Kaipo Guerrero - WSL Contest Announcer

Tell me about your first board.

Good story. I was nine years old on Oahu and super stoked to get my first board, which was a Wavecrest Hawaii. George Downing ran the shop at the time and now his son, former Eddie Aikau champion, Keone Downing runs it as Downing Hawaii.

What was the feeling you had when you first stood up?

My father and grandfather are both surfers. My dad tried to get me to surf regular foot, like him, but it never felt really comfortable. When I started surfing more with my friends I naturally switched to goofyfoot and that’s what it took to get me really hooked. I trimmed better now that I wasn’t trying to copy my dad. I got it, things finally clicked, I had control and the points were connecting.

What’s the Guerrero family heritage in Hawaii?

I’m Portuguese Hawaiian, so about 1/3 Hawaiian and the other 2/3 is from the Guerrero side of the family. They came to Hawaii from the Azores and Madeira Islands in the late 1800’s. It was the first wave of migrant workers to have mid-level jobs in the plantations. They were also part of the era when the ukulele arrived from Portugal as the “braguinha”, one of the greatest contributions Portugal brought to Hawaii.

Who did you look up to when you were a child and now as an adult in Hawaii?

George and Keone Downing, Ben Aipa, and Rob Burns who founded Local Motion, my first sponsor. I really looked up to guys like Buttons, Larry Bertleman, and Tony Moniz, who were my mentors back then. It was a sick generation to grow up in for sure. Their surfing was amazing, they had a great vibe and so much swagger. They defined style at that radical turning point in surfing history.

How did you go from being a professional surfer into your current role as a WSL contest announcer?

I had a pretty brief career as a pro surfer that lasted about five years. Then I got really involved in snowboarding in the 90’s, which took me away from surfing for a while. I worked in the industry for 10 years, got married and had children, then moved back to Hawaii. That’s when I returned to surfing, working for FCS, Xcel and Rip Curl along the way.

Then Ed D’Ascoli from Xcel, who also ran the Xcel Pro at Sunset Beach, asked me if I wouldn't mind being the beach announcer. That broke new ground for me and led to Randy Rarick asking me to be the beach announcer for the whole Triple Crown. Things grew more from there as this gave me broader exposure, eventually with the WSL being interested in having me as the beach announcer too. I always had the Hawaii connection but the WSL allowed me to travel to so many new places in the world. I’m hoping to spend more time in the announcing booth for this year’s Triple Crown.

What do you like most about your job?

First of all, I'm a huge fan of surfing, so I love doing all the research on the surfers and surf history in general. Best of all is traveling the world with the top surfers. It helps inspire my own surfing experience by being with the best surfers in the world on such incredible waves. All the men and women are surfing so well today.

There's a big difference being a commentator in our sport of surfing. I can go out there and surf with all my subjects, who are also my good friends. That type of camaraderie is so unique in any sport and I love it. You don't see NBA or NFL players out there taking free throws or throwing passes with the announcers. They usually don't even practice their sport anymore, but as a retired pro, I’m lucky to be out there surfing together with the best in the world still.

The retired pros on the WSL tour are actually the most frothing surfers. Guys like Peter Mel, Strider, Ross Williams, Martin Potter and Rosie Hodge are totally ripping still. Even Joe Turpel and Ron Blakey, who were never pro surfers, surf so well they make me feel like I'm on tour again!

Top 3 Waves in the World?

1. Macaronis
2. Teauhupo’o
3. Suicides, since it’s my neighborhood wave

Last question. How many world titles will John John win?

Good question. I think it's as long as he stays interested. Someone like John John could easily win 4 or 5 of them. To eclipse 11 and Kelly Slater? I don't know if we'll ever see that repeated. Why? Because these guys today have way more options. All the different ways to be a pro surfer and how to use media today allows them to keep their careers interesting and lucrative outside of competition. This could cut chasing world titles shorter for some pro surfers and extend their careers in creative new ways in the future. I can’t wait to see it all unfold!

Posted by: Dan Stokes Roman, on December 4, 2016
Categories: Interviews