Who is Mauian superstar Ian Walsh? Allow us to explain
Ian Walsh might be Hawaiian, but he's a global citizen in the big wave realm. Come and meet one of the stars of the new Red Bull series Why We Go, dropping soon.
Written by Chris Binns
4 min readPublished on
Growing up in Hawaii, Ian Walsh dreamed of being a professional surfer his whole life. At sixteen, he surfed Jaws for the first time and started to think that maybe the big wave scene might be his best avenue to achieving that goal.
Twenty-three years and countless trophies, magazine covers and waves-of-a-lifetime later, it's safe to say his career has surpassed his wildest hopes. And he's far from finished. Allow us to run you through a few things you may or may not know about the incredibly polished man from Maui.
He's an island boy through and through
Although a proud Hawaiian, Walsh's father came from Rhode Island in the United States. An unlikely surfing destination (though it can get seriously good), Walsh even claims to have enjoyed one of the best East Coast US surfs of his life at a mysto reef many miles off the coast of New England.
Walsh will never forget his Maui roots
In May 2022, Walsh hosted the 18th edition of his Annual Ian Walsh Menehune Mayhem at Ho’okipa Beach Park in Maui. This year, the competition for local children saw more than 400 kids under the age of 15 participate in the two-day affair that is the high point of the Ian Walsh Menehune Mayhem Foundation, whose mission is to support activities and events that encourage the youth of Maui.
Following – Ian Walsh, proves no surfer is more meticulous about their craft
Following – Ian Walsh
Get an insight into the existence of a surfer who goes into the water thoroughly prepared, leaving nothing to chance.
We’ve all seen the dramatic images of surfing’s gladiators taming monsters in the middle of the ocean, but have you seen the 4am wake-ups, the endless wrestling of huge board bags through airports and the shivering pre-dawn car park rev-up sessions? As the above video from Mavericks last year proves, when Walsh and close friend Kai Lenny decide to chase swells across oceans, they do so with military precision.
Distance Between Dreams is Walsh's tribute to big wave surfing done the right way
Maui's Finest | Distance Between Dreams
From his new film, Distance Between Dreams, Ian Walsh introduces us to his fellow Maui chargers.
"Shooting Distance Between Dreams conveniently landed in probably the most historic winter in my lifetime – if not the most historic year in big wave surfing, ever," said Walsh about his 2017 biopic. "That was a really rare circumstance, with everything culminating at the same time."
"Convenient landings" don't just happen, though. They are the result of a lifetime of dedication and, as Kai Lenny says, living just down the street from the best big wave on the planet.
From Maui to Mavericks, Nazaré and beyond, Walsh has dedicated his life to his dreams, and this beautifully put-together biopic perfectly reflects that. No wonder it took out Best Documentary at the 2017 Surfer Poll Awards.
Teamwork makes Distance Between Dreams work
A Day to Remember | Distance Between Dreams
Reliving the day of days from the historic 2015-16 big-wave season.
"You're always at the mercy of the ocean, but you can minimise this risk by training and water safety," says Walsh. "I really wanted to show that in Distance Between Dreams. Without the growth of water safety, the sport doesn't directly have the same catapult and progression it's had in the last few years. Water safety is a talent of its own, just like the way Greg Long or Shane Dorian surf. I think we're showing that there is a lot of risk in this, but we're not doing it blindly. We're trying to have as much control over ourselves in these situations as we can."
Walsh and his crew realised that the safer they are about their surfing, the further they could push the limits of what's possible.
Walsh has an amazing network of surfers around the world he calls friends. From home in Hawaii to Australia, Mexico, you name it, if there's a swell on the maps, he's got someone on the ground he can call to report on it. And if Tahiti is looking good, why not ring up two-time world champion John John Florence and go trade turquoise tubes in the South Pacific together? Sounds good to us.
Typhoons in Japan? Walsh says yes
Peaking: Ian Walsh
Ian Walsh and a crew of Hawaiian surfers travel to Japan chasing a massive typhoon swell.
"You learn a lot more about an area being there and crawling around every little option on the coast than you do sitting on Google Earth at home," says Walsh in Peaking, a series of videos following surfers as they prepare for big wave season. It's an update on the old traveller's adage that 'getting there is half the fun', and in this day and age of modern surf exploration, it's a reminder that nothing beats time on the ground, or, as the case may be, in the water.
Want more insights into the wild and wonderful world of Ian Walsh? Stay tuned for Why We Go, coming very soon.
Download the free Red Bull TV app and catch the latest from Ian Walsh on all your devices! Get the app here.