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How many people are able to say they live in paradise? As a native of Hawaii, Ashley Uilani Aloha Ahina is one of the lucky few. Having grown up in Papakolea (which is famous for its green sand beach), she now resides in Ewa Beach, with world-class beaches and swell at her fingertips.
Ashley was raised by a family of surfers, and was well-acquainted with the ocean before she even knew how to walk. She can’t get enough of squid luau and poi lomi salmon, two traditional Hawaiian dishes, and has a soft spot in her heart for animals.
We chatted with this goofy-footed surfer about being raised near the sea, her aspirations to travel the world, and what it feels like to be one with the waves.
Eidon: Your whole family surfs! What does the lifestyle of a “surf family” look like?
Ashley: When I was small, a typical day was loading up the van with body boards, short boards, longboards, snorkel gear, and some spears. Three of my siblings – including me and my parents – were in one car, while my brother and sister followed us in another car. It sounds pretty hectic, but we had a system that worked!
To this day, we still do the same thing. Someone will give a shout out in a group text, and most of the time, I’ll pop up at Kewalos and see my brother and sister surfing. Ten minutes later, here comes my sister driving up behind me, and my other siblings popping up … just like that, it becomes a family day. Those are the best – when it’s unplanned and we’re all together.
Eidon: Do you remember the biggest wave you’ve ever surfed? How did it feel?
Ashley: It’s hard to say what my biggest wave was. When I was 12 I really enjoyed the rush of bigger waves. I was about 4 feet and I swear some days it felt like double over head. It probably wasn’t that big, but it felt like it.
I feel like I’ve grown as a surfer and it’s not necessarily a matter of big or small. I enjoy more the quality of the wave. If it’s big and peeling, I’m out there. If it’s small and peeling, I’m out there. I just enjoy surfing and I’m not too picky about conditions or size and best surfers are able to make all waves look good.
Eidon: As someone who also enjoys snowboarding, have you been able to apply any lessons you’ve learned as a surfer?
Ashley: I have never taken snowboarding lessons. The first time I went, I thought to myself, “I surf, this should be a breeze!” And boy was I wrong! A word of advice: GET THE LESSONS!
That first day was absolutely brutal. Twisted my ankle, banged up my wrist, and I cannot even count how many times I fell on my butt. I ended up figuring it out the next day, and have never been more stoked. Controlling the board is different, but the glide is very similar. It’s the same glide that got me addicted to surfing: once you take your first glide down the hill, you are hooked for life.
Eidon: You’re hoping to one day travel to Bali, London, and around Africa. What do you typically value in a travel destination?
Ashley: Bali is a destination with a lot of culture and diverse food. That paired with epic surf is a recipe for an epic adventure. I don’t know much about London, but I think that’s what makes it such a great location to travel to. I love meeting new people, tasting new foods, and immersing myself. Africa has always fascinated me – I feel like Africa is a location to rediscover life in its simplest forms.
Traveling the world would be amazing. I can honestly say that every time I’ve traveled, I’ve had a new outlook on life. Appreciation and gratitude.
Eidon: What’s one travel memory that’s stuck with you to this day?
Ashley: Every now and then, when I’m sitting alone or with those I’ve traveled with, I remember the places I’ve gone and the memories I’ve made. One thing I’ve learned about traveling is that it’s not always about what you do – it’s about the people you’re with that makes it 100 times better.
I’ve had the best trips traveling with family. There was this one time my dad and I went down to Mexico for a surf contest. The surf was absolutely firing, but having the comfort of my dad’s presence made everywhere we went just as amazing.
Eidon: What's usually going through your mind while you're on the water?
Ashley: When I’m in the water, it’s my escape from everything. Not much is going through my mind, I’m just in the moment. The water has always been a place to quiet the mind and wash away the stress.