Conan, you’ve formed tight friendships and extended families all over the world throughout your career, but with your marriage to Malia, the family bond is official.
Conan Hayes: Yeah, for me, my friends were one big family because I’ve been traveling non-stop for the past nine years, and the majority of my time has been spent with them. That’s a third of my life right there, so they are just as much family as anyone. Obviously, Mikala, Daniel and Malia are my family now and we all get along and push each other. I think that is really important.
Where is home for you?
Conan: I’ve lived out of my bag for so long, home’s wherever. I don’t get homesick. I’m not attached to weird material things. I just like to experience where I am no matter where it is. When Shane and I did our contest [the Keiki Classic] this year, the Big Island was definitely home. You know you’re home when you know everybody, when you feel close to the people. There is familiarity there. People need that. Part of my year should be spent there, but I don’t ever want to sit in a spot and settle. I’m not drawn to any single place.
Malia Jones: Everywhere feels like home now. Traveling, you identify with certain places and when you’re somewhere else, you miss those things. Hawaii, the south of France, Laguna Beach, the Big Island… Somewhere between those places feels like home. We keep collecting places to stay and we still need Australia and Tahiti. Right now surfing is the reason that we travel, but there are so many other things we are interested in, it shouldn’t ever have to stop.
Conan: If you sit in one place you become content with what you have. I don’t ever want to be content.
How does that work now that you’re married?
Conan: It’s good ’cause Malia understands. I know there’s no way it would work if I was married to a girl back on the Big Island. We’re motivated by the realization that it doesn’t last forever. That’s what it all comes down to for me. I know I’m not going to do this for the rest of my life, so I want to make the most of it right here right now. I can go surfing all day and she supports that. She knows it’s not going to matter in the big picture. I’m crazy busy with everything I do, and she understands where I’m at and totally supports me. Some girls don’t understand what surfing means.
Malia: If I go to France and we’re there and suddenly he has to go back for work for a month, that’s fine. I’ll stay and he’ll come back afterward. Our lives don’t go in exactly the same direction, but when we come together, we’re together. It’s not stressful.
How involved are you in Mikala and Daniel’s lives?
Conan: They’ve traveled with Malia and me for a bit. Daniel spent the summer with us in France, and I’ve been doing that loop for a while, so I try to pass on some information. I’m definitely not the super old guy, but I think I can help when Daniel gets bummed or if he’s losing heats. He’s just figuring it out.
Malia: Conan has helped Daniel out a lot. Daniel just likes to surf, but he’s not a wheeler or dealer. He’s not a businessman. Conan shows him you have to take a little responsibility and plan. It’s Daniel’s time to get weeded out. He can either sit on the North Shore, or he can go on tour or he can go on surf trips, but he’s gotta decide.
Daniel Jones: Conan’s just like another older brother. He knows a lot and he gives good advice.
Malia: Because Conan started so early, he feels like Daniel should be snapping to it (laughs). But Daniel’s not so snappy. He’s learning and he’s got us watching over him.
Conan, in a SURFER profile six years ago, you said, “All dreams can come true.” Do you feel that all your dreams came true?
Conan: When you’re a kid, you surf everyday and you want to be a pro surfer. You look up to guys, and then all of a sudden you open your eyes and you’re sitting and surfing next to them, hanging out with them. That’s a weird transition, going from being a kid to being that guy. As you go along you set goals for yourself and as you achieve some, you set more. Goals are probably dreams, right? So, throughout life you’re realizing your dreams. One of my dreams was having my own clothing company. I think that was my partner Pat Tenore’s dream as well. Now Pat and I have RVCA [pronounced “rookah”].
Malia: To get to this point, we have just done what we love. As long as we keep doing that we will find a way to make it continue. For Conan, having a company and supporting kids who want to surf enables him to put a lot back into the sport. It’s not just for selfish reasons, it’s to make a difference.
How did you and your partner Pat meet and when did you decide to start RVCA?
Conan: Pat’s gonna laugh when he reads this, but he used to be a really good surfer. When he was about 15 and I was 13 he came to Hawaii and stayed with Shane Dorian here on the North Shore. I happened to be around and we hung out and surfed. For whatever reason, not long after that he quit surfing for a little while and I didn’t see him. I went my way and he went his way and started designing clothes. We had a mutual friends and we ran back into each other about seven years ago and it evolved from there. It was really random.
Where did the name come from?
Conan: That was one of those late night things. We started in Pat’s garage, just nights and nights and nights of coming up with stuff. We had the logo first and the V, which we use as a roman U, and the A. It was our yin and yang, a balance between industrialization and nature. Then we wanted a word that could incorporate into it. It had to be a short word. Finally we came up with RVCA. It works out kinda cool because everybody asks, “What is RVCA?” They mispronounce it all day long, but it gives people something to talk about.
A lot of people forget you’re a former World Championship Tour surfer. Are surf contests still important to you?
Conan: For my group of peers, our major goal was to be in the Top 16 and all of us realized that goal. There was a time after that, when contests didn’t matter as much, but now that the venues are so good, that may change. The conditions at every contest last year were incredible and that was the first time I was really bummed not to be on tour. I made it through the trials in Tahiti and that’s an important event for me. I gave up my ‘CT spot too easily because it got monotonous, but now I really want to get back. And I want to fully focus on that. It’s going to be a really busy year for me. I’m planning to leave home pretty soon and not come back till next winter.
So you’re aiming to qualify for the tour again?
Conan: I think it’s important that I get back on. At this stage in my life that would be a good move.
You mentioned the transition from aspiring pro surfer to pro surfer. Do you think that feeling was the same for Malia, Mikala and Daniel, having basically grown up at Rocky Point where they constantly had famous pro surfers in their backyard?
Conan: Maybe it’s different because they’ve seen it since they could walk. Their dad John’s a surf photographer and they were always around pro surfers as kids. It might seem a little more natural transition for them.