Four-time world wave champion Keahi de Aboitiz is known for making big wave barrel riding look absolutely effortless. Born and raised in Noosa, Australia, Keahi usually splits his time between Hawaii and Australia, but this year, he’s been watching swells and wind forecasts while lining up strike missions for his groundbreaking film focused on the progressive side of high-performance kitesurfing. Operating as a professional athlete since 2011, the 27-year-old Australian has earned a reputation as a world-class surfer on just about every sort of surf craft. We caught up with Keahi a few weeks before his film was set to release to get the liner notes on Tunnel Vision.
The Tunnel Vision project is a fairly sizable undertaking as well as a departure from your regularly scheduled world tour commitments. What made you step back from competition and go in this direction?
I grew up in a little town called Noosa, on the east coast of Australia, which is mostly known for its mellow longboarding point breaks. On big, magic cyclone swells, Noosa turns on, but those days are rare, so my dad got me into everything; surfing, longboarding, kitesurfing and standup paddle. I remember starting to compete at the Noosa Festival of Surfing; I entered the longboarding contest when I was 11 and that got me excited about competitions; from there it naturally progressed into kitesurfing. I grew up moving through kiteboarding contests with results at the national level in Australia, and won a couple of freestyle events and wave titles—that eventually progressed into four consecutive wave titles on the PKRA, KSP and ultimately the GKA tours. It’s been fun to do all those things, except after a number of years on the tour, the traveling part has become really tiring. It’s a long journey to get to some events, and while it’s always really fun when you compete in good conditions, it’s a huge investment of time and money.
I’ve always wanted to make a full-length film to show the full potential of kitesurfing and how it actually compliments surfing. The thing I love the most about kitesurfing is that it’s a way to have fun regardless of the conditions. At the end of 2018, I felt it was time to do something different. Instead of focusing all my efforts on competition, I decided to chase extraordinary swells and I wanted to do it properly. That meant being more flexible for last-minute missions and bringing someone along to document the waves we would find. You see this more commonly in surfing—athletes have a free schedule to drop everything and chase a swell, but it’s just not that easy. Generally, you can try to forecast a week out, but you don’t get that much certainty until you’re looking at a three-day window, so it’s always a gamble, but as Tunnel Vision shows, when it works out and comes together it can be amazing… To read the rest of our Tunnel Vision interview with Keahi de Aboitiz, become a subscriber of Tkb Magazine.