ESPN interviews, Ezekiel Lau!
Willi EdwardsBorn and bred into the waters around "Town," Ezekial Lau is quickly garnering international attention.
Ezekiel Lau is a warrior: Literally. The 18-year-old, who is affectionately called "Zeke," is a senior at Kamehameha Schools and its mascot is the Warriors. In addition, his middle name -- bestowed by his great-grandfather -- is "Kekoamaikalanimai," which translates to "warrior from the heavens." He is Hawaii's hope for the next world tour surfer from the birthplace of surfing. His recent event victory at the North Shore Surf Shop Pro Junior at Sunset Beach in January is one of several contest results that have Hawaiians touting Zeke as the next prodigy to do battle on the world tour.
In 2011, Zeke appeared in three ASP Star event finals. He won in El Salvador and at Sunset Beach and placed runner-up at Puerto Escondido. Two years ago Zeke broke his back after a poorly calculated floater, but won an NSSA National title with the injury. A three-month stint in a body cast, meticulous dieting and tenacious physical therapy made him healthier and stronger. Today, Zeke looks more like a wide receiver than a surfer. ESPN caught up with the athletic, Kewalo Basin local to talk about training, jocks, swag and surfing.
Where does your competitive drive come from?
The sheer will to win all the time and just working hard; you're gonna want that work to pay off. If it takes that little more to push through and if you need that score in the end, you're going to push through and do it. All the things you do to prepare, leading up to events pretty much gives you all that drive.
How often to do you train?
I trained twice a day during winter break and Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the morning with Uncle Kimo [Middlesworth]. I do my own weightlifting and core training in the afternoon. In between training days is surfing and whatever running regimen my dad makes that's aside from all the school stuff. It's a lot of work for me to get out there and I just want to make it count.
Where do you go to school and what makes it such a unique educational institution?
I go to Kamehameha Schools: it's a school for kids that have native Hawaiian ancestry so it's pretty prestigious just to go to that school so I just want to seize every opportunity that I get and just make things happen.
How did you feel when you saw so many of your friends that surf, like Keanu Asing, going to home school and you were in a stricter school setting with bells and schedules?
At first, I wasn't used to it and I didn't really see [the advantages] as clearly as I do. When you're young you want to do what everybody else is doing. Now, I see that [my school experience is] different. I think it's better to be different and not just trying to do the whole full-on-surf-thing all the time. It just sets your self a part.
How did the traditional school schedule affect your hunger to surf?
I just wanted to be successful and you see the different paths other kids take with school and how lucky I am to already have a career ready. All these other kids are working really hard to get into college and build their career. I know how fortunate I am and I don't want to take it for granted.
You're the captain of the Kamehameha Surf Team, but we heard you cruise with all the jocks at school.
At school I'm pretty much hanging out with mostly all the football players. They're all my friends and I met them when we were young because we had something in common: we all played sports. All the athletes kind of clique together and I'm with all the football players. They're all bigger than me. They lift weights, get big, train hard and try to do good in school because school comes first. If they want to play any sport they gotta do good in school. Being around that kind of mentality just pushes you to want to do well.
If you didn't surf what sports would you play?
If I didn't surf I would probably be playing football, basketball and running track because that's what all my friends do. I already wanted to play football so bad this year just because you want to do what your friends do, but I had to sacrifice that just cause surfing is going good right now and I don't want to mess that up.
Your pops, Leonard Lau, used to play football for the University of Hawaii back in the day and is a football coach. Did that make you want to pick up the pigskin?
Yeah, for sure. He's a big part of my life and he started me out in sports real young. We did pretty much every sport possible except for football. That's the only one we didn't play. His experience with sports and athletics really helped build who I am. He instilled working hard and training to me. He ingrained into my brain that that was the only way I was going to make it. He is big on preparation."
As a Native Hawaiian, how important is surfing to you?
As a Hawaiian, it's really important. It seems like Hawaiians fell of the map lately just cause they're aren't very many Native Hawaiians surfing [on tour] now. I just want to make that come back and try to bring that whole thing back. We started this sport so I just want to perpetuate it.
How do you describe your style in the water?
Speed, power and flow.
How do you describe your style on the street?
"Swag: Just swagged-out all day. One hundred percent."
Are you a gangster?
No, I'm not a gangster, but I am swagged-out. [laughs]
Why do you think some people think you're a gangster?
I don't know. Probably because of the music I listen to. That whole hip-hop vibe and we just kind of grew up into that whole thing, especially at school. All my friends are like that and just that attitude: you don't take no BS.
What are your career goals?
The ultimate career goal for me would to become world champion, but I'm trying to take it slow right now and build off of the success I'm having right now. Just try to do my best and see where it takes me.