Tony Moniz is proud of the fact that he and his wife never pushed his children to pursue surfing. He waited for that love to grow in the Waikīkī waves.
If you ask Tony Moniz, the ocean itself taught his daughter its ways. Its waves guided her in paddling out, time in its breaks showed her how to walk the nose; its cerulean surf that led her to love the sport as much as he does to this day.
But it’s the legendary big-wave surfer and dad who brought her to the beach. For about six months during Kelia Moniz’s hanabuda days, the rising sun meant cramming into a 15-passenger van with her parents and four brothers and a dozen soft-top longboards strapped to the top.
Inside, the Moniz crew packed a pop-up tent, pots and pans for lunch, and an assortment of math and science textbooks – all the components necessary for the Waikīkī- and world-renowned Moniz clan to take their homeschooling right in front of Queens and Canoes.
For this time, the kids learned to add and subtract on the sand while their parents set up the beach boy school Faith Riding Company, which now has four stands along the tourist-hungry frontlines.
My dad’s reputation … I’ve been to so many places around the world, and ’til this day I’ve never gone to one place where people didn’t know him, and they always have such good things to say about him.
“They were just rugrats, Waikīkī beach rats for a while,” says Tony. “We’re down at the beach and teaching surfing every day and all the boards are up there. No one did a land demonstration with them, or showed them how to pop up, like I do every day. It was like, here’s a board, go out and play.”
Now, at just 19 years old, Kelia is the face of Roxy, though she’s been traveling the world with the company for competitions and photo shoots since age 13. She’s the girl in the campaigns smiling with her toes on the nose in remote turquoise waters.
Her four brothers are outstanding surfers as well, all four surfing surfing competitively and one following in the footsteps of their father, passing on the stoke with every perfectly-timed push.
But Daddy Moniz is proud of the fact that he and his wife Tammy never, ever pushed them to pursue the sport. He waited for that love to grow roots on its own, right in the Waikīkī waves, just the way it worked for him.
Back in the early 1970s, Tony was biking to Waikīkī from Kalihi with his brother, ditching his 6th grade classes to surf. Long before then, you could already find him in the lineup at Waikīkī breaks, the youngest among in a tight-knit crew of five, including a brother and three cousins.
This posse fostered both Tony’s competitiveness, which led him to beat them all in his first competition at the tender age of 8, and nurtured his love for the sport that he now claims is in his DNA.
And this DNA makes itself apparent in Kelia, a feisty, goofy-footed longboarder who can ride anything and who grew up taking on first longboards and then shortboards with her brothers on practically every South Shore wave.
While she was already competing for Roxy on a shortboard by the age of 13, it’s free surfing and longboarding that have her heart, and what she returned to at the age of 16.
“She’s such a queen on the longboard. Her gift is the longboard,” says Tony, a determined, proud look on his tanned face. “When she paddles a longboard, she looks good. When she stands on a longboard, it’s, like, beautiful. It’s something that you can’t train someone to do. It’s like that person who picks up and plays jazz music. You can’t train someone that gifted natural ability. And that’s her on a longboard.”
Just as obvious in the Moniz DNA is – and there’s no other way to say it – the aloha spirit, which they wear with pride. There’s always a smile for you, no matter whether you’re a 9-year-old haole boy learning to surf or the auntie stopping by to say hello.
“My dad’s reputation … I’ve been to so many places around the world, and ’til this day I’ve never gone to one place where people didn’t know him, and they always have such good things to say about him,” says Kelia, at a coffee shop in Manhattan Beach in California, where she’s based. “And that’s always something I want to do when I travel, is to meet people and always have them remember me for being a good person.”