By Sean Reilly
More explosive than Waikiki’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. It’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.
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 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.
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 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.
Tell me about your best session ever.
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 not always barrel riding, it’s always that mixed bag. But the best session from recent memory would probably be at Uluʻs (Uluwatu). It was like 10 to 12 foot and it was the outside corner. I ended up time traveling and going back to the 1970ʻs. I rode a 7ʻ6 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’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 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…
Life’s a garden, dig it!