C.J. Kanuha learned the meaning of respect early on in life. He was raised in Kailua, located on the big island of Hawaii, where respect is earned by your deeds, not by your dollars. Now 20 years old, C.J. is beginning to make an impact in the world of surfing. C.J.’s fluid style and fearless approach to big waves has helped him get hooked up with RVCA, FAB Optix, Ipath, Sector 9, and Surf Prescriptions. There is a talented group of young surfers emerging from the big island but none is showing more potential than C.J.–Micah Schiesel

SURFERMAG.COM: How did growing up on the Big Island affect your surfing?

CJ: Being from Kona made me want to strive to go to other places, get off the island because a lot of people end up just staying here. I was fortunate to know Shane Dorian and Conan Hayes, they helped me out a bunch, got me psyched to go surf and travel.

SURFERMAG.COM: How did growing up in Hawaii influence you?

CJ: My Hawaiian roots run deep, my Dad was an old school surfer, he knew all the old timers like Ben Apia. My family pretty much revolves around the ocean, we eat out of it and we live off of it.

SURFERMAG.COM: What do you do when you’re not surfing?

CJ: When I’m not surfing I will play any kind of sport, basketball, skateboarding, soccer, football pretty much whatever as long as I’m active. I also train in ju-jitsu and kickboxing, not to hurt anybody but to improve my surfing. When you’re out in big waves you get put into situations. You need to be on top of your game because Mother Nature is right there ready to kick your ass.

SURFERMAG.COM: Do you see yourself as under exposed?

CJ: I guess maybe, you could say that. I pretty much like to do my own thing. I do have different ventures and opportunities that are open to me but in the past I haven’t made a big enough commitment. Before I wasn’t pumped to go shoot photos all day, you know, just go slut off in front of the cameras. This year I’m working hard to blow things up though.

SURFERMAG.COM: Do you feel that it’s possible to be overexposed?

CJ: I think it all depends on where you’re at and who you’re with. Certain people get certain things just because they’re out at a certain place. With us surfers from Hawaii we are put in an environment that lacks companies and sponsors, not to say that there are bad surfers from California, but it’s definitely easier for them. They can just walk out to the beach where everybody’s surfing at and just do a top turn and people are like here let me sponsor you.

SURFERMAG.COM: Do you feel that any surfers are over exposed?

CJ: No comment.

SURFERMAG.COM: Do you like surfing when the camera is on you?

CJ: It’s all good. Whenever it’s on I’ll be out there. I just like to surf; I don’t care if there’s anyone filming or taking pictures.

SURFERMAG.COM: Where do you see yourself fitting in, in the world of surfing?

CJ: I don’t know you need to ask someone else that, ask me that again in a couple of years.

SURFERMAG.COM: What’s in the future for you?

CJ: Lots of filming, lots of traveling. During the filming for SNAPT 2 I was plagued with injuries. During my whole part in Puerto I was surfing with a fractured ankle and didn’t even know it till I got home. I’m going to get my body in shape and do a lot of contests. I’m going to focus really hard on surfing the North Shore next year and later this year too.