What’s the story behind your name? I was born in Australia, but my mum is from Hawaii originally. My dad is Australian, but he spent lots of time in Hawaii. Keahi means ‘the fire,’ in Hawaiian. My last name is a different story, though. I think it’s actually Spanish.
How did you get into standup paddling? Through my dad. He saw it in Hawaii and was one of the first people to start doing it here. Being an old tandem surfer, he started mucking around with some old boards and a wooden paddle. It took me a while after that to get into it, but once the boards started getting smaller and the sport started progressing, I was stoked on it.
Does it seem like a lot of kiteboarders, like yourself, are crossing over? It’s all about maximizing water time in all conditions, so I guess that’s one of the reasons a lot of guys pick it up. It allows you to have fun on those smaller, fatter days when riding a normal short board just isn’t that much fun.
Guys like Jamie Mitchell rave about your style. I guess it comes from a whole different background of sports. From a young age I’ve always been into anything to do with water, and I started surfing when I was about 5. Living in Noosa, I’ve grown up longboarding, so I guess my style comes from that. My kiting helps too.
Are there a lot of kids your age paddling in Noosa? We’re definitely seeing a younger crew coming into the sport now, but I’d say there’s a bit of a gap. With the boards getting smaller and more progressive, though, I guess we’ll keep seeing more and more young people getting into it.
What’s the vibe like in the water for standups there? Just like most places, you’re going to cop a little bit of shit for it. It’s all about trying to be respectful and not be the guy out there snaking everyone and taking all the waves. I guess that’s the whole problem with it. I try to do the right thing, so most of the guys are okay with me.
Are you competing in standup? I had some pretty good results in a lot of the national comps around here. I had a second in the Noosa Festival of Surfing a couple years ago and a third at the Aussies the last two years in a row. I’m pretty keen to start doing some of the Standup World Tour events, but it’s hard to find time as I’m also focusing on the world tour comps in kiting. I want to win a national title at the Aussies. I just had a win at the state titles and with the Aussies coming up, I’d be pretty stoked if I could take it.
— as told to Joe Carberry
This piece originally appeared in the Fall Issue of SUP magazine.