In a sport dominated by guys who are well under 6 feet tall and tip the scales at 160 pounds, it's unique to see a guy who looks more like a middle linebacker than a pro surfer walk up to the winner's podium. Meet 20-year-old Ezekiel "Zeke" Lau: 6 feet, 1 inch and 205 pounds of Hawaiian muscle, Zeke is the son of a high school football coach and recently won the prestigious Vans World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach on the North Shore of Oahu. Conditions during the event ranged from 4 feet and playful to 20 feet and terrifying. For his efforts, Zeke earned a spot into the season ending Pipeline Masters, where he'll take on the world’s best in surfing's ultimate arena. Here's some insight into the next big thing (literally) coming out of Hawaii…
How scary was the big day when huge sets were closing out the channel at Sunset Beach?
Oh my God. I paddled out in the morning and I was tripping—it was full on victory at sea. I broke my board in the morning freesurf, and had to swim all the way in. I was so far outside; I thought I was going to get swept to Kauai. I ended up having to ride a board from last year, but it ended up working pretty good. And then in my heat I almost got caught inside and I was like, “If you get caught inside during a heat, it's over.” It was pretty nuts out there.
Your dad is a football coach. How has his profession influenced you and your surfing?
My whole life I've been surrounded by competitive sports, and my dad has coached football as long as I can remember. He brought me up with the motto that if you put in the hard work and preparation now, the day you're called upon to perform will be the easy day. All those little things he taught me made me who I am today. It's kinda crazy that he coaches football and I ended up a surfer.
He can't yell at you from the sidelines either.
[laughs] Yeah, nobody's yelling at me in the water.
Besides that you won it, what was unique about the Vans World Cup of Surfing? Did you do something different in your preparation?
Surfing well at Sunset just comes over time, and I've been surfing contests there pretty much my whole life. I also felt more comfortable being at home. Traveling and competing all year … it can get pretty lonely. You're all by yourself and you have to do everything on your own. But when you're home you've got your family there and your whole support crew. It allows you to be more comfortable and just relax.
Tell us something that nobody knows about you…
I have the craziest shoe fetish. I'm crazy about shoes—Jordans, Nikes—I'm always searching for new shoes. I hear Jordy Smith has a good collection, too; I'd like to see that.
If you could beat either Kelly Slater or Mick Fanning at Pipe—and knock them out of World Title contention—who would it be?
Oh man that's a hard one … probably Slater just because he's Slater. A man-on-man heat with him at Pipe would be the most fun thing ever.
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