It’s pumping on Oahu’s South Shore. An extended series of South Pacific swells is rolling into Hawaii, and Town is absolutely cooking. As usual, we are sure to see highlight footage from Ala Moana Bowls over the next few days, but for those in the know, Oahu actually has a lot more to offer when the southern buoys are maxing.
Noa Mizuno is one of those with the knowledge and talent necessary to score empty barrels in Hawaii’s most crowded surf zone. Equally adept above the lip or tucked underneath of it, Noa has steadily been gaining recognition as one of Oahu’s best up-and-coming surfers. With solid industry support and ample experience chasing swells around the world, he could be just about anywhere right now—if he wanted to. But when Town is staring at a forecast like this, there’s no reason to stray too far from home. Between sessions at his favourite semi-secret spot, we sat down to get to know Noa a bit better.
Tell us a bit about your heritage, Noa. Where’d you grow up, and what motivated you to start surfing?
I was born and raised on the South Shore of Oahu, ad swimming before I could walk, right here at Waikiki Beach.
I’m Japanese and Irish. My dad was born in Japan, but lived in Hawaii part-time from age 2-13, and then moved to Big Island for high school at Hawaii Prep Academy, where he surfed as a hobby. Mom was born in New York and was the first woman lifeguard in New Jersey before moving to Hawaii, where she met my dad. So it wasn’t really a big shock that I got into surfing—the ocean was a major part of my family’s life ever since I was born.
So it wasn’t really a big shock that I got into surfing—the ocean was a major part of my family’s life ever since I was born
Growing up in Hawaii, you pretty much have to be in the water. We live on an island surrounded by the ocean, and my backyard was literally the beach, right here at Waikiki. I caught my first wave at nine months old at Queens with my dad, and when I was three or four I started getting pushed into waves. By the time I was six I was surfing on my own, and it all just developed from there.
My family has always been really athletic—grandpa was a Major League Baseball player, dad played baseball in college, mum played tennis, grandma was a world champion track athlete, and my great uncle was judo world champion, so it was only natural that I’d want to purse a career in my sport, which was surfing.
Most of the hype on Oahu centres around the North Shore, but you are from Town and have still managed to create a successful surf career. How are things different for Town guys who are trying to make a career out of surfing, compared to guys who live on the North Shore?
Growing up in Honolulu, we definitely don't have the same wave quality as the North Shore. So I learned to enjoy what we have—which is a variety of waves. I think that keeps things interesting, and I love using that as inspiration towards new projects. But Hawaii is a small island, and the North Shore is just an hour away, so when the waves get good, I'm there.
In high school I would have to wait until I finished class to drive out to the North Shore, and was sometimes stuck in traffic. So when I go I make the most of it. I surf, put in my work for the day, then I enjoy going home, leaving the hype or heartbreak of the day up north, and being with my family.
Spot guide: Hawaii
Who are the South Shore guys that inspire you?
Old school guys like Gerry Lopez, Dane Kealoha, and Tony Moniz are just total legends. They have that raw style that I’ve always loved.
Then there are the everyday guys, like Uncle Mike Akima. I surf with him quite a lot out at Ala Moana. Not only does he rip, but he's the one of the kindest humans I know.
Not only does the South Shore have some of the most raw talent in surfing, but what really inspires me about these people is the amount of respect they have for others
Kaniela Lyman-Mersereau is a Hokuleia voyager, a teacher (he taught me at Punahou High School), a waterman, and an amazing surfer. He was a huge influence for me.
And then there’s my crew, like the Moniz family, and many other guys the world would be blown away by if they saw their talent.
Not only does the South Shore have some of the most raw talent in surfing, but what really inspires me about these people is the amount of respect they have for others.
You spend most of your time on Oahu, but you've also traveled a lot over the past few years. Where have your favorite travel destinations been? And have you traveled more for competition or free surfing trips?
I've done quite a few trips this past year but. I'd say the best one was my trip to Kandui, which featured in my film Aquamantra. The waves were absolutely pumping for two weeks straight, and I was with two of my good mates from home.
But yeah, I've been traveling a lot lately, just to see the world and gain more experience. Whether its free surfing, contests, or just exploring, I love it.
Is there anywhere in particular that you'd like to chase in the near future?
I can't tell you, but I can show you [laughs].
You recently switched sponsors, right? How has that transition impacted your focus? And what are your priorities over the next few years?
Vissla has provided an amazing new platform for me. They seem to back the true authenticity of our surf culture, and to do so with style. They support me in pursuing my vision of what surfing is, and I really just want to become the best version of myself. Whether it’s in free surfing or contests, I just love surfing. I don't look at the sticker on my board, I look down the line to see what I'm gonna do next.
Music is another passion of yours. Tell us a bit about the music you make and what you have been doing with that.
I guess I would be called a "DJ" [laughs]. But yeah, I do mix music. I just got into it because some of my friends told me to try it out, and I ended up having a lot of fun. I haven't dipped my hands too much into producing yet, but things are in the works.
It's really nothing serious, but around here in town there are a lot of get-togethers and cool venues. My last gig I did was at the Honolulu Museum for the Arts’ After Dark event, which was pretty crazy. I love the vibe of throwing a good show. Something about music makes this world so much more colorful, and it’s another outlet for me to be creative and express myself.
You have also done some film projects in the past, which ended up in a bunch of film festivals. What were those films about, and what did you enjoy about the filmmaking process?
My latest film was Aquamantra, which I filmed over the course of last year. It is premiering this summer in a bunch of festivals, Anglet (France), New Smyrna (Florida), Honolulu, and other locations that will be announced soon.) The film touches a little more on my interest in music, and how important a good soundtrack is not only to surfing, but to everything in life. My good friend Shing02 is a hip-hop artist and producer, and scored the whole film for me, which was so rad.
And now that that film is done and touring, I’m just looking forward to the next project—traveling, surfing, shooting, and playing with some new ideas. I’m stoked!
Right on Noa, thanks for your time. Get back out there, and we’ll be on the lookout for Aquamantra.