Ian Walsh's Menehune Mayhem celebrated its 10th anniversary in Maui this past weekend, hosting 120 grommets, their families, friends and random passers-by at Hookipa Beach Park. Since its inception a decade ago, this keiki contest has remained a free event that brings the community together for a day of surf competition, dancing, art, games, food and aloha. Big-wave surfer Ian Walsh started the contest when he was 19 as a way to give back to Maui and stoke-out the Valley Isle's young surfers, getting his sponsors, family, friends and community to support the event.
"The event is something that brings the whole community together which is the thing that makes me the most proud about the event," says Walsh, 29, who grew up surfing at Hookipa Beach Park. "It's not just one person running it, it's the whole community's event and only operates because of so many people's involvement [...] I'm happy to be able to give back to a place that has given me everything that I have in my life right now: all of my friends, family and everything I learned from the ocean around here."
Ten years ago Walsh came up with the Menehune Mayhem idea because after noticing a lapse in the number of kid's contests at his home break. Since then, the event has evolved into a surf competition set in the middle of a mini-carnival with a bouncing castle, chiropractor, photo booth, DJ, dunk tank, arts and crafts tent, fitness center, scavenger hunt and autographs. This year, Walsh, his brothers Shaun and DK, Mark Healey, Matt Meola, Kai Barger and Billy Kemper signed posters for the kids.
Like many of Maui's up and coming pro surfers, Kemper, 22, competed in the Menehune Mayhem as a grom and has fond memories of the event. "Growing up [Ian Walsh's Menehune Mayhem] was the grand finale. It was like the U.S. Open for Maui. It's like a carnival for kids while surfing in our backyard," explains Kemper. "I can remember competing in the first year of the event with Dusty (Payne), Kai (Barger), Granger (Larsen), Albee (Layer) and Matt (Meola). I grew up looking up to Ian and with him it's not only about how good you surf, but it's about how much you pay attention in school and show the kids and everybody in Maui what it means to grow up here and set a good example."
For the past decade, Walsh, who was the valedictorian of King Kekaulike's class of 2001, has been a positive role model for Maui's student athletes. In addition to stoking out groms and awarding competitive surfing, the Menehune Mayhem also rewards academic excellence. This year, Maui County Mayor, Alan Arakawa, presented six deserving groms GPA awards at Hookipa Beach Park.
"This an example of someone coming from the community, a young gentleman that wanted to give back to the community," said Mayor Arakawa. "For [Ian Walsh] to be willing to comeback, sponsor an event like this, specifically for the youth, and to encourage them to not only be very active sports-wise, but to reward their scholastic ability sends a real strong message that it's important to have athletic skill, as well as be a good scholar, is tremendous for the community."
Over 400 people attended the contest, with 120 contestants competing in 10 divisions. It was a full day of work for the judging panel, who judged 38 heats. A rising northwest swell provided onshore, but highly contestable two- to four-foot surf for the groms. Despite the challenging conditions, contestants rose to the occasion with the smallest kids charging the inside reform of Pavills and the older divisions putting on a brilliant display of high performance surfing out the back.
Imaikalani DeVault, 15, was a standout-performer of the event and won the Boys 14-15 division. He has competed in every year of Ian Walsh's Menehune Mayhem and looks forward to this contest the most because Hookipa is homebreak and the amount of exposure the event receives by the media.
"I surf here every day so it feels good to win here," said DeVault, who is a sophomore at Kamehameha Schools Maui campus. "I think this is my favorite contest out all the events I compete in because it's a lot of fun and it's cool to win because it's a pretty hyped-up [event]."