Nunez makes his mark on the national surfing stage
NAPILI – There has been a long line of young Lahaina rippers – including Chris Lassen, Cheyne Magnusson, Clay Marzo, Dusty Payne, Granger Larsen and Kaimana Kinimaka – that have left vapor trails of success in competitive surfing in Hawaii, on the Mainland and on the World Tour.
As the widening scope of media covers the expanding panorama of surfing on the global level, these West Maui wave riders continue to grow with the explosion.
Ten-year-old Tony Nunez of Napili is the latest of the West Side shredders to make his mark on the bigger screen, as he surfed his way to two top finishes at the prestigious National Scholastic Surfing Association Championships held at the world-famous Huntington Beach Pier last month.
Young Nunez, the son of Stephanie and Tony Nunez, both school teachers in Lahaina, went undefeated in his heats throughout the competition week of varying wave conditions and size en route to a second place finish in the Minigrom Division and a bronze medal finish in the Supergrom category.
Like many of his predecessors who developed their surfing skills here on the West Side, Nunez first got into the ocean at Launiupoko Beach Park, splashing in the keiki pool there and rolling with soft breaking waves at the shoreline.
Soon, he was tandem surfing with his mom and then catching waves on his own on a six-foot shortboard he found.
“He learned all the basics at Launiupoko and then started to surf at Lahaina Harbor, and started to compete at age eight,” said proud mom Stephanie, a fifth grade teacher at King Kamehameha III Elementary School.
Today, Tony Boy lists the Harbor, Honolua Bay and Ironwoods as his favorite surf spots, but he enjoys a variety of breaks and has attained the talent to adjust to all different kinds of waves.
According to Stephanie, this ability to adjust served Tony well at the NSSA contest.
“At the beginning of the contest week, the waves were big and the current was strong, and that is dangerous because you can get slammed into the pilings of the pier. At the end, the waves were small and inconsistent, but Tony adjusted and was in the right place at the right time. He did not make a mistake, was consistent and surfed smart throughout the event. We are proud of him.”
Also, like several of the aforementioned Lahaina surf stars, Nunez has been profoundly influenced by Maui surfing icon Matt Kinoshita, one of the outstanding mentors of the sport for the young surfers here.
“Tony rides for Kazuma Surfboards, and the shaper is Matt Kinoshita, who has been his coach for a year now. Tony really looks up to him, as Matt taught him all the fundamentals of surfing and has been a great role model for him. He taught Tony to adjust to the conditions, and that’s what he did in this contest,” said Stephanie.
“Tony is very grateful to his coach and all of his sponsors, including Kazuma Surfboards of Haiku, FOX, Da Kine, Body Glove, Duck Divers Wax, Honu Sandals, and Local Boys Shave Ice of Lahaina. He would also like to thank coach Kim Ball, photographers Dooma and Cuda, Micah Nickens of Da Kine and FOX for believing in him, along with his coaches in the Mainland, Christian Saenz and Jesse Merle-Jones.
“Special thanks also to Papa John and Aunty Donna for their encouragement and for organizing the Maui events, and to all of the Maui community for their support,” concluded his mom.