Qualifying for the World Championship Tour (CT) had been a gromhood dream for Hawaiian surfer Ezekiel Lau. He fell short two years in a row and now watched nervously as his buddy and rookie surfer Kanoa Igarashi advanced, heat after heat, through the Billabong Pipe Masters. Igarashi, who had to double qualify so that Lau could slide into the 10th CT spot, would be the secret weapon he needed.
So when the big moment finally came during the quarterfinals, and Igarashi elim-inated Jordy Smith, Lau knew it was time to go shoe shopping. “The next day, I went and bought Kanoa some Yeezy 350 Boost shoes,” the 23-year-old said, laughing, referring to Adidas’ most-sought-after sneakers. “I knew he was wanting those for a while, so I figured it would even things out haha!”
And whether it’s this type of light-heartedness or hours of intense training that will push Lau to the top, he says he’s determined to represent Hawaii well next year. We checked in with him not too long after the backyard barbecue celebrations (and shoe shopping).
How did you feel the moment you quali-fied for the CT?
I felt relieved! I have been working endlessly the past four years, trying to get to this point. To see all the work pay off was relieving for me. I was more happy…for all the people that have been there help-ing me throughout the last few years. It was a team effort.
What kind of training (mentally/physically) are you doing to prepare for next year’s tour?
I have really been working a lot on my physical shape for next year; working on specific movements that I do in the water. Also, I’ve been doing a lot of injury-prevention training because making sure I’m staying loose and healthy are my main focuses. It’s going to be a long year with a lot of events back-to-back, so I need to make sure my body will be able to withstand all of that throughout the year. Mentally, I work on visualizing things that I want to see and staying in a positive light when moving forward.
What does “dream tour” mean to you?
It means this is only the beginning. Now, I’m in the position I’ve always wanted to be in, and it’s time to go to work!
When did you know that you wanted to be on the CT, with the likes of Kelly Slater and John John?
Ever since I won my first QS competition at 16 years old, I knew I could compete at the highest levels. I knew I wanted to actually pursue the dream of being on the Championship Tour.
What was your favorite and least favorite experi-ence while on the QS?
I was on the QS full-time for four years! My favorite experience was traveling with the Quiksilver team for the first time this year. We just had a lot of fun and found a lot of success in the surf as well. My least favorite was showing up to one of the events and losing all my luggage; no boards and no clothes, so I had to compete with borrowed boards.
What was the most challenging thing for you while on the QS? How did you overcome this?
Learning how to compete under any circumstance has been most challenging. A lot of unexpected things happen when traveling around the world for these events, but you just have to figure out a way to be ready to compete no matter what happens. I try to keep a clear mind and just find the positives in every situation.
Where did you grow up surfing? Where have you traveled for surfing since?
I grew up surfing Kewalo Basin the majority of my gromhood, so I would say that this place has molded my surfing the most. But I have been all around the world surfing since then. I would say my favorite place to travel would have to be Bali. The culture is so rich, and the waves are really good. It’s just a fun place to go!
What do you enjoy most about surfing? Why?
I simply just enjoy riding waves, and I enjoy riding them in any form–whether it’s longboarding, short-boarding or bodysurfing. I can’t go to the beach and not ride waves because being in the ocean is my release, and it just so happens that I’m fortunate enough to be making a career out of it.
How do you feel being not only a Hawaii surfer, but a Hawaiian surfer on the tour?
I am honored to be able to represent my home and all the Hawaiians. This is all I ever wanted to do–to just represent Hawaii on the world stage.