Australian Surfing Life interviews Arnette pro rider, Ezekiel Lau.
Zeke about to give a surfer at Keramas a faceful of Bali spray. Photo: Andrew Shield.
This interview first appeared in "Focus" in Surfing Life 289
Hawaii courses through the veins of 18-year-old budding superstar, Ezekiel Lau, or at least that’s what his high school says. Zeke – as he’s known - is a student at Kamehameha High School, one of several learning centers around the islands that cater purely to kids of native Hawaiian ancestry. Although still very young, it’s seen Zeke take a very serious stance toward the continuation and preservation of Hawaiian surf culture. “When I get older for sure I want to come back and be able to give back to the kids in Hawaii and help all that new talent. I definitely wanna be a part of it,” he says.
It was also here, on a sunny day in November 2010, that Zeke first learned of the death of one of Hawaii’s modern heroes, Andy Irons. A.I. was an idol and friend of Zeke’s, the two having shared a coach in Dave Riddle. The influence of both Andy and Dave is very evident in the mechanics of Zeke’s surfing; big smooth arcs, stored up speed unleashed in furious gaffs, and a lofty aerial game. More recently, Zeke’s competitive results have also begun to reflect that of a future champion. In the past two months, Zeke joined Andy on the winners’ list of America’s most prestigious junior series, the NSSA Nationals, at Huntington. He followed that up with a third in the star studded six-star Billabong Pro J-Bay, and then a win in a four-star event in Japan.
Above all that, Zeke rates recently winning the NSSA National trophy for Outstanding Performance, presented by the Irons Family, as his most cherished title. The loss of Andy was a monumental blow for both Zeke and Hawaiian surfing. When we caught up we sought an answer as to how his generation was faring, who has stepped up to fill the void, and what it means to be carrying The Rock into 2012 and beyond.
How much did it mean to claim the Andy Irons trophy at the NSSA Nationals, Zeke?
It was pretty gnarly. I didn’t know about it until the last day when (former Hawaiian pro turned coach) Jason Shibata told me about it, and I was psyched. I didn’t think I was gonna win it. I thought they’d give it to some grom who surfed really well, but at the end of the day they gave it to me and it’s the sickest trophy I’ve ever won in my life.
How close were you to A.I.?
I knew him pretty well through Dave Riddle, who coached Andy since he was small. They were really close and growing up Dave used him as a mentor. Everything Dave taught me, was based off what Andy did in surfing, contests. I also got to have little things like Andy would come over for dinner and he’d be hanging with Dave and his wife, and it was always really cool to have him around.
How did you guys interact?
It was pretty sick. Andy always knew what was going on with amateur stuff and was really interested. He was just fun to be around, joking and talking about rap music, Lil Wayne and all the stuff we talk about. He’d just crack jokes and hang out and have fun.
What did you take away from Andy’s surfing?
Andy just had this special feel on the water. Dave always taught us to study him and Kelly, and what they would do in competition, and how focused and determined they were. I feel like their whole attitude to competitive surfing was something he wanted us to take in. One of the first things he ever taught me was about Andy’s whole highline floater deal. I’d seen Andy do it a bunch and I remember just watching videos and trying to copy exactly what he did. Those highline floaters are pretty much the base.
Zeke has got the frame, and the surfing, of someone who looks much older than his 18 years of age. Photo: Andrew Shield.
Read the rest of the interview HERE!