WEST MAUI - Kona-based Mokulele Airlines has created a surf team program to help island kids, including West Maui rippers, realize their dreams of becoming professional surfers.
Since many surfing contests are held throughout the year in Hawaii, Mokulele, which specializes in inter-island flights, makes it possible for these kids to "island hop" to compete in surfing competitions on other islands.
"Mokulele is helping these kids out with their flights to take a heavy load off of their parents' wallets," explained Jeromy Hansen, who founded the program and serves as surf team manager.
Tony Nunez traveled to Kona to compete in the Shane Dorian Keiki Classic. PHOTO BY EHITU KEELING.
"These kids already have sponsors for clothing, shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen and surfboards - and now they have an airline."
The surf team began when Hansen spoke with Mokulele CEO Ron Hansen, his father, last year.
"I started sponsoring young local talent. The talent that comes from the Hawaiian Islands is world-class... they charge in all conditions," Jeromy added.
Team members include Tony Nunez, age 11; Eli Hanneman, 10; Ocean Macedo, 11; Summer Macedo, 14; Aloha Lopez, 14; Dante Silva, 13; Sierra Larsen, 16; and Cody Young, 14, of West Maui, and Kala Willard, 15, of Paia.
Also sponsored are Kahanu Delovio, 14; Brodi Sale, 11; and Luke Heflin, 10 of Kona, and Mahina Maeda, 15, and Anhu Taylor, 10, of Oahu.
"These kids surf many inter-island contests during the year: NSSA, HSA, Volcom, etc. Sometimes they're on the fly weekend after weekend. This not only helps their surfing and meeting new goals, but also offers them to meet new competitors and build relationships on other islands," Jeromy said.
"I like to have other families host our teammates and have fun together. When they become pro and travel the world together chasing dreams, it will be that much cooler and fun with a longtime friend."
Offered free standby flights, team members must maintain a 3.0 or better grade point average, "since school matters more than just surfing," he commented.
"It's something no other airline has done, and we are proud to have a surf team."
The team accepts new members; there are several who have submitted resumes to join a backup list.
Jeromy said the team is considering launching its own inter-island surf contest series, holding a fun family beach day for the community, and having members teach surf lessons or coach the younger keiki surfers.
"It's a real blessing to be able to give back and have fun while doing it - spread the aloha," Jeromy said.
"I have always been a surfer. I have a strong passion for the sport. I spent 13 years as the owner of multiple surf shops in San Clemente, California. Now I'm blessed and lucky enough to have my dad and his marketing team, as well as our employees, be involved to help out with these young kids," he continued.
"It's a very neat program. I love giving back to the community, and it's so great to hang out with these young individuals one-on-one as they grow. I'll pick them up, take them surfing, shoot photos of them and help coach them at contests as well."
Nunez said, "I am really stoked to be on the Mokulele team because Jeromy is really cool. He takes me surfing all the time, and he took me to the Big Island a few times. Jeromy just likes to surf and wants to help the kids get better. Thanks to Mokulele, I have been able to travel and surf on Oahu and the Big Island."