Born and raised on the beaches of Oahu, Kelis Kaleopaa is one of the self-styled Waikiki Grom Squad, a trailblazing group of laidback Hawaiian teenagers that are bringing a new finesse and gracefulness to the world of longboarding and she's one of Outrigger's new Surfers in Residence.
In similar fashion to many of Oahu’s young loggers (longboard riders), Kelis hails from a family of surfers. Her mother and one-time competitive longboarder Malia rides the very same Waikiki breaks, and her grandma Lorie gave best friend Haley Otto—another of the Grom Squad riders—her first board. So to say that surfing is a way of life for the sun-kissed, goofy-foot teen would be a huge understatement. A quick glance at Instagram shows endless shots and reels of her masterfully cross-stepping and hanging ten on dreamy waves.
Recently we found Kelis and fellow Waikiki surfer girl Keani Canullo catching up and spreading good vibes at Outrigger and chatting with legendary surf school founder and musician Tammy Moniz.
“Outrigger holds a lot of special events that we have, and it is one of our favorite hotels to stay at personally,” Kaleopaa said. “It’s very cultural. They hold a lot of good [art] pieces toward Waikiki, too, in the hotel. It’s a very special place.”
With a distinctive style and technical prowess honed on the surf spots located right outside the Outrigger Waikiki, it’s of little surprise that the Hawaii native has already made waves on the world tour. Most can only fantasize about winning the Mexi Log Fest aged just 13 and becoming the youngest-ever winner of the Vans Joel Tudor Duct Tape Invitational in Huntingdon Beach, California. Like the swells of Waikiki, the awards keep rolling in—last year Kelis nonchalantly danced her way to first place at the Noosa Longboard Open.
While waiting for the Word Surf League tour to restart, Kelis spends valuable time in and out of the water with her surf-loving family and friends. It’s when paddling out to the lineup with her girl squad and recreating Hawaii’s ancient and artful surfing roots when she truly feels at home.
Check out more of Outrigger's fave surfers at the regular Surfers in Residence for a chance to hang ten with the pros on your time (or just watch them hit the waves!).