INTERVIEW BY JAY ADAMS
INTRODUCTION BY JAY ADAMS
PHOTOS BY EDWIN WHELPLEY and DAVID DAVID
Here we are. Kalani’s father just told me about something that he was trying to teach Kalani. What was it? Humility, kindness and respect…Yeah. I’d say that every time you talk with Kalani, those are traits that you can see that he’s got. He really stands out. He’s a really well behaved young guy. We’re just sitting here at his house in my car, so let’s ask some questions.“I don’t want my competitors looking at my weapon… I’ll keep my board in a board bag and hide it in the bushes.”
Kalani, how old are you?
When’s your birthday?
Wow. Okay. So you’re halfway to 12, right?
Do you think you’re getting old yet?
Do you feel young?
What’s the best thing about being young?
When you fall, it doesn’t hurt that bad. I don’t know. I just like being young.
What’s the worst you’ve ever hurt yourself?
I hit my face on the coping doing a Miller flip.
You’re eleven years old and you’re doing Miller flips on the coping and bashing your face. That’s pretty hot, dude. How old were you when you started skating and surfing? Which did you do first?
I started surfing first. I was sixteen months old.
[Laughs] What? Were you surfing in your little porta-bathtub or what?
Did your dad take you out?
Yeah, I saw him surfing and I got really crazy about it and wanted to start surfing, so he took me out for a couple of minutes. Then he took me in and tied me to the chair with the leash, because he wanted to go surf. Then he came back and untied me from the leash and we went back out.
[Laughs] What’s your earliest memory in life?
The earliest thing I can remember is when I was one. I was riding my dog, my Rottweiler, around at the beach.
You can remember when you were one year old? Okay. Do me a favor and promise me that you’ll never ever smoke weed in your life, because then those memories will be shot. I can’t remember when I was 35. You’ve got a good memory.
Okay, so when did you start going surfing by yourself without dad paddling around and pushing you in the waves?
I was one or two.
No you were not. Quit lying.
[Laughs] I think I was five.
[Laughs] You went from one or two to five. Now you’re getting mad and showing your teeth. Now you’re punching me in the nose. Don’t ever do that again!
When I was three or four I was surfing shore break by myself. When I was five. I was like, ‘Don’t touch my board, dad.’
[Laughs] What about skateboarding? When did you start skating?
I started skateboarding when I was five at Robb Field Skatepark in San Diego. I was born in Costa Rica.
How long did you live in Costa Rica?
I lived there until I was four.
Do you have dual citizenship? Are you Costa Rican and American?
Watch out X Games. You’ll be Costa Rican in the Winners Circle. Do you remember Costa Rica?
Have you been back there since?
Are you ever going to go back there?
Would you rather go to Bali or Costa Rica?
[Laughs] That’s what I thought you would say. How about Woodward or Costa Rica?
Do you think you can learn a 540 in a day?
I’d like to try it at Woodward.
You want to try it on the foam thing?
Yeah. I want to learn, but it looks hard.
You just look at that and go, ‘I can do that.’
I heard you landed a 540 already at the X Games in the demo run on the vert ramp two years ago.
Yeah. It was at the one that Shaun White won.
Why didn’t you just say that? ‘I already did that, dude. I don’t need a foam pit.’
[Laughs] Humility, kindness and respect…
[Laughs] Humility, kindness and respect… Wow. Well, let’s get away from that for a minute. What do you like to do every day?
My friends come over and we surf.
What time do you get up?
6AM. My friends come over and we go surf for a few hours and then we go to school. Then I play drums.
Do you want to be in our punk rock band when you get older?
[Laughs] Okay. So you play drums and then what?
We eat and then go back out surfing.
What’s your favorite thing to eat for lunch?
Mac and cheese, and if I’m still hungry I eat Top Ramen.
Do you know how to make that?
You put it in a bowl and put water in it and then you put in the microwave for three minutes, and then it’s ready.
Do you add anything to it like onions or ham?
No. There’s this sauce for it and you just put it in with the water.
I know about the little sauce packet, but then you can put other stuff in it too and get creative with it. I’ll have to show you that later.
Okay. I put rice in it sometimes.
[Laughs] Okay. So that’s lunch. After lunch what do you do?
We surf again. When we’re done surfing, I come home and then we go skate until dark.
Where do you want to skate?
I like skating Steve’s and the skatepark because it’s right down the street.
What’s your favorite part of the skatepark? Do you like flying over hips?
Yeah, I like the hips, barriers and stuff.
You must like it all, because you skate that park probably better than anybody, which is pretty crazy, considering that you’re 11 years old. That’s pretty rad. Where is your favorite surf spot?
It’s probably Pipe.
Do you look up to guys like John John Florence? He’s a good skater too, huh?
You’re like the next generation behind him. He’s a little bit older than you. You’re 11 and he’s 17. It seems like a big difference now, but in a few years it’ll seem like you guys are the same age. That’s how that works. What about school?
I home school.
Do you like that?
It’s super fun. I like it. I finished early, so now I’m starting 7th grade. My report card for last semester was straight A’s. I got a 4.0 for the first time ever.
Wow. Kids are getting big brains. Watch out girls. How many hours a day do you have to study to get those kind of good grades?
It’s like a lesson. You study and then do a practice test. If I don’t get a 90 or better then I go back and study again. I usually get a 90 or 100 on the tests.
What’s your favorite subject?
My favorite subject is probably Social Studies.
Do you like math?
Math is kind of hard.
I bet you can do better math than I can. I suck at math.
[Laughs] I suck at math too.
I always told myself when I grew up that I’d get myself a smart girl so she could do it, but now they have computers and calculators and all of that stuff.
Do you ever miss going to school with all of the other kids?
What about girls? Do you have a girlfriend yet?
You do? What’s her name?
She sounds hot. Is she hot?
[Laughs] Yeah. She’s hot.
You’re getting all red and stuff. What’s up, boy?
Do you surf with her?
Your dad just told me that she got to the semi-finals in the State Championships. So your girlfriend beat you in a surf contest?
[Laughs] Yeah. She rips, and charges big waves too.
[Laughs] Wow. That’s pretty hot. Is she hot? Do you love her?
Your dad says you don’t love her yet.
Yeah, I do.
Does she skateboard too?
Do you want her to skateboard, if she wanted to?
No, I don’t think so.
Why don’t you teach her and see if she likes it?
Okay, but she’s leaving in three days to go back to Kauai. She lives in Kauai.
So you’re 11 years old and you already have a long distance love affair going.
Your dad says you should take her skating with you and Grumpy Nick. Who is Grumpy Nick?
He’s one of my friends from the skatepark. He’s really funny. I took him to a surf contest once and he drank 12 Red Bulls and got super sick. So now we call him Red Bull Nick.
Name five of your good friends that you call on the phone and go and skate and surf with.
Rory Parker, David (Baba Kahanui), Lucas Godfrey, Red Bull Nick Grisby, Fisher Louis, Shane and Jimbo Borland and Tatiana.
Wow. You put your chick on the list. That’s hot. So how old are those guys? Are they older than you?
I don’t know. Yeah, I guess.
Rory Parker is a lot older than you.
Yeah, he’s my coach and trains me at kick boxing. My friend Lucas Godfrey is 13, and my girlfriend is 12.
Cool. Older chicks. You’re not scared of that?
[Laughs] Killer. That’s cool. When I was your age, all of my friends were older, like Tony Alva. I was always the younger kid. That’s good for you because that teaches you how to act like the older guys, and usually, they skate and surf harder. Do you like surfing or skating better? I know that’s a dumb question. People have asked it to me millions of times. It’s like, ‘What do you like better? Blondes or brunettes?’ They’re both good-looking so it’s hard to pick one or the other. Do you like surfing or skating better?
I like both.
Surfing is special and when all the elements come together it’s rare, so I can appreciate a good day of surfing more than going to a really good skate bowl because the bowl is always there. When everything comes together in surfing, it doesn’t happen all the time, so I think I appreciate that more, but I like both of them.
Yeah, but when you have that skate session with everyone there, and just pushing the limits, learning new tricks, and cheering each other on, that’s a special time too.
So if you could go to that skatepark in the Cayman Islands or go to Tavarua for a week, which would you pick?
I’d go to the Cayman Islands probably because there’s a skatepark and a wave pool there too.