Despite the hectic pace he keeps traveling the globe to compete on the World Tour, Honolulu's Keanu Asing has been a shining example of how surfers can change lives. Whether he's working with troubled teens in his hometown of Ewa Beach, teaching kids with cystic fibrosis to surf during the Bells event, or simply working with nonprofits addressing major social issues, Keanu makes a point to be involved. Here, he opens up about his desire to shape the world for the better.
We've known each other for a while now, and since you were a grom, you've always had a desire to give back. Where do you think that comes from?
For me, my parents taught me to be more selfless than selfish. This sport has given me so much in life, so much happiness, and an amazing job. It's helped me build relationships and make new friends. And I feel privileged to share my love of surfing, and all of the great things that happen from it, with other people. You never know — maybe I push a kid into a wave and it changes his or her life forever. I love being able to help others and show them how much surfing can change their lives. Plus, I love seeing the look on someone's face when they first catch a a wave and really enjoy being in the ocean. It's refreshing to me. Seeing how their eyes light up takes me back to the beginning and to the reasons why I started surfing. It's good to offset the competition mindset that I have to keep most of the year. It sounds a little cliché, but it keeps things real, and it makes me a better surfer, too.
Do you think that feeling of wanting to help people can be tied to growing up in Ewa Beach, a blue-collar, working class part of Honolulu?
Every time I come back to Ewa Beach, I want to help more. I really want to find a way to push kids away from drugs and a rough life and push surfing more. When I come back, I want to do all these things. I need to make that happen. I want to get more of the at-risk kids in Ewa in the water. But even if I'm not taking kids surfing, I want to be a positive role model for the community down there. It's easy to go down the wrong path, and I want to plant some positive seeds. I need to do more — I feel like it's my responsibility to build something great there.
Talk to me about some of the groups you've worked with.
I've helped with Surfing The Nations out of Wahiawa. They do a lot of really good work for many people on the North Shore. It was pretty awesome to see their operation and thank them for what they do. They're really helping a lot of people who can't help themselves, kids especially. Those guys do great work.
You were also doing some work with the Mauli Ola Foundation during Bells.
Yeah, I got to meet some people who are struggling and help brighten their day a bit by taking them surfing. I got to meet a 6-year-old girl who had some serious health issues as a result of her cystic fibrosis, and she was able to skip school to go surf with us. Man, she was so stoked. But after our surf session, she was headed to the hospital for three hours of treatment. She was pretty open about it and described how bad her lungs are and how much she hates the hospital. It was hard for me to hear. But she had so much fun with us — She just wanted to surf all day. Being around salt water is considered therapeutic for people with cystic fibrosis, so surfing and getting in the ocean is really encouraged. It was an awesome day.
Is it hard to do all these types of things given the schedule of the Tour?
I would love to do more. I want to focus more on Ewa Beach, to create a better platform to get people in the water. It's hard to get ahead when you come from a rough place. But surfing can really be a guiding force for so many, and the more we can connect with troubled youth, the better. There's hope there. Surfing shows you purpose and I want to be a leader for that cause. These kinds of things help keep me grounded and show me what's really important.