On the other hand, the sheer amount of development has been absolutely lifechanging for the Balinese people, and the visitors as well. Surfers fall in love with the area to some degree because it’s getting more crowded. The sheer beauty of the waves for the most part has not changed, though. It’s just the way that humans and surf industry people have capitalized and commoditized these surf breaks that has changed, in my view.
Every trip I go on teaches me lessons. I’d have to say that this trip in particular taught me to truly appreciate the special places that we as surfers are accustomed to going to because the world is changing at such a fast pace now.
Billy Kemper / Fiji
Photos Ryan Moss
This trip gave me the perspective I needed. I’ve never taken my life for granted, but this trip was a reminder of how lucky I truly am. I spent 10 days on Tavarua with three best friends that I grew up with, and I’m not sure how many people can call that part of their job.
Albee Layer, Kai Barger, Dege O’Connell, we’ve known each other since diaper days. Once we grew older, we went our separate ways. Albee started filming movies, Barger was grinding on the QS, I moved to the North Shore and wanted to surf big good waves and Dege stayed on Maui. So ever since, I’ve been talking with Albee about doing a trip. The other part of this is that when Albee won Innersection, him and Dege made a bet that if he won, Albee would have to take Dege on a surf trip. And Albee is super loyal, a man of his word. I saw there was going to be a mental run of swell going to Tavarua, and it all worked out.
During the trip, everyone’s surfing was so far beyond expectations. It’s rad to see how everyone’s surfing has evolved.
Mikey O’Shaughnessy / Indonesia and Tahiti
Photos Pete Frieden
I spent a week at Desert Point, then Bali for a week and half. I wanted to see Bali because I had never been to Indonesia before, and had always wanted to score waves at Desert Point and Keramas, experiencing a place and culture that was new to me. After that, I spent two weeks in Tahiti. The faraway destinations are always a gamble, because the swell and the forecast can always change.
Desert Point, if you’ve never been, it’s a desert. There’s no clean water and you sleep in concrete huts that are hot and super dirty. I flew to Lombok at night and wasn’t sure how I was going to get over to Deserts. After I landed, I realized I was in a very foreign location, and in a very different culture. After spending an hour trying to catch rides with some Brazilians, I luckily bumped into a Hawaiian at the airport. The wave itself at Desert Point is one of the most bizarre waves I’ve experienced. The tides are so drastic, so the swell can come in and die very quickly.
Trevor Carlson / Mexico, Fiji and Chile
Photos Edwin Morales and Tony Heff
The best wave I’ve ridden this summer was my first wave of the Puerto Escondido trip, two days before the contest – it was the first wave I’ve caught in Mexico since getting injured there last summer. I paddled out saying that I didn’t even care if I caught a wave, I just wanted to be in the water and if a perfect one came to me, I would go. Then this wave came to me and I had to go.
I started my summer going to California for the WSL Big wave awards. From California, I went to Punta Lobos, Chile for a while and then I went back home to the North Shore. From there, I chased a big swell to Fiji to surf Cloudbreak for a couple of weeks. Then the Puerto Escondido contest was called on while I was visiting family in Arizona, so I went to Mexico for a couple more weeks to surf Puerto Escondido and Salina Cruz. It was two weeks in each location: Chile, Fiji, and Mexico. There’s always a chance that after traveling halfway across the world the waves might not cooperate, so it’s very important to remember it’s the journey not the destination, waves or no waves. Traveling is what you make of it.