MALA’E McELHENY

@BANZAIGROM

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MALA’E McEHLENY

@BANZAIGROM

KEEP TRACK OF THIS 12 YEAR-OLD FROM THE NORTH SHORE OF OAHU WHO’S BEEN CATCHING OUR EYE ON INSTAGRAM WITH HIS BRILLIANT MONIKER, BANZAIGROM. LONG LIVE THE GROMS!

MALA’E McELHENY

pronounced: Ma-La-A AGE: 12 LIVES:

North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii

SPONSORS:

Amundson Customs, Go Foil, Duotone and Patagonia Surf

How did you get into wingsurfing? I was super fortunate that John Amundson taught me to foil when I was nine. John also let me borrow his brand new Duotone Foil Wing right after I had a lesson with Alan Cadiz over on Maui last year. I’m also grateful that my parents have helped me so much and that my dad and grandfather both come from a windsurfing and kiting background. Slowly but surely I’m teaching the rest of my family how to wing! Is wingsurfing similar to any other sports experiences you’ve had? The timing was really great for me to get into wingsurfing because I had just started doing foil surfing airs, so had built some experience using straps. I was also learning to kitesurf around that same time and beginning to understand more about the wind. On a trip to Maui Alex Aguera spent a lot of time towing me behind him on a foil board and also on a surfboard set up. I feel the kiting and towing experiences really set me up for success with the wing.

Can you remember the moment you first got hooked? I sensed that airs were possible and for sure it was doing my first jump at my home spot, Backyards. Of course, seeing Kai Lenny wing in person made me begin to see where wingsurfing was heading. Staying upwind was also a big moment, but really it was when I put straps on the board and learnt to do airs. I’ve become addicted to the feeling of being in the air.

Who do usually ride with? There seems to be a really progressive young pack of riders coming from Maui and Oahu - do you all ride together much? I have been wingsurfing a lot with Derek Hamasaki, Zack and Glennel Jordan, Kris Kadzielawa and Konrad Bright. The Oʻahu wing crew is growing fast because people like Derek spend time helping others learn in a safe way. I am super stoked to see that awesome young foilers here like Jack Ho and Zane Saenz are doing really well on the wing already! On Maui I scored awesome sessions with another Duotone rider, Bobo Gallagher, who for sure is inspiring a lot of people to go big with the wing!

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Amp for the ramp

Mala'e with his grandfathers, Byron Amona and Larry McElheny

What’s your favourite manoeuvre and why? I have a lot of favourites but the trick I like most is a tweaked out air off a wave, which is pretty similar to a kitesurfing raley. The landing is much cleaner than an air with no tweak because as I come in with much more speed on landing and swing the foil under me. So as soon as I land I can be right back on foil. What trick are you currently working on and what is the most difficult part of learning it? It seems that a lot of good riders are now doing the back spin. It can be really tricky timing the rotation of your upper body and the wing because the wing can create a lot of force and really whip around just as you’re landing. I just saw a clip of Jaime Herraiz landing one so clean with the new Duotone Unit!

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Who do you look up to in watersports? Kai Lenny and Zane Schweitzer are really inspiring because they are able to excel at all the disciplines of foiling in addition to the all the other types of ocean activities that they are the world’s best at! Both have been so kind to me in arranging to spend time together in the water, here and on Maui. Here on Oahu, Kamaki Worthington and John Amundson also excel in all the water activities they do and have also really helped me out. Both of my grandpas also provide me guidance. Not only do all these guys share their ocean knowledge, but they’re also contributing in many ways to making the community a better place.

Oahu isn't lacking in swell; perfect for winging!

Photo: Tracy Wright

Where do you see wingsurfing going in the next couple of years? I’m excited to see more and more people getting into wingsurfing around the world. To me, the wing has cracked the code on how to get more people into windsports and has also made it possible to foil in all sorts of new places. I see even more people of all ages getting into winging in the next few years. In Hawaii people are going to take their wings into bigger waves and boost bigger airs this winter. I think there will soon be more races and contests (wave riding, big air and freestyle). Races will be anything from course races to downwind channel crossings. I think people are so excited to wing and foil that they recruit their friends and help them to learn. Winging is a sport that is super simple and accessible so that anybody can do it. Tell us about the equipment you usually use. On a typical day here I will wingsurf on a 4m Duotone Echo, my 4’2” Amundson Customs ‘Slim Pete’ model, and I will usually be on the Go Foil GL120 on a 36.5” mast. On Oahu we are stoked if the wind hits 20 miles per hour, but we are lucky that you can find waves most days somewhere on the island. When it gets really windy I can ride my 3m Duotone wing with the Go Foil GL100 or GL80. Its always super fun to be on a smaller wing because I can try new tricks without the wing tips hitting the water.

With highly regarded North Shore shaper, John Amundson

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