Young as Mike Young

Young as Mike Young

By Léo Azambuja

Mike Young singing at Casablanca, Po‘ipu in 2010.

Mike Young singing at Casablanca, Po‘ipu in 2010.

I can still vividly remember Mike Young riding an orange longboard at Major’s Bay and absolutely shredding waves of any size, all with grace and style.

That’s exactly how Mike was, in and out of the water. He lived life to the max, always with grace and style. He remained young from the day he was born to the day he was gone.

Since my main article this month is about surfing, I figured it’s fit to pay tribute to a good friend, a surfing legend and one of the greatest human beings I have ever met.

It has been more than a year since Mike’s early departure Sept. 25, 2013, at 63 years old, but he is still with everyone whose lives he touched, everyday.

I first heard of Mike in 1993, when he organized a Wave Riders Against Drugs concert. A few years later, I would often see him surfing Major’s Bay. I would only meet Mike in 2008, introduced by Max Medeiros.

I had just moved back from Molokai, where Mike spent the first five years of his life. If you have ever been to Molokai, one of the most special places on Earth, you would know anyone who comes from there has a heart larger than life.

Mike Young, second from left, and I, wearing a white shirt, at Tom Kats in 2009.

Mike Young, second from left, and I, wearing a white shirt, with friends at Tom Kats in 2009.

I quickly became friends with Mike. Back in the day, I used to write a lot about local musicians, and Mike was one of them. His music deeply touched people, and I have seen them cry while he played.

It wasn’t just Mike’s music or his skills as a surfer. He was one of those human beings who always lift your spirit. He was always smiling, cracking a joke or saying something good about you. He had a hard life himself, with lots of ups and downs, yet in his core, he was always enlightened.

Someone once stole his guitar, his bread winner, right out of his car. I wrote an article about it, and when the thief found out whose guitar it was, he returned it to Mike.

Mike Young, right, with Donovan Frankenheiter and a friend, backstage at the Party for Poutasi in December 2009 at Kilohana.

Mike Young, right, with Donovan Frankenreiter and a friend, backstage at the Party for Poutasi in December 2009 at Kilohana.

One of his main accomplishments was spearheading WRAD for 20 years, saving thousands of kids who could have turned to drugs, in Hawai‘i and in California. He knew well about drugs, and wasn’t shy about saying spending time in federal prison was the best thing that happened to him, as it was the reason he got into WRAD.

Under his leadership, many professional surfers joined WRAD, including Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, the late Rell Sun, the late Mark Foo, Tony Moniz, Clyde Aikau and many others.

I remember Mike once told me that in the past, Hawaiians took a lot of pain and abuse, but no one can steal their aloha. Well, he came and left with aloha. And as he told me in 2010, he had a beautiful life.

Aloha Mike, you’re still inspiring all those who you came across.

By |2016-11-10T05:41:33+00:00December 2nd, 2014|1 Comment

About the Author:

Léo Azambuja, editor of For Kaua‘i, has won multiple journalism awards in the state of Hawai‘i, including investigative and enterprise reporting, spot news and feature writing, photojournalism and online reporting.

One Comment

  1. Ernest Heau December 22, 2014 at 6:43 pm - Reply

    Dear Mr. Azambuja:

    Thanks for this very touching tribute to Mike Young. It’s amazing how many hearts he touched in Kauai and elsewhere in Hawaii Nei in his short life on this planet.

    This was just forwarded to me (I live in New York) by his sister, Hileah Reigh.

    Ernest Heau (Mike’s uncle on his mother’s side, living in New York.)

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