The world's most dynamic surfer on how to survive (and thrive!) dropping in…
(This interview was recorded in 2010 and originally appeared in Surfer magazine.)
Mason Ho, 20, is the most charismatic midget you’ll ever see in the water. He rides Mayhem quads and bottle-nosed fish and his surfs are punctuated by fin-throws, old-school air reverses, even older-school 360s, chop-hops and even backside alley-oops. If there is a Hawaii style, his is it: all warm-water, loose-limbed, afro-swinging extravagance.
Mason is also the son of Hawaiian star Michael Ho, the nephew of Hawaii’s first-ever world champ, Dez Ho, and brother to girls champion Coco Ho. If he wanted, Mason could book an audience with Fast Eddie Rothman at the tap of a few keys. Mason also likes, very much, to drop in. See 5’5” Redux for visual evidence.
BeachGrit: I can’t remember the last time I so adored a human who so flagrantly flouted the most basic rule of surfing.
BeachGrit: Have you always dropped in?
Mason: Let me see. Usually, I’m not too bad dropping in, but when Joe Alani comes to film for the …Lost videos I just go on a barrage and burn… every…single… person. He comes for, like, 10 days out of a whole year and I figure I’ve got 10 days to work. And, if that includes burning people, that’s cool.
BeachGrit: Do you like to see who your victim might be?
Mason: Not really. My theory is that I just don’t look back so I always end up burning my friends and my Dad and my Uncle and my Sister.
BeachGrit: What about Hawaii’s famously ferocious and livid regulators?
Mason: I accidentally burn them, too.
BeachGrit: What line do you take; obviously dropping straight down the face would result in a collision?
Mason: Frick, you draw a higher line where you’re going extra fast and then you get the bigger, high-speed maneuver right in front of their face.
BeachGrit: Are some surfers good sports? Does the man or woman behind ever hoot your theatrics?
Mason: It used to happen all the time when I was younger. But, I haven’t had one for a while because I got good at burning guys.
BeachGrit: A kid with brillo-pad hair dropping in is cute; a 20-year-old doing it is kinda crook.
Mason: Yeah, I definitely think a 20-year-old dropping in is crook.
BeachGrit: What is the best strategy for dropping in?
Mason: My favorite theory is right when you burn someone, you try and hide in the barrel as fast as you can. That’s the best, and then you come out and they’re, like, more baffled. If it’s not barreling and I burn someone, I figure I gotta do an air ‘cause if I do something gayer that’s extra crook.
BeachGrit: What’s the best turn you’ve completed after dropping in?
Mason: One time I burned this guy, got this big backside barrel and I came out and did a big indy alley-oop backside. I kicked out and said, “Sorry about that” and he said, “No, it was sweet!”
BeachGrit: Who’s the most famous surfer you’ve dropped in?
Mason: Uncle Derek. I got him at Pipe one time and then I got him at Desert Point a couple of times this last trip.
BeachGrit: How does Uncle Derek react?
Mason: He loves it. Because the next couple of fricken waves he rides in front of me. He looks at it as a meal ticket.
BeachGrit: What about Kelly Slater?
Mason: Oh, I… have… dropped… in… on… Kelly. At Trestles, I burned him. I heard: “Mason!” Then I heard, “Ho!” Then I heard, “Mason Ho!” Huh, huh, huh! I looked back at went, “Oh sh**t, Slates!” That’s my problem. I just don’t look back.
BeachGrit: From where did you learn the art?
Mason: I learned it from Coco. I figure if my little sister can burn everybody, I can, too.
BeachGrit: Coco copped it when she smoked Layne at Haleiwa last year.
Mason: That was the funniest shit ever! I was on the beach rolling. All the girls were paddling around Coco, just owning her. Me and Dad were, like, “C’mon Coco! What are you doing?” Finally, in that last exchange, we counted her out. We knew she was going to let everybody paddle around her again, and she did. And then she ended up going, anyway. I was laughing so hard, going, “That’s what I would’ve done!”
BeachGrit: How should a reader of this magazine, on his trip-of-a-lifetime to the North Shore react, if he finds himself breathing your exhaust? Should he be grateful for a close-up look at your charismatic styling?
Mason: No way! I don’t want them to appreciate me burning ‘em. But, I sure do appreciate ‘em letting me surf in front of ‘em.