Stab Magazine | Watch: A Young Surfer With A Head On His Broad, Voluminous Shoulders
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Watch: A Young Surfer With A Head On His Broad, Voluminous Shoulders

Happily introducing Kuio-okalani Young.

cinema // Sep 1, 2020
Words by stab
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Talent these days seems to be crawling out from every cobblestone, rivermouth, and lava rock crevice. 

A couple weeks back, Erwin Bliss got under our skin like a radioactive spider bite. Then came Vittoria Farmer and Luke Condon, who released nameless yet unmissable clips. This week, we introduce Kuio-okalani Young, a 21-year-old who surfs like a Hawaiian and even beefier version of Letty Mortenson.

Unsponsored, unrestrained, and totally unbeknownst to us, Kuio has been laying waste to Hawaii’s playful bowls both on the face and in the clouds. Oh, and he’s pretty damn clever too. Watch Kuio’s new edit, ‘Precipitate’ (by Keith Ketchum) above, and get to know more about the stone-wall, knowledge-seeking, Aussie-Hawaiian below. 

Stab: Hey Kuio. How old are you and where are you from?

Kuio Young: Hello. Im 21 years old. I feel like itʻs kind of hard to give one definite answer on where iʻm from. My dad is from Kauai and my mom is from Australia. They were both working in the surf industry in California at the time that they had me, so I was born in Fountain valley. They only lived there for a month or so before moving back to Kauai, where I first remember growing up.

My parents got separated pretty early on in my life, and I ended up moving to Oahu with my mom. I went to school there and would go back to Kauai to visit my dad for all of the long weekends and school holidays. Kauai always felt like home to me, so soon after I finished high school I ended up finding a place to rent and made the move back to Kauai. I guess you could just make it simple and say I am from Kauai [laughs].

No I appreciate the backstory! So, what do you do for a living/school/etc.? 

I graduated from Kamehameha schools, a school for children of Hawaiian ancestry in 2017. Following high school, I went to Aviation school. I wanted to be a pilot ’cause I heard that they made a lot of money and it would allow me to travel the world. I did that for almost a year and I got to the point where I was flying single engine planes by myself. Long story short, I realized that my passion wasn’t in flying, so I ended up going to online college and taking some courses that interested me.

I’m not chasing after a specific degree, so I kind of bounce around with the classes that I take. So far I’ve taken classes on U.S. Public policy, organic chemistry, analytical chemistry, plant biology, and plant physiology. I just take classes that allow me to run my personal business better. I found out that I had an affinity for plants a few years ago, so I started up a plant nursery and installation business. I took on the occupation full time at the beginning of this year.

We specialize in growing fruit trees and vegetable starters. We do everything from growing the plants, to making custom soils, fertilizers, preventative pest sprays, landscape design, and installation. Everything is grown organically. My business partner also surfs (his name is Chris Satterfield and he fuckin rips), so itʻs a great job that allows us to surf when the waves are good and work in between swells. Just have to make sure that everything gets watered and cared for daily.

I have also been teaching myself graphic design and clothing design as a hobby, so I do that on the side for fun. I made a few runs of shirts that sold well, so Im sure I will be doing more of that in the future.

Wow, impressive. Tell me about your background in surfing. Future prospects?

Both my parents were surfers, so I have been surfing for as long as I can remember. My mom, Jodi Wilmott, was the media director for the triple crown of surfing for a long time and eventually became the general manager for WSL North America and Hawaii. She introduced me to the surf industry and put me on some game at an early age. She wasn’t too fond of me pursuing a career as a surfing professional. Which I don’t blame her for, since she was on the tour herself back in the day and has seen the industry in its peaks and valleys over the years.

My dad, Mike Young, was a great surfer and musician, who actually put on a lot of local surf contests and events back in the day. He was the one that would take me to surf contests as a child up until my teenage years. I never really did that great in terms of contest success. He passed away when I was in 9th grade so I kind of took a break from surfing and competing for a few years. I focused on school and actually got into competitive weightlifting, of all things.

Towards the end of high school, I got back into surfing and did some Junior and WQS events. Made a few heats, no standout results. I would say that I only started taking surfing seriously in the last year or two. My goals for the future are to get into Stab High (where do I sign up?) and some of the WSL Airborne events. I love doing airs, so that would be a dream come true. I’m sure that I will do some regional QS events next year, but until then Im just focusing on improving my surfing and putting out better surf clips. That makes me the happiest. Surfing isn’t a cheap sport, so getting some sponsors to surf for/work with is definitely at the top of the list of goals as well.

Your surfing is extremely powerful and progressive. Who are some surfers that inspire your approach?

Thanks for the kind words, my surfing is a work in progress. There are definitely a lot of surfers that I look up to for inspiration. For as long as I can remember, Andy Irons, Dane Reynolds, and Jordy smith were always at the top of that list. Those guys can just rip up any section that you throw at them, whether itʻs a big barrel, open face, or air section. I had a lot of their posters on my wall as a kid and I watched their videos religiously.

When I was about 16, I had a knee injury that severely limited me from doing airs for about 2 years, so I would actually watch a lot of Hawaiian power surfing for inspiration. In that aspect, I draw inspiration from guys like Sunny Garcia, Kaimana Henry, and Tai Van Dyke. They throw crazy amounts of water and position themselves well in heavy sections. That will never go out of style. They are also solid humans, whose traits I look up to.

In regards to progression, Noa Deane and Chippa Wilson inspire me a lot. Noa is actually my god brother and I feel like he is the one that inspired me most to do airs. I remember surfing with him when he came to Hawaii one year with Uncle Wayne (Rest In Peace), and he was punting huge airs on dry sections at rockies. I was like holy shit I want to do that one day [laughs]. I couldn’t figure out how to do them for the longest time, but he gave me some pointers and some old boards. Now I can land a few.

Chippa Wilson is just as tech as it gets. Crazy rotations, board spins, and body varials. I feel like he is on the forefront of areal progression. Not much else to say.

And tell me about your surfboards. They all look a bit…unusual. 

There are only four boards that I ride in that whole clip and they are all shaped by Akila Aipa. I have been working with Akila on boards since the beginning of this year and I have been lucky enough to gain some insight on his shaping methods. All of my boards are glassed with a thruster setup, but for the most part I ride the boards as a Twin fin with a small trailer fin (2+1). If the waves are big I will use a standard thruster setup. When I first jumped on his boards, I went from being a front-footed surfer, to having to adjust for the added back foot sensitivity provided by the 2+1 setup. Having the ability to utilize the whole board and really engage the rail line has added more dynamics to my surfing approach.

I’m 5’10 and I weigh about 170 but I like to ride boards between 28-29 Liters, which is a little more volume than most people my size. Board size ranges between 5’5 to 6’0 depending on the wave height/conditions. For the most part, I ride a 5’8 Modern Fish model—it’s got a full outline with straighter rails, and a hard edge through the tail. It allows for a lot of down the line speed and quick directional changes, which I love since the majority of maneuvers that I go for are airs or power turns. The smaller, strange looking board that I ride in the video is a twin fin, 5’5 blunt nose epoxy prototype. I gave the board a test when I went to visit Akila on Oahu and to my surprise it was probably the best air board I ever had haha. The board was so light and responsive. We are still working on the model but I believe it may be available later in the year.  

What’s something interesting or unusual we should know about you?

Something interesting or unusual, hmm. Well, this might not come to mind when you see or meet me, but iʻm kind of a nerd hahah. I know a lot of random facts and statistics. I like running numbers and learning how things work, and I pick up on things that interest me very quickly. Sometimes I can’t sleep if I don’t figure out or understand something that iʻm learning about. I read a lot of scientific forums and journals for fun. I like reading and learning about the science of economics, world markets, commodities, and agriculture. I trade stocks and options throughout the week, so its a good way to test my knowledge and learning. Itʻs kind of like trying to piece together a puzzle that you weren’t provided the reference picture for. The pieces get thrown at you as you go, and you only get to see the whole picture once the puzzle is completed. I’ve been doing that for about a year now and Iʻm alright at it. I feel like if I didn’t spend so much time surfing, I would go to school to be a scientist or a stock broker. Hopefully all the surfing pays off in the end. Iʻve invested a lot of time and energy into it.

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