Maui surf stars get behind solar power, go off the grid

Walsh, with Shane Dorian, at his home on Maui. Photo Ryan Moss
Walsh, with Shane Dorian, at his home on Maui. Photo: Courtesy of Ryan Moss
Ian Walsh, who was one of the first surfers to paddle into the world’s biggest waves at his home break of Jaws off the coast of Maui, has joined seven-time world standup-paddling champion Kai Lenny, tow-in inventor and stuntman Buzzy Kerbox, professional windsurfer Robby Swift and legendary waterman Kaleo Amadeo to become a Sponsored by the Sun ambassador in support of switching to solar power.

The program, run by Maui business Rising Sun Solar, is attempting to build a grassroots movement of athletes who support solar energy.

“I understand that not many people are perfect in how we use energy,” Walsh tells GrindTV, “myself included. With my passion for chasing waves around the planet on planes, I wanted to try to offset my impact. And, living on Maui, solar power seemed like a very logical way to do it.

“I mean, as surfers, everything we do is derived from the sun.”

“Before starting, the whole solar deal seemed complicated to me,” continues Walsh, “but once it was installed, it has been more simple than I could have ever imagined. My house and entire property is now off the grid. I get my power from the solar system, my water from a catchment system that collects water off the roof, and my septic system is connected to leach feed on my property.”

Walsh’s goats, Douglas and Tina, even save him on fuel by doing the mowing.

Douglas, Tina and Ian. Photo by Ian Walsh
Douglas, Tina and Walsh. Photo: Courtesy of Ian Walsh
“Rising Sun Solar is a local Hawaii company with people who share the same ocean-minded values and lifestyle as the athletes and fans,” says Joti Mangat, the company’s director of marketing. “Our partnership with Sunrun, the largest dedicated residential solar company in the United States, helps Hawaii homeowners go solar without the high costs and hassle of owning and maintaining a solar PV [photovoltaic] system.”

Walsh under his own steam at Jaws. Photo: Courtesy of WSL/Kirstin
Walsh under his own steam at Jaws. Photo: Courtesy of WSL/Kirstin
While Walsh is one of the highest-paid big-wave surfers in the world, it is this low-cost aspect that appealed to him. “No matter how much money you make annually, you can still have a solar [power] system,” he says. “[Rising Sun Solar] have an incredible way to have the whole system and installation financed by Sunrun, so you get the benefits of solar without having to put all the cash up front.”

Apart from saving money, there is also the bigger picture. “We are leading the world in transitioning the world away from oil,” Kerbox tells GrindTV. “I’m stoked to be a part of it.”

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