“She’s The Best Female Pipe Surfer… Ever!” Says Jamie O’Brien
Introducing the 19-year-old, unsponsored, teeny-bikini-wearing Pipeline charger Moana Jones.
Moana Jones has 2,000 Instagram followers and a total of zero surfing sponsors, meaning you’ve probably never heard of her.
Nevertheless, this 19-year-old North Shore resident is what Jamie O’Brien and Barron Mamiya are calling, “the best female at Pipeline… ever.”
“She’s the real deal!” continued Banzai expert JOB. “Her future is bright.”
“I’ve never seen a girl out at Pipe when it’s big,” said Hawaii’s most promising man-child, Barron Mamiya, “but Moana has been. And she’s not just posted up in the channel. She’s in the mix trying to get the nugs. It’s pretty crazy.”
Don’t believe them? Take a look at Moana’s Instagram feed. It’s filled with mid-sized Pipe caverns – the type that appear breezy through a screen but would cause most to drag their feet and pull back toward the horizon IRL.
Moana charges with a timeless style and often with playful hair-flips, which serve to emphasize her feminine mystique at the kielbasa cabal that is Pipeline.
Naturally, we wanted to wanted to get to know her.
Stab: Hey Moana! We’ve noticed a bunch of your clips popping up on IG, and we’re so incredibly stoked to see a girl getting properly barreled out at Pipe. Tell us a little about yourself.
Moana Jones: Well, my name’s Moana [laughs], I’m 19, and I’m from the North Shore of Oahu – born and raised.
Did you attend the fabled Sunset Elementary?
No, I was actually homeschooled my whole life.
I assume that means you’ve been surfing your whole life?
Yup, since I was little!
What about sponsors?
I’m not sponsored by anybody.
Really? That’s surprising. Do you do contests or are you, like Bethany Hamilton, a “soul surfer”?
I used to be super into doing contests. I did them all the way up until I was about 16, but when I turned 17 I started going to college and didn’t really have time to compete, so I’ve just been going to classes and surfing Pipe when I can.
Oh, you’re a scholarly gal! Are you at UH [University of Hawaii, located in Honolulu]?
Yup, I’m at UH. I still live at home on the North Shore, so I just make the commute for classes then come back each day.
What are you studying?
I’m a biology major, so like… life [laughs].
We’ve noticed that you spend a lot of time hanging with Barron Mamiya, Noah Beschen, Makana Pang, etc… is that your little surf crew?
Yeah, those guys are pretty much my best friends. We grew up together and have been surfing together forever.
Would you say they’re partially responsible for your recent efforts at Pipeline?
Yeah, like I said they’re my best friends, and obviously I want to surf with my best friends, so when we were younger we would all surf V-Land and Haleiwa – kid-friendly waves – then as everybody got older they started charging harder, so I was like “Noooo!” [laughs]. I realized that I had to either start charging harder or find a new group of friends, and I didn’t want to find a new group of friends.
And look at you now! A regular at the deadliest wave on Earth. Speaking of, when did you first surf Pipe?
I first surfed Pipe when I was 12. On my first wave I dropped in and nosedived. I ate it really bad [laughs].
How long did it take you to get comfortable and start making waves out there?
I would get a couple of waves here and there over the years, but I was always scared to go out because the crowd is so gnarly at Pipe. All the guys are super intimidating when you’re a little 15-year-old girl [laughs]. But now I’m more friends with a lot of them so it’s not as scary.
Do you get called into a lot of waves at this point?
Yeah, now that they kinda know me they’re always like “Go Moana, go Moana!”, but anytime a good wave comes, like a gnarly one, I’m like, “Nooo way,” [laughs]. I’m not trying to go on the super sketchy guy waves. I just want the girl waves. Usually they don’t go for those ones so they tell me to go, so I’m like, “Cool!” [laughs].
It’s all relative of course, but some of the waves you’ve been getting are really sick, and there are some heavy ones too. Do you go out on the “big” days ever? Over the past month it’s been pretty solid…
It’s been like Second Reef and Third Reef a bunch lately – super gnarly – and I’m just like “Mmmmmmmmm, I’m gonna wait for it to get smaller,” [laughs]. Part of me wants to go out when it’s like that, but my biggest fear is going out there and getting myself into a situation that I can’t handle. I don’t want all the guys to be like, “Oh Moana, what are you doing? We gotta go save you now.” So I just go out when I feel I’m not gonna make myself look stupid.
You’re still really young, though . Do you feel like you’ll ever get to a point where you’ll want to surf those bigger days?
Oh yeah, no doubt. I look at it when it’s big and I picture myself pulling into a huge barrel and getting spit out. I see my friends like Barron and Makana getting those waves and it makes me want it even more. I’m trying to work my way up to it – hopefully one day it happens.
What kind of boards are you riding out there? How big are they and who’s making them?
I get boards from my local shapers over here, one is Tim Carroll and the other is Brett Muramoto. I ride smaller boards at Pipe – around 5’9 – and I kinda get rousted for it all the time. I’m pretty short though, like 5’2, so a 5’9 is pretty big for me [laughs]. I could probably ride a bigger board, but right now I’m not going for the super gnarly waves anyways.
And you can use the board as an excuse. Brilliant!
Yeah I’m like, “I can’t go, my board’s too small” [laughs].
Let’s be frank. Many fans were disappointed with how the women performed in their Pipe heat this year, and even with the lack of tube-riding at pumping Honolua. I think everybody really wants to see women getting proper tubes in proper waves, and you seem to be doing that without the promise of money or fame. What drove you down this highly impressive path?
The main reason I wanted to get barreled was because my friends were doing it. Growing up with Barron, Makana, and the boys, we would just surf sketchy closeout barrels all the time, so I learned how to do it and got addicted to it. Getting barreled is my favorite thing in the world.
It really is an addiction. But there can be downsides, especially at Pipe. Have you had any bad experiences out there – hitting the reef, particularly?
Kinda… I hit my knee about a month ago and had a little strawberry, some blood, and it actually just healed. I’ve had a few other scratches and bruises but nothing too horrific thus far. Knock on wood.
Would you say you’ve reached a point of comfort out there, or does your heart still beat like a Mongolian war drum at the sight of an impending set?
Oh, as soon as I see anything bigger than a six-footer I’m pretty terrified [laughs]. Pipe is such a confronting wave. It all happens so fast.
A lot of powerful people in the surfing world have given you a lot of support online. Jamie O’Brien and Barron Mamiya even called you the best female ever at Pipe. How does that make you feel?
Well, I don’t know about that [laughs], but getting props from those guys means everything to me. Jamie was my childhood hero – I used to always watching him surf Pipe and he’s been really cool to me ever since I started surfing out there. And I grew up with Barron, so to see what he’s doing out at Pipe now is really amazing.
Do their praises make you consider following surfing as a career path? Surely there’d be an avenue for the “greatest female Pipe surfer ever”.
When I was younger I really thought it would be my career, but now I just love surfing for what it is – it’s where I go to just have fun. I don’t like pressure. Every time I surf I want to just go out and have fun with my friends. That’s my only goal, and I like it like that. So I don’t really see it as a career for me.
Fair enough, but you’re breaking Shane Beschen’s heart. He commented on one of your recent posts, “Moana, are you sure you don’t want to be a women’s world champion? You have the potential to do big things.” Is that something you’d ever reconsider, or are you pretty over contests?
Don’t get me wrong, I love competing – it’s super fun. But where I’m at right now, just focusing on college is most important to me. I’m at a different stage in life right now, and I’m happy just going to school and freesurfing. I’d rather just surf the North Shore rather than travel around the world and surf beach breaks.
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