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Maui phenom Eli Hanneman is a Hawaiian star with the world in his sights

The 17-year-old future star from Lahaina, Maui, is growing up in a hurry. Check out Eli's latest edit above and read our exclusive interview below to catch up on all of his latest exploits.
By Chris Binns
6 min readPublished on
It's mid-afternoon on a sunny day in Maui when we get in touch with Eli Hanneman to discuss all that's happening in his life in 2020. As well as discussing his latest edit above, by good pal Marc Chambers, we also catch up on Eli's latest hobby, hear how Ian Walsh could lead him into temptation at Jaws, and find out just how he sees the rest of the year ending up. Enjoy.
Eli, how on earth are you mate?
I’m alright, cruising at home on Maui.
Are there waves there this time of year?
Yeah, there are little waves. We get south swells that are pretty fun, nothing crazy, but good enough to stay sharp. I’m just hanging at home, I don’t have any travel plans right now. I really wanted to go to Indonesia later on this year but they keep changing the travel regulations so it’s hard to know what’s going on.
It’s pumping in Bali right now and your good friend Bronson Meydi is ripping!
I know, right? I saw the Instagram clip you guys just put out but I can’t bring myself to watch the whole edit just yet, it would be torture! Maybe I’ll watch the full thing after this and get psyched.
Is that the plan with the edit above, to get people psyched to surf?
For sure, I think the best edits are the ones people can relate to, or the ones that inspire them. There are a few different ways to connect to people. Not everyone lives near perfect waves, so they might get fired up watching ripping in one-foot waves, but then you can also show waves that might be beyond some people, and they’ll still love watching it. It’s summer now and there’s not a whole lot going on. So hopefully I can fire a few people up with this and keep my name in the loop.
Have you got any goals this year, or a timeline for things you’d like to work on?
Not really, if anything I’m just enjoying maintaining where I’m at, without having to prepare or get ready for something. Obviously I want to be fit and surfing well, but I’m loving this little bit of downtime. I’ve never been home this long in my entire life so it’s been a nice change, pretty cool actually. I’m definitely ready to start travelling again though.
Seems like everyone has taken up a hobby, have you got into anything new?
I haven’t played a full game yet, but I’m trying to ease my way into golf. I’ve been to the driving range a couple of times and I’m not great yet but it’s really fun, especially with friends.
Who were your favourite hometown surfers growing up?
When I was young Clay Marzo and Dusty Payne were always my idols. Not even just on Maui, they were my favourite two surfers in the world. These days it’s changed a little, but when I was young those two and Granger Larsen had all the hype and they were my guys.
Looking back now though, I realise just how many incredible surfers come from Maui and have clearly influenced me, it’s ridiculous.
This coming season excites me, I want to be really rounded with my surfing
Do you have much to do with Kai Lenny and Ian Walsh?
Kai is pretty mysto around home, I hardly ever see him. He’s a freak though!
I hang out with Ian here and there. He’s a trippy dude, I swear he knows EVERYTHING. I went to his house the other day to do an ice bath and sauna and he explained to me exactly the effect they have on you. He went deep, into so much detail, that you leave knowing he has an understanding of it all. I think he’s like that with everything he does, it’s so cool and brings a new perspective which you can carry over to surfing too.
Obviously he’s an amazing surfer, but he would never just ride on his talents, he uses his head too. Everything he does is thoroughly thought out, methodical and calculated. I’ve never met anyone like him, it’s crazy, and really cool.
Have you been out at Jaws with either of them?
I have never even been to Jaws! I’ve never even seen it. At the moment it’s not something I really see myself doing, but obviously things can change. I'm not sure I can ever see myself being dedicated to big wave surfing, but surfing Jaws? Maybe one day. It looks scary and I’m sure it’s way scarier once you’re out there. Ian has told me to come out that many times and one day I will, but if anyone could talk me into having a go it’d be him, so it could be risky!
There’s a real chance that the North Shore won’t have many (if any) foreigners flying in this year, that must get you pretty excited?
That’d be amazing! Obviously those waves are hard enough to surf well as it is, but trying to get them is half the problem to begin with. It’d be a huge opportunity for everyone who lives in Hawaii to get their share, without a million people paddling around us.
This coming season excites me, I want to be really rounded with my surfing, from small waves to the ones that are way more serious. If I can head to the North Shore and surf up and down and get to a place where I feel comfortable everywhere, then hopefully that sets me up as the years go by to keep improving everywhere after that. You’re never going to master all the waves, but that seven-mile stretch is make or break and what your career comes down to at the end of the day.
Eli Hanneman paddling in the surf at home on Maui, Hawaii

Eli Hanneman's sights are firmly set on the horizon

© Zak Noyle

You’re 17, are groms starting to come up and tell you that you’re their favourite surfer now?
Yep! It happens every once and a while and it’s a real spinout because that was me a few years ago. It’s hard because I don’t want to come off like I don’t care, but I just really don’t know how I'd react. I’m still a grom myself!
I need to learn how to deal with all of that, because it’s so new to me, but you always want to be cool and play the role. I’d love it if I was a kid’s favourite surfer!

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Eli Hanneman

Hawaiian surfing prodigy Eli Hanneman has been destined for success since his teens. Now he's ready to get serious.

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