Titus Kinimaka Interview from the 2003 Towsurfer Vault

April 6, 2003

by Eric Akiskalian

DOB: January 24, 1955
From: Kalapaki, Kauai
Age: 48 years young

Height: 6’

Weight: 170lbs
Eyes: Brown
Hair: Brown
Years Surfing: 45
Years Towing: 8
Other Interests: Music, surfing, my family
Residence: Anahola, on the north shore of Kauai, HI

Sponsors: Anahola, on the north shore of Kauai, HI


  • To continue my career as a professional surfer and musician.
  • To fulfill my goals with the best interests of my family, friends, and sponsors at heart

  • No less than twenty (20) 1st place surfing event finishes since 1965
  • Competitor In last 2 Duke Kahanamoku Invitationals 1984-1985
  • Quiksilver Eddie Aikau Invited Competitor since 1986
  • Invited to the Swell.com Big Wave Invitational since 1999
  • 3rd Place at 2002 Quiksilvers Masters Tournament

  • Significant mention and photo exposures in USA, Japan, Australia and Europe including The Surfers Journal, Surfing Magazine, Surfer Magazine, H3O Surf Magazine, Trip Surf Magazine (France), Wave Action, High Surf Advisory Magazine and Transworld Surf (USA/Japan) Nalu Longboard Magazine.
  • Featured actor in The Hawaiians, 1964; Donavan’s Reef, 1964, In Gods Hands, 1995; Peace Wave, 2001; Hawaii Tourism Commercial Feature with George Hamilton 1987; and Bo Dereks’ 1995 Television series, Wind on Water, 1995, Nihi, 2003
  • Featured Surf Fashion model in June 2003 issue of Playboy.
  • Stuntman on Hollywood Films, North and Six Days Seven Nights
  • 1st Man to surf the venerable Kings Reef, 60’+ November 1996 Titus was given the Waterman of the Year award in 1996 by the State of Hawaii Lifeguard Association for outstanding rescues as a lifeguard. Titus broke his femur at Waimea Bay in 1989 and rode Waimea again 6-months later
  • Global surf travel experience: Tahiti, Fiji, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Marquises Islands, Japan, Singapore, France, Spain, England, Ireland, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Italy, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, North Africa, Solomon Islands, Morocco, and extensive US travels
  • Titus spent the last twenty years traveling the world as an ambassador to surfing and the Hawaiian culture in almost any country you can name from J apan to Europe.
  • An accomplished musician, Titus has released 5 Hawaiian music CD’s
  • Currently booked to compete in 2003 Eddie Aikau Invitational Big Wave Event, 2003 Jaws Tow-In Surfing World Championships, 2003 Swell.Com Big Wave Invitational.

  • To compete in all worldwide paddle and Tow-in Big Wave surfing events. Continue to pioneer the sport of Foil Surfing. Expand my musical horizons and care for my family.

    Current Sponsors:
  • Quiksilver Silver Edition Clothing and Wetsuits, Brewer Surfboards, The Omega Zone Diet, Kawasaki

    Represented by:
  • Dirt Roots Marketing Personal Management, Laguna Beach CA
  • Agent Contact: Jimbeau Andrews 949-494-9840 or 949-338-5444

(The Edge of Everything)

Titus Kinimaka

Nihi Loa is a fast paced Action Biography on world-renowned waterman Titus Kinimaka. Titus’ friends and family provide in-depth perspectives on the mystique that surrounds this Hawaiian big wave surfer, stuntman and global adventurer.

Nihi Loa is a biographical journey that exposes the essence of Hawaiian life, its fascinating culture, and seeks to define the Aloha spirit.

As his ancestors have for thousands of years, Titus continues to live a life connected to the sea. Nihi Loa is a rich tale filled with mountainous waves, spectacular scenery, and the life and death experiences of a modern Hawaiian who honors his past by living in the future.

Towsurfer.com: Maybe we should begin with the “here and now” What’s going on with you today?
Titus: I’m making a film, surfing everyday, towing in as much as possible, hydrofoiling, surfing my short board as much as possible. Spending time with my family whenever I’m in town and making music for the soundtrack of my new film, Nihi.

Tell us about where you live and what you do on a day to day routine.
I surf every day…all day if possible. My workout includes calisthenics, running, swimming, mountain biking, yoga, lots of stretching and good food. I start as early as 4:00 A.M. to get my workout in, hit my numbers, then I’m off to go surf from 7-11, home for lunch, then back to the surf. I play with my daughters and spend time with my wife in the evenings and get to bed early.
Tell us about your huge family?
I come from a family of 16 brothers and sisters, 8 boys and 8 girls. I learned the art of finding the nipple early on…survival skills you know.

So your Mom taught you how to surf when you were just three years old?
My mom taught me and my brother Percy who learned from The Duke, Jamma and Rabbit Kekai, and a hundred other uncles.

Your brother Percy was very supportive in teaching you to sail, dive, how to canoe and a ton of other skills. Tell us about that.
My brother Percy ran the beach boy concession at the Kauai Surf Hotel for 25 years. He learned every aspect of being a waterman from legendary figures. He used to work out, run the beach, swim and do conditioning before it was cool. He knew that staying in shape was essential to staying alive in the ocean. He helped me to learn respect for the ocean and the skills of my forefathers. Its not just about surfing but respecting the ocean.

Tell us about the early years when The Duke used to take you and your older brother Percy diving and paddling?
Duke used to come to Kauai and my job was to make sure he had 2 clean towels and a cold drink. I was real young and didn’t really know why he was so important but he respected by everyone. He was a soft-spoken guy who was treated like royalty and lived up to it with his kindness and generosity.

Did he become one of your mentors?
Definitely! Idol, mentor, he is someone we all can look up to for pursuing excellence and quality of life and sharing with others.

Were you ever a lifeguard?
Yes, I began lifeguarding when I was 7 years old. My brother Percy taught CPR and Lifesaving and was the only one who could get you a lifeguard card. When I started learning CPR we used to pound their chest, and pump their arms to get them to breathe, and we would raise their arms to clear water from their lungs. It might have been the high death rate that contributed to changing this technique but it’s interesting to think how the techniques have changed since then.

Tell us about Hanalei Bay on the North Shore of Kauai?
If I tell you about Hanalei I’d have to kill you.

Why do the people of Kauai generally hold the credit of exceeding all others in the sports of the Islands?
This island has the largest expanse of water between it and the other islands. It wasn’t easy to get here and you had to be tough to get here. Kauai has never been conquered. Kamehameha, didn’t conquer us which makes us unique in the islands. We were and still are a separate kingdom and therefore we will always have talented athletes, cowboys, fishermen, scholars, watermen etc.

What are some of your most memorable personal experiences in surfing?
Winning my first contest at age 7 but having to give the trophy back because I was too young for the 12-year-old boys division. Being the first to surf Kings Reef. My first cutback on a hydrofoil.

How did you get hooked up with tow-in surfing?
In 1989 I got my first introduction to a jet ski as a water safety officer at Sunset Beach on the North Shore with Brian Keaulana, Mel Puu, and Terry Ahue. I began towing in 1995.

Who were some of the guys that inspired you to become a tow-in surfer?
Laird, Darrick and Dave.

What were the first few sessions like for you?
Freedom from the crowds, to just be ourselves and surf the biggest waves that travel from across the world.

What’s the whole tow-in scene like on Kauai?
This is sensitive information and would result in your immediate death if revealed.

We don’t see many shots if ever of towing in Kaui. Why is that?
All the photographers were killed.

What are your thoughts on the vastly growing sport and the abundance of skis in the lineup during a big session at Pe’ahi?
It’s getting dangerous but we all knew that was going to happen. Towing in is not a walk in the park. To me, Pe’ahi is the heaviest wave on earth and there is no other like it that I’ve experienced. I think it demands respect and should be given it.

What are the safety concerns and realities of what is happening to the sport with respect to guys just jumping on a ski and grabbing the rope without the experience of being a solid driver and waterman?

The safety concerns include operator skills, wave judgment, common sense.

It is known that the Association of Professional Towsurfers (APT) has been formed to promote and encourage the responsible growth and development of professional tow-in surfing. (APT) has been formed as a California Non-Profit Mutual Benefit Corporation that will develop and sanction new tow-in events and improve business conditions for the benefit of the professional competitor members, other members of the organization, promoters and sponsors of sanctioned tow-in surfing events? What are your thoughts, views, and opinions on an association of this type?

Tow-in surfing is all about the freedom to ride the biggest in the world. When competition enters the scene it metamorphosis’s into a whole new animal. I choose to participate. That’s what I have done since I was 7 years old. I’m a competitor.

Talk to us about the meaning of “Pure Forms of Energy”.
In my world a man walking the earth is a pure form of energy. And likewise a wave traveling across the sea is a pure form of energy. When they combine it takes it to a new, third level if you will, that is unique to those two forms of energy. It creates a one of a kind expression of freedom that they both experience. The wave has got to feel the surfers’ energy.

Who are some of the renowned and respected watermen that are like family to you?
Brian Keaulana, Uncle Buff, Auntie Momi, Rusty, Brada Mel and all of Makaha are family to me. The whole Keaulana family are renowned watermen and respected for reaching a level of excellence and innovation in surfing, canoe surfing and rescue techniques. Solid men, solid family.

What do you consider the three principal rules to tow-in surfing?
Number one, safety first above all and get a good dependable Kawasaki Jet Ski. Number two, get a good reliable partner you can depend on who won’t hesitate to get you when your ass is on the line. Number three, pay attention!

Last question. What are your thoughts on this years Billabong XXL contest with respect to who rode the biggest wave?
I wouldn’t even want to guess. Pe’ahi and St. Jean de Luz are two different waves in two different oceans. I think everyone is putting too much emphasis on how big… They are both big no matter what language you speak. I’ve spent a lot of time in Maui and in the south of France and whichever wins is fine with me. I love both spots.

Thanks Titus for taking the time to share with our visitors.
Mahalo to you Eric and all!

— © Copyright 2003 Towsurfer.com/Eric Akiskalian