In 2007, glad to get away from the mainland for two weeks, my girlfriend and I approached the rental car stand at the Maui airport. The classic Hawaiian Auntie there asked us where we were going. “Hana,” my girlfriend said. “Oh, Haaaannnnna,” Auntie said quietly, with a tone of approval. “I like Hana. You go to Lahaina for fun, and you go over to Kihei for da sun. But you go to Hana for your soul.”
Thus began the journey of Hana Surf Girls. We did go to Hana, and Auntie was right, it was indeed good for our souls, in so many ways. The way that concerns the film happened every day around 3 PM. I would be surfing at Koki Beach, and a group of local girls just let out of school would pull into the parking lot, get out their boards, and proceed to totally dominate the peak. I was in awe. My girlfriend was in awe. Neither of us had ever seen anything like these confident, healthy, beautiful, ripping surf girls.
After I returned to the mainland, something about the experience would not leave me, and I began sending emails back to friends in Hana. Who were those girls, I asked? Two names came back from all sources: Monyca Byrne Wickey and Lipoa Kahaleuahi. It just so happened that Lipoa had just started classes at the university five miles from me — UCSB. We met, and I liked her instantly. She had quiet calm about her. Although she seemed hesitant, she agreed to explore the idea of a film. I reached Monyca through email and she also said she was open to the idea. A few days later I got word from Susie Byrne Wickey, Monyca’s mom, that the Hana Surfing Games were going to happen in two weeks, and that if I really wanted to do a movie, that would be the place to start. I bought a plane ticket and with no budget and no plan, I headed to Maui.
Throughout the process of filming, there continued to be no real plan. I just had a feeling about these two girls, and this place. Many of the Hana locals were rightfully suspicious of me. Who was I, what was I doing there? They kept asking me, “What’s this movie going to be about, anyway?” I never really had a good answer for them because I didn’t really know myself. But ultimately, they put up with me. They let me in, a little bit at least, and I’m grateful.
The result is what I believe to be a very special and rare film experience. The film made itself, I take credit only for sticking with it. And my greatest wish in presenting it to the world is that it does Hana proud. I think the poignant, inspiring story of Monyca and Lipoa harkens back to what Auntie said at the airport — you go to see Hana Surf Girls for your soul.
-Russ Spencer, January 2010