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Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Updated: October 27, 6:57 PM ET
Hawaii's next big thing

Honing his chops on the North Shore, Keanu Asing's now looking to make his move to the next level.

Keanu Asing has been around Hawaii's North Shore scene pretty much his entire life. He caught his first wave on the inside combers at Haleiwa when he was just 4 years old. Since then, he has developed into one of the brightest up-and-comers in Hawaii. He has grown up sparring with the likes of John John Florence and Carissa Moore, both of whom have had immediate impacts on the ASP World Tour. And while Asing won't dispute that he came of age in paradise and has been lucky to know the ocean as long as he has, he is somewhat discontent. The son of a father who practiced karate for the better part of 30 years, Asing understands full well he has got a battle ahead of him, but that doesn't mean he has to like it. Here is the 18-year-old in his words.

Let's talk about some of the challenges of growing up in Hawaii?
It's hard, you know. For me, no offense, it's easier for kids with blond hair and blue eyes. Nothing personal, but it seems like all of the companies have something against Hawaiians. That's just what it seems like. It's hard for Hawaiians to be recognized. I don't know, I can't really answer that question, it's just hard.

Is it an issue of logistics and practicality given where you're from, or is it, I don't want to say racism, but I guess maybe that works?
I wish I could answer that question. All I can tell you is it just hurts, for all Hawaiians that are actually Hawaiian blood, like me and Ezekiel Lau. John John isn't Hawaiian. He's from Hawaii, but he has blond hair and blue eyes; it's easy to market somebody like that. And you know, for us, I guess we don't have blond hair and blue eyes, and wear skinny jeans, and gel our hair. And not being near the industry, you know, we're out there on that tiny rock, so we have to make sacrifices to come to California and spend time with our sponsors. Just to be away from home so much, it's tough, but you want to be a professional surfer you have to spend a lot of time in California. You have to be in the face of all the magazines and all the surf brands, you know. Three months of the year the world pays attention to what's goes on in Hawaii, and you have to make the most of that time. The rest of the year you're on the road, trying to make it happen.

How do you handle so much time on the road?
It's part of our job to travel. It's hard living out of a suitcase, sleeping in places where you don't really know if you're going to get robbed or something. We don't always go to the safest places. You're always on your toes.

It builds a bond between you and the guys you're traveling with though, right?
Yes and no. You have to be with people you trust, but at the same time you have to be able to isolate yourself and find your own space. I mean, we're all there chasing points, after the same dream. You want to have all your boys' backs, but you also are there to do something for yourself. It can be kind of selfish at the same time.

How about the tour? Chasing the dream, as a young guy trying to make it? What's your take on all the restructuring?
It's cool the ASP has the cutoff now. I mean, if some guy's on fire and doing really well he can jump on tour halfway through the year. But then again, I'm not too sure if I really like the whole thing. You know, being a rookie and being young and fresh on the tour, you kind of need a year to get acclimated to it all. You can't be a world champion halfway through the year, you know. It definitely makes it harder on us to try and make the tour. But if you get on a good roll. you can jump on. Or fall off, if you're not doing well. It's kind of a bummer because people have events that they're really looking forward to, like Snapper or something, but then they don't do well and fall off.

Given the direction everything's gone in the last year, as a young surfer, how do you make your mark?
Surfing's been blowing my mind. I'm still so young, and I'm just trying to keep up. It takes some time to crack that ice and jump into something that's going to take you to the next level.

You look at Shane Dorian at Jaws, or Julian Wilson on tour, it's all so next-level.
After watching that Teahupoo footage, and that Cloudbreak stuff, and Dorian at Jaws, I just don't know how it gets any more crazy than that. I don't know how much bigger or higher people can go.

Where do airs go?
People are going to start doing 720s. You see Julian is already trying them. Wade Goodall spins super fast. Chippa Wilson is crazy. John John, he's gnarly too. A few years ago it was like, "tap, tap, tap to the beach," but now, if you don't have something huge you're not going to get more than a 5. And that's something that's really exciting. Surfing seems to be going more spectator sport. You look at those big sports stars that make all that money, and they're not afraid to throw 50-yard touchdown passes or put up 3-pointers. That's where surfing's going, and I think that's why things are getting so much better. There's no more going for a layup, you have to rip the rim off of it.

How do you feel as the generation coming up?
I feel like there's a lot of room for improvement, that things can always get better. There's definitely a new school of talent coming up, and it's exciting to see it all coming together. There's a lot of work ahead. It's kind of hard to accept that, but, yeah, onward and upward.