HAIKU - When big-wave rider Ian Walsh is staring Jaws in the face, he knows his brothers have his back.
The 27-year-old professional surfer and oldest of four Maui boys takes solace in knowing that his brothers are in the water with him; they tow him in and out of some of the largest waves on Earth, reaching him when he's practically unreachable by anyone else on the planet.
"I'll get off my jetski or board and I can't believe I rode the biggest waves of my life with all three of my brothers out there," Walsh said. "I don't look out for anyone more than I've looked out for my brothers . . . we all have each other's backs, whether it's on the land or in the water. It's a bit more comforting to know that I'm watching them and they're watching me."
Pro-surfer Ian Walsh is shown surfing Jaws in December 2009.
TRACY KRAFT LEBOE photo
The 27-year-old big-wave rider is releasing a film, “Red Bull Young Jaws,” and preparing to hold the eighth annual Menehune Mayhem, a surf contest for Maui’s youth.
Red Bull Photofiles photo
Walsh maneuvers through a wave at Honolua Bay in November 2009.
Red Bull Photofiles photo
Scores of Maui’s top young surfers participated in last year’s Menehune Mayhem contest at Ho‘okipa.
Red Bull Photofiles photo
That family bond runs deep in Walsh's new film, "Red Bull Young Jaws," a profile on the young adult set against the harrowing backdrop of Maui's epic surf spot. The short film, produced by Walsh's sponsor Red Bull, will make its world premiere Wednesday at Lulu's in Lahaina.
With much of the footage taken from a Jaws swell in 2009, the nearly 30-minute movie offers a glimpse into the future of big-wave riding by following the accomplished surfer, who was one of the first youngsters to appear in the Jaws lineup.
The film charts some of the changes that the spot has seen over the years, including an increase in young surfers riding the wave revered as one of the largest and powerful in the world.
"When I started (surfing Jaws), there were only a couple of us, a couple from here and some from outer islands," Walsh said last week. "And now there are so many little kids, kids that are 15 and 16 years old, starting to inch their way into bigger and more powerful surf. My younger brothers are out there and they're only 19."
He acknowledges the dangers of big-wave surfing but said that the threats are real for any surfer in the Jaws lineup, regardless of age.
"It's dangerous whether you're young or whether you're old," Walsh said. "There's no way I'd sit here and say young kids shouldn't do it. Anything you do more and more will get you comfortable and confident doing it. It's about knowing your own limits."
The movie also traces Walsh's move from Rhode Island to Maui as a young boy, and discusses the Walsh family, parents Peter and Kitty, and brothers Luke, 25, Shaun and D.K., both 19. His family, friends and mentor Matt Kazuma Kinoshita offer commentary.
Walsh, who grew up across from the old Kuau Mart and went to Makawao, Kalama and King Kekaulike schools, is hailed as one of the most respected young waveriders to come out of the state. His stardom doesn't eclipse his respect for the community and the land - things that Walsh says made him everything he is today.
"I hold Maui in the highest regard," Walsh said. "I've been to a lot of places; there's nowhere else I call home. I'm a direct product of this island; everything about this place has molded me into who I am now."
His love for the island is at the heart of his work to give back to the community with projects such as the yearly surf contest Menehune Mayhem. The eighth annual Menehune Mayhem, a free competition for local youth 17 and under, will be held Saturday at Hookipa Beach Park. Touted as the largest surf event on the island that draws nearly 100 participants, the contest awards each keiki with prizes and provides a resource that Walsh said he didn't have growing up.
"It was important for me to give the kids around here where I grew up something else to look forward to, to help build the generations of surfing. I wanted to give a platform to help them move forward," he said. "I didn't grow up with a lot of money, so I wanted to keep it free for the kids."
All of this work is important because the older brother, who helps guide the next generation of surfers, sees endless potential for local youth on the horizon.
"It's crazy how quickly they progress," Walsh said. "I see all these kids between 6 and 10 years old who are phenomenal surfers already. A lot of these kids have a really bright future head of them. . . It keeps our sport on our toes for sure."
* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at email@example.com.
"RED BULL YOUNG JAWS"
WHAT: Film premiere then music by DJ ESKAE
WHEN + WHERE: 9 p.m. Wednesday at Lulu's in Lahaina
AGES: All ages until 11 p.m.; 21 and older after 11 p.m.
COST: Free, with $5 donations accepted
WHAT: Annual surf contest
WHEN + WHERE: 7 a.m. Saturday at Ho'okipa Beach Park (Alternate date is April 2)
AGES: 17 and younger
MENEHUNE MAYHEM AFTER PARTY
WHAT: Music featuring DJ Babie Boone opening for The Throwdowns, then DJ ESKAE
WHEN + WHERE: 9 p.m. Saturday at Charley's in Paia
AGES: 21 and older
redbullusa.com/events@redbullaloha on Twitter
Contest forms at Hi-Tech Surf Sports in Kahului
Proceeds from events will be donated to the family of big-wave surfer Sion Milosky, of Oahu, who died last Wednesday.
* This article contains a correction from the original published on Sunday, March 20, 2011. Maui big-wave surfer Ian Walsh is 27 years old. An article Sunday that started on Page C1 incorrectly listed his age. The Maui News apologizes for the error.