Ola Eleogram is in no $6-mil rental at OTW right now, lounging on a teak chaise between photo shoots, sipping Cherry Coke Zero from the team fridge while Glee reruns stream through 42″ of plasma. He ain’t because Ola’s an unsponsored twenty-something with no certain future and no teak chaise. We asked about his humbler setup on the North Shore this season, and how it differs from the five-star pro norm — for the better.
“I’m on a tight budget, I share one room with four other guys, and I don’t wake up to a view of Pipeline, but I couldn’t feel more blessed.” —Ola
“This year on the North Shore is unlike any other for me. I used to be a sponsored pro surfer where everything was free. I would stay at the team house with a full fridge and have a good income. Then all of a sudden I had nothing — just myself to figure things out, most importantly where to stay. This year I had no team house, and no income to rent a house or a car. Luckily a good friend of mine — another Maui boy, Billy Kemper — and his mom, Aunty Lisa, live right across the street from Sunset Beach. Aunty Lisa is one of the nicest surf moms in the world; she fully hooks up all the Maui boys with a place to stay and cooks the meaneast grinds for all of us.”
“It’s not the biggest house on the North Shore by a long shot, but it’s one of the sickest for sure. It’s surrounded by bushes, keeping the yard totally private from the outside world. It doesn’t even feel like I’m on the North Shore at all — in fact it feels like I’m back home in Hana. I walk through a narrow opening of the bushes into a rad little yard with a little banana patch, a garden, a star fruit tree, and a macadamia nut tree hugging the house. As I listen to fruit and nuts hit the roof all night long I feel somewhat relaxed.”
“Being able to stay at a house where I feel comfortable with my surroundings and good friends is definitely a plus this year. I feel that I surf the best when I’m with friends in a good environment; there’s less pressure on me. This house is full of characters, like my best friend Hank Gaskell — he’s super mellow. I definitely look up to Hank and feel that he’s made me a better surfer. Also staying here is another one of by best friends from Hana who kills it, Dege O’Connell. He has one of the best forehand power hacks. Dege encourages me to put more power into all my turns to show him that small guys can throw just as much spray. Then there’s Albee Layer. In my opinion, he is one of the best aerialists to come out of Maui, and he charges huge Peahi as well. Lastly there’s Billy Kemper. He’s a Maui boy, but also a North Shore boy, able to get the best of both worlds living part time on Maui with his dad and part time here with his mom. He’s really proven himself these last couple years making numerous finals in WQS events and this year winning the HIC Sunset 4-star event. Last year he pulled into a huge Peahi barrel.”
“Have I mentioned that none of us staying at this house have a main sponsor? I still don’t believe it. We could be called the Maui Boys or the Unsponsored Boys. It doesn’t matter ’cause we’re here and ready to prove to the world that we’re some of the best Hawaiian up-and-comers. This place is the proving grounds for all the Hawaiian kids as well as the rest of the world.”
“Staying at this house has been different from many of my previous North Shore experiences. I’m on a tight budget, I share one room with four other guys, and I don’t wake up to a view of Pipeline, but I couldn’t feel more blessed. Being in a modest home and waking up with my best friends to the roosters crowing is the perfect environment for me. I’ve never had to work harder to maintain a pro surfer status and I feel that it’s only making me want it more and more as the season continues.”