Surfers in Residence Spotlight: Michael Ho & Tony Moniz
When it comes to surf, Waikiki is one of the most iconic spots in the world. It's got waves for beginners, waves for pros, and waves for canoe surfing.
So we started our Surfers in Residence series to get an inside look at the local surf scene—and the surfers who ride it.
Our latest conversation had our interviewer Tammy Moniz chatting with not one but two surf legends: Tony Moniz (who happens to be her husband and father of fellow Surfers in Residence interviewee Kelia Moniz) and Hawaiian Triple Crown, Duke Classic, World Cup, and Pipeline Masters winner Michael Ho.
Paying Homage to the Queens (Break)
"A lot of it started right here in the back of us," says Tony, gesturing to the expanse of Waikiki Beach and the famous Queens Break seen from the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort balcony they're chatting on.
Michael recalls coming to Queens with his dad, one of the original beach boys, and his uncle, the iconic "The Duke" Kahanamoku.
"Ya, this is where it all started for me," agrees Michael.
Endless Summer: The '80s Pro Surf Circuit
After cutting their teeth on the Oahu shores, both Michael and Tony traveled the world with their kids on the pro surf circuit in the 1980s.
Tony shares that the grind of trying to qualify for the World Tour could be grueling.
"You go across the other half of the world, fly for 36 hours, you paddle out to perfect—true story—J. Bay, a dream wave as a kid for me watching Endless Summer and Jeffrey's Bay ... I'm finally there, and it's 8 to 10 foot, and the comp is on."
But because the judges deemed Tony disqualified because he didn't sit next to the buoy before the event started, he couldn't compete. But that didn't stop him.
"I'm grateful I got to travel the world. I made very little freakin' money," says Tony. "But I still followed my passion, and today, you know what, I get to teach surfing in Waikiki. That's my Ph.D.; my reward is right here."
Michael echoes how much different the surf circuit was back then versus today.
"It's a lot easier now. They got coaches and sponsors, people looking after them. Sponsors weren't even around then. We were just starting to get $200 a month here, $100 there—if you made $500 a month, you were a big pro."
On the Waves of Giants
One of Tony's lifelong goals was getting to surf the "giant" of the industry, the Duke Classic. The way in, according to the "uncles" of surf at the time? Big waves.
So Tony headed to the North Shore to ride them.
With some big waves under their belt, both Tony and Michael made it into Duke's Classic, and as Tony admires, Michael went on to win the Pipeline Masters with a broken arm.
"You were pretty much the quiet assassin," Tony says to Michael. "You weren't loud. You were a doer in the waves, and you didn't let anyone distract you from your passion. Even to this day."
As Tony shares, Michael is still surfing the biggest Pipeline has to offer and still pulling into the barrel.
"Funny you say that," Michael says, laughing. "I told my son and daughter, 'Ah, when I'm 60, I'll stop surfing Pipe, and then I'm like one more year, ah one more year."
He's now 64 and shows no signs of stopping.
Tammy shares how in Waikiki, everyone pays homage to Uncle Duke. Around the world, Tony and Michael have left a legacy, too; what Tammy calls a "deposit of aloha" in the spots they've surfed in other lands. Now, when their children travel there, they're embraced and taken care of, too.
As Tony says, "I believe we did take the aloha with us. We were well-liked and we respected people everywhere we went, even in our own lineup. And that's a big payoff for our kids. For me, I was affected by Uncle Duke. As a young boy, I always heard the "Ambassador of Aloha" word, and that he shared, he traveled, he gave."
Michael agrees that there is something special about the aloha spirit—and that it goes beyond surfing.
"Cuz if we got one plate lunch and there's four guys, we're all four gonna eat, we're gonna share," he says.
Meet the Legacy
Watch the full interview to see the legends and learn more, like etiquette tips for traveling to new surf breaks or how respecting the lineup lets you get in faster (and get invited to the luau after!).
And join us at one of Outrigger's resorts right on Waikiki Beach to hit the waves yourself (no matter your level!) and rub elbows with local greats like Tony and Michael.
As Tammy sums up, the impact these two have had has been phenomenal.
"You both have a lot of accomplishments that we could Google," she says. "But I think for me, the most treasured thing about both of you is who you are and what you've become to the community and surf community. So thank you both for being what a Hawaiian man is to our generations, our children, our surf community ... the people who come to Hawaii, and the traveling surfers that compete. Both of you are highly regarded, dearly loved, and treasured in their hearts. So thank you so much."
If you crave a more immersive and intimate experience with the world's oceans, only an adventure that sprinkles your soul with salt water will do. There's always something happening on the world's most iconic beaches.