If the old saying “The best surfer in the water is the one who’s having the most fun” rings true, then Mason Ho is the best surfer ever. For those of you not familiar with him, allow me to introduce you: Mason is the son of legendary Hawaiian surfer Michael Ho. He’s the brother of women’s world tour standout Coco Ho, and if you ask just about any surfer from Kelly Slater to Dane Reynolds, you’ll no doubt get a consensus that Mason Ho is hands down one of the most exciting, unpredictable, and fun-to-watch surfers on the planet. Whether it’s pulling into massive Pipeline while looking back into the barrel with a huge smile, or doing insanely creative and high-risk aerial surfing over dry reef, Ho’s act on a surfboard is like no one else’s.
Ho has become a huge Internet surf sensation with the clips he’s been dropping for the last few years on his website, burgerinparadise.com—he shares the site with his best buddy, Cheeseburger—as well as every other surf website and blog on the ’net. Clips featuring Ho literally dodging rocks while getting spit out of tubes and doing some of the craziest flips and spins have been rocking the Web, and Ho shows no sign of slowing down in the video department; a slew of footage from his epic 2013-’14 North Shore season is being edited and prepared for drop as we speak.
While Ho is the master of his home domain on the North Shore of Oahu, he feels equally as confortable at far-flung beachbreaks and reefs around the world—a trait he learned early while travelling the globe with his dad and then, later, on his own to compete in WQS events and go on frequent freesurfing filming trips. We caught up with Ho between adventures and asked him for a few tips on how to travel like a pro—or at least like Mason Ho.
What do you like about traveling?
My favorite part about traveling is [the] anticipation of just getting somewhere. I love that feeling of not knowing [what the surf will be like]. Of course you have the Internet and swell forecasts and all that, but you never really know until you get there. It’s a roll of the dice and sort of a gamble any time you get on a plane, and I love that aspect of traveling.
Must be a little bit hard for you to travel all the time when you already live in one of the best places in the world.
Oh man, that’s true. I love everything about staying home: the friends, the family, the perfect waves, and I love my favorite little schedule. Just wake up, cruise, check the waves, surf all my favorite little spots. Then again, if my pops or sister is traveling with me, it feels like home wherever I am. I try to travel with them as much as possible; that way, I don’t get homesick.
Besides your dad and sister, what are your top-five travel essentials?
Well, the first thing would be my surfboard—never leave home without your surfboard! I would say boardshorts, but sometimes I guess they’re not essential, ’cause you can surf naked if you want, and sometimes I do. I always have to have my music. I never travel without a set of speakers and an iPod or my computer to play music with. Lately I’ve been listening to a bunch of live Jimi Hendrix stuff and it’s getting me so amped to surf. Another thing I always bring, and this may sound like a sponsor plug, but for real, my new Etnies Scouts are the perfect travel shoe. Lightweight and great for keeping your feet safe when you’re running through fields … away from cops. [Laughs.] Nah, but they’re really light and roll up so you can pack them away when you don’t need ‘em—like I said, the perfect travel shoes.
Did I say my wallet? I guess that’s a given. Oh, I never leave home without my little Cricket switchblade knife. You always need a knife no matter where you’re at. I use it for everything—cutting leash strings, fixing stuff, everything. Always bring a little knife. I guess last, but very importantly, I gotta bring my good friend and filmmaker Rory Pringle! You gotta have someone good behind the lens to get the clips and share your adventures with, and Rory’s the best.
Who are your favorite people to travel with?
Pops is essential on trips, and of course I always like to travel with my sister, Coco. Another one of my favorites is “The Prophet,” Kevin Sullivan. Kevin’s the funniest person ever to travel with, and humor helps in any situation. I could [go on] any trip and get through any crazy travel situation if The Prophet is with me.
What’s better: scoring a new wave you’ve never surfed, or getting perfect waves at home? And how do you feel when you’re on a trip and your home is going off?
Good question. I gotta say scoring waves somewhere new is always cool. When I’m home, we always score good waves. [Laughs.] When you score traveling, it’s really special because a lot of times it takes a lot of work to score; it’s great when all the travel and time pays off with sick waves. I’ve actually gotten used to it, being on a trip when home is firing. I’ve been on the road constantly since I was 18, so I’ve learned how to numb myself from missing swells at home. I actually just get stoked for my friends when they’re getting good waves at home, so it’s a win-win situation.
Last epic surf trip?
I went on a trip to Ballito in South Africa last summer and got some of the best waves ever. We surfed some crazy slabs, beachbreaks, and all kinds of spots with cool rocks boiling up in the waves.
Dude, what’s with you and surfing in front of rocks? Every time I watch a clip, you’re jumping over rocks and stuff. [Laughs.]
Yeah, I like surfing by rocks. [Laughs.] They look cool on film, right? I mean, if I hit them, that’s not cool, but it’s always fun to surf weird waves with obstacles and stuff in the water.
What do you do on surf trips when you’re not surfing?
Explore away from the beach and around whatever country or town I’m in. I also just like the kicking back and getting to know the crew I’m traveling with. When you go on surf trips, you pretty much always form a bond with the people you’re traveling with; that’s why I like traveling with new people and hanging with people who I like to watch surf. It’s always rad when a guy you like to watch surf is really nice and fun to hang with. That gets me stoked.
What makes for a good trip?
Good people, good waves, mingling with the locals, good boards, good music, and being surrounded with people who have a good attitude.
Give us one travel trip that we haven’t heard before.
My pops always tells me to wear a nice collared shirt, shave, and look presentable when you go through security and stuff at the airport. Most of the time you’ll just scoot right through with no problems.
What’s next for Mason Ho?
Well, I get my wisdom teeth out on Monday [laughs]; after they heal up I’m gonna do a bunch of traveling for surf comps and try to thread in a couple surf trips in between. I’m amped to flare up and ready to travel!
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