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Keanu Asing knows that growing up isn't the same thing as growing. "I may be small, but I've got the biggest heart," says the 21-year-old Hawaiian who, with the help of some positive life changes, looks like a probable candidate for the 2015 WCT Freshman class. But if it's not — no stress — there's always next year. Because Keanu has tapped into his own winning formula. All it takes is a lot of talent, a little help and one giant heart. —Taylor Paul

KEANU: Last year was a really good learning experience for me — taking on a lot of things, being an adult. I moved in by myself, set up my own bank accounts, took on paying bills, doing all the contests entries on my own. I just became more of a man. And it's not like I was a kid before, but my parents did a lot of stuff for me in that respect. It went from my dad doing most of that stuff for me to him calling just to check in and see how I'm doing. It was a big change for me, but I feel like it helped me grow as a person. And I think that translated to my surfing. Like, I took the next step in my life, now it's time to take on the next step in my career — the WCT.

My girlfriend [Kailin Curran] is a professional MMA fighter. She fights for the UFC, and she's a big support for me and has a huge influence on my life. I mean, it's a different world. She goes out there and is trying to take peoples' heads off, whereas I'm just going to the beach [laughs]. But I watch all the hard work she puts into her training and it pushes me to be a better person and athlete. I've always eaten pretty healthy, but for her, for fighters, they really have to watch what they put in their bodies. So she keeps me on a clean diet. But I think she's helped me the most mentally. Fighters have to be so confident and truly believe that they're going to dominate their opponent. That's something that I really needed. I can take that mental toughness and confidence from what she does and bring it into surfing. It's not really guessing or wondering if you're going to win, it's knowing.

Damien [Hobgood] is so many things to me. He's a mentor, a big brother, a best friend, a sparring partner. We've been traveling together this year and he has been there for me 100 percent. He's already done it all, so now he wants me to live my dreams. Last year we got to work together a bit in Hawaii and that's where our relationship really kicked off. He helped me so much at Pipe. And, I mean, I'm from Hawaii and I surf Pipe a lot. But for someone that's been doing it for decades to show me more about my own home was really cool. Damo was pointing out all the nooks and crannies where I could get waves and showing me which ones to be on. I think I got the best waves of my life at Pipe last year because of it.

Now, whenever I'm in California, I surf with him three or four times a week. We'll film with the Fox filmer and review the footage. He always puts me in check, making sure that I'm never satisfied with my surfing; that I'm always working on something new, different turns and airs or whatever. Like, he might see me surfing too safely and go, "Let's see you try to throw this in with your bag of tricks." Or, "I've seen Mick Fanning do this turn in this situation, and you could fit that in there." Stuff like that really helps. Not to mention the competitive aspect, with heat and priority strategy and everything else that comes with it. For him to take the amount of time that he does with me is a real blessing.