Faces of 2015 is a series on this year's new and returning Championship Tour (CT) athletes. There will be five Hawaiians on the 2015 Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour, but only one rookie, Keanu Asing. The 21-year-old will be the first rookie from Hawaii since Sebastian Zietz joined the Tour in 2013. With a whole state behind him, Asing is preparing himself for a level of competition he has never experienced.
World Surf League: How do you feel about making the Championship Tour!
Keanu Asing: I'm ecstatic! It's always been a dream of mine to come on Tour. To fulfill my dream and actually do it is pretty crazy. Setting goals, when you actually achieve them they become so surreal. I don't think anything really sinks in until the first event.
WSL: Can you tell us about your campaign, HeartOverHeight?
KA: A lot of the talk is that the best surfers are tall. You look at Jordy Smith, Bede Durbidge, John John Florence -- all these tall guys. I'm definitely the smallest surfer on the Tour, QS and CT (laughs). It's not about how tall you are, but it's about how much heart you have and how much effort you put in. I got that saying from this NBA player Nate Robinson, he's a really small guy and a lot of coaches didn't believe in him. But he was like the 3-time Dunk Champion. He really proves in the NBA that he can hang with the big guys. I think I have that in myself. I have a lot of heart and passion and I care about what I do. I love the sport.
WSL: What do you think you learned during your time on the Qualifying Series (QS) that will help you on the CT?
KA: There's a lot of things I learned along the way and I'm still learning so much more. I feel like I still have a lot to learn. Coming from the Juniors, every time I step up a level it just gets harder and harder. I learned nothing gets easier and the people I will be competing against are even higher quality surfers than the QS. Everyone is complete, there are really no flaws in CT surfers. That's another thing I'll have to learn.
Mainly I learned to keep my head on straight, to keep focused through events and pick my shots. There's a time and a place to put a 100 percent of your energy into something and a time to back off and really save your energy. I learned a lot last year on that end. Trying to run the marathon not the race. That's going to be a key factor for me with a big learning curve. I was going to compete [at the Volcom Pipe Pro], but I wasn't feeling a 100 percent and I feel it's super important to be 100 percent. I worked so hard to get to the CT and now that I'm here I don't want to chance anything or potentially get hurt. My main focus is to be 100 percent prepared for the CT.
My main focus is to be 100 percent prepared for the CT.
WSL: Are there any specific stops that you think will suit your surfing better than others?
KA: There's a lot of events I haven't been to such as Fiji and Bells. Bells might suit my surfing since it's got a nice open wall and I can draw my lines out. I'm looking forward to a lot of the events. I'm living in San Clemente and Lowers is right here, so for me that event will feel really comfortable. I'm really excited to surf a lot of these new places. The places I don't know as well I watch footage from the year before, even two years before.
WSL: Who will be part of your Tour team this year?
KA: Damien Hobgood and Bert Ishimaru are my coaches. Damien will be traveling with me for the majority of the events this year [which] will be good for Tahiti and Fiji, he knows all those waves. He has 14-15 years worth of experience he'll be sharing with me, I'm pretty sure he's dealt with a lot of conditions and type of waves that most of the locations have to offer. It's gonna be perfect having him on my side and having him there to look out for me. Bert helped me a lot on the QS level, he knows the competitive spirit.
Also, [Fox Team Manager] Frankie D'Andrea and the support crew I have there is unbelievable. It gives me a lot of confidence having people that are there for me, it has helped my mental game.
WSL: Will your girlfriend, UFC fighter Kailin Curran, be able to make it to any events?
KA: I was going to try and bring her to Snapper, but she has a fight coming up so she's going to have to start training. She'll be there at Lowers and Pipe, but she doesn't really get to travel so I'm hoping I'll get to bring her to another stop. I'm hoping I can make it to one of her fights if they happen in between contests. I have never been, I just get nervous watching someone try to hit her in the face. (laughs)
WSL: Are you nervous about competing at the elite level?
KA: I'm really nervous because I've never dealt with this kind of competition, it's a whole other realm of surfing. The athletes on the CT are not like the athletes on the QS. I'm nervous to see what it has to offer me and see where I stand. I want to put my surfing alongside [the best] and beat [them]. You can't walk the staircase without taking one step at a time, so I'm looking forward to seeing what the competition is like at Snapper and really elevating my surfing.
WSL: What goals do you have for your rookie season?
KA: Obviously the long-term goal is to be Top 5, Top 10, Top 15 -- being a World Champion is why we do it. But you have to be realistic. It's my first year on tour and I'm trying to be realistic, I would like to requalify for the CT. I'm not looking for results, but for performances. If you work on your performances, the results will follow. If I could crack the Top 15 that would be huge, but realistic is requalifying and working my way up the ladder. I'm trying to be 1 percent better everyday.
WSL: Can you tell us about your quiver? Will anything change to meet the level of surfing on the CT?
KA: I work closely with Wade [Tokoro] and Bert [Ishimaru] works with Wade. After the event at Sunset I got like a week of relaxing and went straight back to working on boards for Snapper and figuring out boards for Bells. The work started and that's what I love, being really calculated. I love working on anything that's going to help make me better. The boards I've been working on with Wade have a little more rocker and a little more foam under me. I have to be a stronger surfer against these guys on the Championship Tour. The waves at Snapper have a lot of cup to them so the rocker will help. I think being really precise on what boards I ride will really help my performance.
WSL: Will you stay in Australia after Snapper?
KA: I'm going to try to come back to California and regroup. Get a batch of different boards and get ready for Bells and Margaret. I feel like those little breaks are going to be huge for me. Being on the road so much, balancing QS and CT events, it's going to be crucial for me to take those.
WSL: What are three things you'll be bringing with you, apart from your surf gear?
KA: My bible. Probably my laptop -- I watch a lot of footage of myself surfing. I analyze what I do, to be really precise and go over footage when I can. I'm obsessed with watching footage and I really like it when it's bad because I get to work on more things. I think that's what makes you better.
I'm excited for the unknown.
And -- I'll bring a tennis ball to keep myself limber sitting on those long plane rides, it's tough to keep your body intact!
WSL: What are you most excited about?
KA: I'm most excited to learn about this level of surfing and really just enjoy it. I want to embrace the fact that I'm one of the best 34 surfers in the world at the moment and work from there. To push myself to a level I never thought I could be. Getting a big barrel at Teahupo'o or a big air in Brazil, I'm excited for the unknown.