Recent HIC Pro winner Ezekiel Lau has an unusual career trajectory. While most of his young competitors are homeschooled, Zeke's going through the grueling paces of attending Kamehameha—a prestigious private school for Hawaiian children. But as fate, and a herculean work ethic would have it, Zeke's efforts to balance scholastics and surfing have begun to pay off. Earlier this summer, he had his first taste of the 'QS and came away with an event win in El Salvador. He placed second in his next event, and just a few days ago he found himself standing on the podium once again at Sunset. In the wake of his accolades, we rang up Zeke to get the backstory on his recent success.
So let's talk about your background a bit. You've got a pretty unique situation going on.
Yeah, I live and go to school at Kamehameha Schools on Oahu. It's a school for kids of Hawaiian descent and my mom is a middle school dorm advisor there, so we live on campus. I love it. There's all sorts of really cool athletic equipment and training facilities on campus. But yeah, I like living there. It's different, but I love it.
You're regarded for being pretty stoic and serious at times. I know your family has put some emphasis on discipline and your dad is a high school football coach. Do you think your upbringing has played a big role in your success as a surfer?
Yeah, I definitely think so. I've played sports my whole life, not just surfing. When I was younger, I played soccer and basketball, and going to school all day and coming home and having to practice just seemed normal. Even when I wasn't playing a school sport, my dad would just run me around the track after school. So that part of my life, being disciplined with my time, has always been there.
So you're still a senior in high school, but you've just started doing a few 'QS events and had some really solid results. You've entered three events since the start of the summer and have made the finals in all three.
Yeah, I've been really stoked with how I've done so far. Earlier this summer, Bats [Jason Shibata, Zeke's team manager] thought it would be good for me to try and surf in an event in El Salvador in some good surf. It's a right-hand point and he thought it would be a good chance for me to wrap my head around the 'QS. I just wanted to surf good waves and I wound up winning the event. So after that, we went to Puerto for another contest and I finished in second. And then I just won the HIC contest over here at Sunset.
For just trying your hand at the 'QS that's pretty impressive. Do you ever catch yourself thinking about the fact that you're winning events, but that you're also still just in high school?
Not really. I mean, of course I think about it. But I don't get too caught up in that. I'm too busy. But it does feel good to know that all of the training I've been doing—cardio, weight lifting, stuff like that—is really paying off. But more than that, a lot of people have invested a lot of time and energy into me, and it feels good to be paying them back with some good results.
Can you break down your last win at the HIC Pro at Sunset?
That was a tough contest. To be honest, I felt like I was struggling a lot in the beginning of the event. I was riding a 6’6” the first day and was having a hard time. The next day I switched to a 6’4” and it felt way better, like that was the board for that event. I was also seeded into this contest, which felt amazing to me. I'm used to having to start at the very end and grind away. But I got to start the event in the Round of 64, so that was cool. But after my first day I was able to regain my focus and just take it one heat at a time.
Leading into the final, were you conscious of the fact that you had the potential to win another contest?
To be honest, it was such a sprint between heats that I barely had time to do anything but get in my car, drink some water, and then throw on the jersey again. So, no, there wasn't a point where I was really thinking about it too much. I was just focused on winning heats.
So what about now? Has this last win at Sunset done anything for your confidence?
Yeah, I'm feeling pretty good, but I'm not trying to get ahead of myself at all. I'm in the Triple Crown now, which is amazing. Super stoked on that. But other than, just trying to get my body ready for the Haleiwa event, which is right around the corner. Normally, it wouldn't be too easy to get off of school to compete like this, but when I won the HIC contest and told the school that I was in the Triple Crown, they were cool with it.