Catching Up With Kemper – Pe’ahi Challenge Champion
When the waves around the coast of Hawaiʻi turn into High Warning levels, there is a new local boy who has been seizing the moment at every given opportunity to ride monster waves. Billy Kemper is turning heads towards the skyline when the waves become as big as they can get.
Raised on both the north shores of Maui and Oʻahu, Kemper has a keen awareness for the oceanic power of the Hawaiian shorelines. He is putting his mark on the big wave surfing scene as one of the best in the world.
Kemper recently won the first ever Peʻahi Big Wave Challenge at the infamous wave, “Jaws” off of Maui’s north shore coastline.
The waves were horrifically gigantic and Billy proved to the millions of surf fans watching on a live webcast that “Jaws” is his backyard and that he was hungry to catch the biggest waves that would come his way.
With that win Billy successfully stamped his name in the big wave surfing scene as one of best on the planet. Maui Now recently caught up with Billy to see how he ended up finding a love for charging mountains of water and what keeps him wanting more.
When did you realize that you wanted to be a professional surfer?
Growing up my brother Eric was on the forefront of professional surfing and all I wanted to do was be like him, so from a early age, still in diapers I was aiming at being there one day.
Who inspired you when you were growing up in the amateur ranks?
My brother was my hero growing up alongside guys (like) Kaimana Henry, the Irons brothers, and Shane Dorian.
How has the waves around Maui helped you craft your skills?
I feel like Maui has made me who I am and the waves there have groomed me into the surfer I am, its made me really comfortable in windy big waves.
What is your favorite wave?
When did you first surf “Jaws”?
First session was with a few of my best friends, Marlon Lewis, Matt Meola, and Albee Layer when I was 15 or 16 years old.
How does “Jaws” compare to other big waves around the world?
Its the god father of big waves, to me nothing compares to it.
You’ve recently won the first ever WSL Peʻahi Challange. What did you think of this historic event?
It was a dream come true, for a while I felt like a paddle event out there was a myth that was never gonna happen. I’m still pretty speechless and baffled to win that event and make history out there. It was such an honor to just be in the event with all those legends.
You also recently became a father (congrats), has that changed the way you view your career as a professional surfer? Or changed your approach in competition?
Being a fresh dad has been amazing, as far as changing my career it hasn’t really besides choosing my trips a bit more wisely and making sure I make it home to be there for my family. My approach is no different, once I’m in a jersey all the adrenaline and froth kicks in and all that’s going through my mind is to win.
What do you think of Maui’s future surfing stars?
Maui has so much up and coming talent, I see a world champ coming off our island in the near future for sure.
What are your future goals moving through 2016?
Having fun surfing the best biggest waves in the world and raising my family healthy and strong.