The history of surfing on Maui is only traceable through the archives of the people that have lived the experience. Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to interview many of these athletes whose treasured tales keep the essence of aloha alive for everyone.
Analu DePonte lives life with the Hawaiian pride that has been instilled in him from a young age, thanks to the strong connection with his family and friends. He was born in the early 1960s, in a time when the island’s purity was still relatively unspoiled.
Reflecting back to how his grandparents met, he describes their romantic encounter. “My grandfather worked on one of the barges that went out of Pier 1,” he said. “They would take supplies out to Hana before the roads were drivable. He met my grandmother Agnes Aikau there and the two fell in love.” Analu is third generation Hawaiian and his roots run very deep throughout the islands.
DePonte is the cousin of the legendary big wave rider Eddie Aikau. “When I was in eighth grade I travelled to Oahu with some of the Maui boys to surf in a contest,” he said. “We were in the parking lot where there was a party and Pops Aikau came up to us thinking we were crashing it. I told him I was DePonte from Maui. He was so surprised to meet me, his ohana took all of us in, showed us Eddie’s trophy room, and let us party.”
Analu spent the early years of his life surfing a very uncrowded Maui with his friends Lloyd Ishimine, Brad Lewis and Mark Anderson. With a deep breath, he began to tell the story about his cousin, the late Alex DePonte, who had a great influence on all who knew him. “In his time, he was the best surfer on Maui, he was way ahead of everyone,” he said. “He pretty much took Lloyd and I under his wings and showed us the ropes. When he passed away, I felt like a part of him came alive in me. At that point my level of surfing really improved. I still think about him every day and the impact he had on my life.”
Alex was a vanguard of the shortboard revolution and the effect he has had on surfers throughout the islands, including Michael Ho, is history in itself. “They were best friends, and together they helped elevate the sport,” Analu said. “I’ve met so many people in the surfing world through my cousin. After Alex died, I spent a lot of time with Michael and we became good friends.” Analu was the best man at his wedding and finds comfort in the similarities and characteristics that Alex and Michael share.
He also reflected on an unforgettable trip with Gerry Lopez 10 years ago. “I went with Gerry to Tavarua the first year the camp opened,” he said. “It was like Hawaii must have been 50 years ago. It was a great experience sharing barrel after perfect barrel with Gerry.”
These days Analu surfs every day and is proud to be sponsored by Honolua Surf Company and have his boards shaped by Ishimine. He still surfs contests when they come to Maui, yet the focus of his surfing has matured with age. “I still love surfing with da bruddahs,” he said. “The past couple of years I have been tow-in surfing with Mark Anderson and we’ve had some fun sessions.”
With a wealth of stories and colorful experiences, Analu’s tales could easily fill this entire magazine. With the emotion of his past and the strength of his Hawaiian roots, he is a part of Maui’s surfing history.
This story originally ran in MauiTime’s June 23, 1998 issue.
Photo: Erik Aeder Photography