By Andrew Oliver
One of the great attributes of Hawai’i is the sense of community and connection shared amongst our diverse population. For many island residents, there exists only a few degrees of separation, either through family or friends, to just about anyone in the state. “Oh yeah, I know her! She’s my cousin’s neighbor’s daughter,” and so forth. This is especially true in our surf community, where not only our greatest talents but also the best settings (our world class waves) are easily accessible to all.
On any given day during the North Shore winter season, you are likely to find an abundance of pros in the water, on the beach, in the line at Foodland, or just about anywhere you turn. Their veil of mystery and exclusiveness is somewhat removed when, in theory (other than during a comp), you can paddle out and join your favorite pros in any lineup. (Again – this is in theory.) There is no shame if you decide to sit out a session at 12-foot Pipe, because watching from the shore is the next best thing. Very few other sports allow such seamless interaction between heroes and fans, with free front row seats to the action. You’re not likely to be able to walk onto the Laker’s practice court to get a closer look at Lebron anytime soon.
While John John or Carissa may get a few more turned heads when they go for a surf at home, it is more or less business as usual in our island lineups regardless of who is in the water. With the talent pool as deep as it is here, even if the more recognizable names aren’t out, there is bound to be some absolute ripping going down. With the regularity of seeing these super talents in the flesh, coupled with the constant stream of behind the scene access through social media, the wall between these untouchable heroes of surf and us mere mortals has been all but removed. So, we should be forgiven for taking for granted just how influential our homegrown surf stars are in the greater context of our sport.
The Manulele Awards, our annual celebration of Hawai’i’s best waveriders, is our humble attempt to give our masters of surf the hard earned credit they deserve. Running down the list of this year’s winners, without exception, are names that are at the forefront of what surfing is today, and redefining what’s to come. In every category – shortboarding, longboarding, big waves, womens, juniors, progressive surfing – Hawai’i’s surfers are pushing the envelope. And yes, we have the unique cultural legacy of being the epicenter of modern surfing. But, to sustain that for all these years, and to retain such influence and relevance despite surfing’s surge in popularity around the globe is an incredible feat that we should all be immensely proud of. So join us in celebrating this year’s Manulele Award winners, in doing so you celebrate Hawai’i itself.