I had a chance to speak with Jairus Cannon last week, following his impressive first place win in the Open Men’s division of the Legends Of The Bay surf contest. Born in California, Jairus moved to Maui when he was 12. He immediately took to surfing at Pavilions, and contests were soon to follow. “I got really into surfing after my first wave,” he said. “I knew then that I wanted to eventually be a pro surfer.”
Respect is the word he uses to describe the local surfers on Maui. “There are so many great surfers here on the island, I’ve learned so much just being able to surf everyday with some of the world’s best,” he said. Too many names to mention, yet Matt Kinoshita’s name comes up when discussing influences. “Matt has helped my career in so many ways, and has also been a great friend.”
Traveling has been a big part of Jairus’ life, he’s been to Tahiti four times, Mexico, all the Hawaiian islands. At age 23, he has had some incredible sessions to talk about, yet one stands out. Last summer, he and fellow Maui surfers Sai Smiley and Kaleo Roberson scored pristine Tahitian waves all day. “One day stands out above the rest. We surfed big, huge death barrels from morning to night,” he said. “It was definitely proving grounds for me in big surf.”
After graduating from Maui High, Jairus picked up local work as a chef, but after winning the Local Motion/Gotcha Surf Into Summer contest on Oahu, Jairus then made the decision to focus all his time and energy into surfing.
Jairus credits local surf photographers Ron Loomis and Rick Leeks for helping him get the recognition he needed to attract sponsors. Through portfolios and pictures published in surf magazines, Jairus has made his surfing dream a reality.
The Legends of the Bay Contest was held Jan. 31 at Honolua Bay in 3-5 foot perfection. Jairus felt he was an underdog going against some of Maui’s legendary surfers. This helped relieve the pressure and is what he feels was the key to his success.
“The Bay is my favorite spot in the world,” he said. “I surfed there every day for a week before the contest, so mentally I felt prepared. It was unreal surfing with only four other guys in the water, I couldn’t believe I won, and I really look up to all the guys I surfed against. There was a few great Bay surfers that didn’t enter, and if they did, it definitely would have changed the results.”
Focused and motivated, Jairus’ interests don’t lie in material goods. “All I need is gas for the truck, food and a surfboard, and I’m happy just surfing everyday with my friends,” he said.
Jairus has been practicing tow-in surfing at outer Sprecks. Nothing too large yet, realizing the preparation and shape one must be in to go big. He would like to surf Jaws one day, however, he knows that he has a ways to go before taking on that challenge.
With a strong push toward professionalism in the sport of surfing, positive representatives are the key to the future. Attitude and determination are what it takes to go to the next level, exactly what Jairus Cannon is achieving, and all the while making the dream last.
This story originally ran in MauiTime’s February 17, 1998 issue.
Photos: Rick Leeks and Ron Loomis