Mason Ho’s guide to grovelling with style
Interview by Lucas Townsend | Photos: Dan Warbrick
Get your knife collection dialed
If I’m picking any boards to hit-out a grovel session, I always have a fun board; a fish, or a shape with flavour. It’s usually around 5’5” x 19”. I’ll always have an epoxy, because they’re easy to paddle and it’s a different feeling from your normal board. If you’re used to normal PU, pull out your epoxy and take to the small waves. It’s a new sizzle, you can almost be a different surfer. I’ll have a normal board too, just to practice for these fucking contests. I wanna get on the CT and just screw with all these guys for a little bit!
Paddle out in any conditions
Onshore versus offshore, go out in everything. I love it all, and you should too. Don’t limit your options, because the filthiest conditions can offer the best surfs with no crowds. I like really glassy, perfect looking waves, even if it’s super tiny. Even if it’s knee-high, with a few obstacles, and a really tight area, that’s my favourite.
Small wave speed starts with your arms
When I’m out surfing and it’s small I get super into it and paddle everywhere. Don’t stop. You’ve got to paddle super hard, so when you get up on your board you’ve already got momentum. With that initial speed you won’t have to work too much, and if you’ve got the right board it’ll work for you. It’ll be easy to do what your mind wants.
Here's the easiest trick to look cool
It’s a no-look turn. I’m hooked on them. It’s like a no-look pass in soccer. Don’t look at where you want to hit the lip, almost pretend you’re going to let it go by and then at last minute, bang, hit it. It makes the part before the cool part look cool.
Link the combos
I use a manoeuvre to link my combos and I call ‘em wrong way ollies. Sometimes you want to keep the combo going and a chop hop is so easy because you don’t need a lip or anything. But that word chop hop is hated around here. So I started spinning the other way and for some reason everyone likes it. If I do a combo or two I’ll throw one of those in to keep it all going and link it to the sand.
Rocks are your friends
Finding obstacles in the ocean is the key to having fun while you’re grovelling. Usually its just rocks, they’re the easiest ones. Any kind of obstacles will work though. It could be a pipe in the water, or tree, or a person, or fucking anything you can play with while a wave breaks off it. Any kind of obstacle you can get is cool.
Manipulate your mates because surfing solo is lame
Surfing with one or two of your friends is the best thing in the world. Now when I call my friends and tell them where I’m surfing when it’s small they say they’re not going to surf with me. They’re over it when the swell stops after winter in Hawaii. But get good at bribing.
I bribe my bud, Burger, with food. I’ll tell him I’ll pay for him to eat food after we surf. For my other friends, fuck, I don’t even know if I’m aloud to say what I bribe them with, but… yeah… I guess I’m kinda good at conning my friends.
Leashes are a drag on your style when it's small
I try not to surf with leashes. It feels so cool being unhooked. Growing up my whole life, my dad would always speak pretty negatively about anything with a leash. There’d be super cool photos in the mag, or someone else or me, and he’d be like, “If that leash wasn’t there it’d be the sickest photo ever.” He’s been saying it since day one so I’ve learned not to like leashes. When you’re grovelling it’s the perfect time to ditch it. But, when it’s big don’t be dumb and put one on.
You can still have style when it's small
As much as people can hate flat spots, I reckon it’s super fun. I’ve noticed it with my Dad first, he always had his back arm really high. Eddie Aikau and Duke Kahanamoku did it too. When I lift my back elbow up, kinda in line with my ear, it’s like I just start floating.
I get super into it and weird on that dead spot and just coast across it. If it’s real slow I’ll Huntington hop across it. When you don’t concentrate on that flat spot and worry too much about the next section you’ll sink right in the hole.
Going out surfing is better than not surfing at all
This is the biggest lesson, right here. I got lucky because my Dad and my uncle Derek are from the east side and there’s the flattest waves in the whole island. So I’ve learned to love knee high waves because they’ve always been so into it. All the gnarlier guys around here who only surf in the bigger size have always said, “I love how your Dad and Uncle Derek surf all these small waves all the time and have heaps of fun.” I’ve always grown up wanting people to be happy on me for having fun in these tiny waves. The bigger stuff is easy, it’s like that every day in winter. It’s the small stuff that no one surfs when I’m usually by myself that I love!