Editor’s Note: Welcome to the first installment of our INSPIRED Series, presented by Cobian’s Every Step Matters (ESM) initiative. This series looks at compelling moments, people, and places that inspire athletes to do what they do, that in turn inspire us. Learn how, by choosing Cobian footwear, you can make a positive impact and enrich the lives of others at Every Step Matters.
When Aaron Gold was young, Tony Moniz gave him a surfboard.
“Waimea was forecast to be pretty big the next day. I had been used to surfing big waves, but not like that,” Aaron says. “Tony asked me if I wanted to paddle out. I told him I didn’t have a board, and he was like, ‘I have a board you can ride.'”
Aaron says he has a million stories like that. Now a world-famous big wave surfer who clinched a Paddle of the Year nomination in 2016 with a massive wave at Jaws, he’s quickly becoming a household name. Respected chargers in big wave surfing like Ian Walsh have called him the wild man who may have caught the biggest wave ever paddled into, ever. Da hui says he’s a “savage.”
So when I got the chance to speak with him, I had expectations. But a gloating, cheap thrills hell-man Aaron Gold is not. Quite the opposite, in fact. He speaks softly. His humility is contagious. He has a firm faith in God. And his love for his family, central.
Aaron was born on the Big Island. From 8 years-old onward he bounced back and forth between there and Oahu. During his time on the North Shore, he was aware of the Moniz family. Tony was a professional surfer nearing the end of his career. And the family dynamic, one that would ultimately yield a professional surfing legacy in Micah, Kelia, Josh, Seth and Isaiah, was attractive to Aaron.
In his teen years, Aaron didn’t get into crazy kinds of trouble. But he did walk the line, as most adolescents do.
But when he was just 16, tragedy struck.
“I lost my dad,” says Aaron. “As a commercial fisherman, he was what gave me that initial draw for the ocean, and influenced me to surf.”
At the time, Aaron and the Moniz family were neighbors. They took him in, and he became like the oldest child of Tony and Tammy. At a vulnerable time, especially for a teenager, the structure of the family gave Aaron refuge and an opportunity to overcome the grief of a difficult loss.
“They were always there, you know. In life it’s important having people like that around you that love you and care about you,” he says.
In the case of giving Aaron a board to surf Waimea, Tony and the Moniz family provided the resources for him to make it on his own – in this case in a physical sense, but also in an emotional and spiritual way.
Tony was also a source of life lessons.
“They were always going on dirt bike trips. And I was always trying to get them to bring me along.” Aaron says he’d act a little cocky and talk trash in a joking way to get the family to take him with – things like, “I’ll be the first up the hill, just you watch.”
And at the first hill, he’d be stalled at the bottom, Tony having already made it up shouting, “Ok. Come on. Start your bike,” rolling his eyes.
This was just one instance where Tony’s actions spoke volumes. From dirt biking to surfing, he showed Aaron what it meant to let his riding do the talking, to be humble, and to work hard.
Aaron still carries that. Before he was well-known as a big wave charger, he was doing construction outdoors, having completed an apprenticeship for carpentry. Lessons from the Moniz family and his father made certain he wasn’t averse to labor intensive work.
Now Aaron is shaping surfboards – mostly his own, but he’s also gained a following since paddling in that day at Jaws. Like Aaron, the boards are no frills. Gold Surfboards. His last name. Straight to the point.
He also has kids of his own now, two girls. His ties to his family, like what he was drawn to in the Moniz family, are apparent. “Sorry man, had to set the kids up with a movie real quick,” he said to me when we first started chatting over the phone. Family first.
Beyond his own kids, Aaron also has a heart for the local youth, like Tony and Tammy before him. He continues to be a presence in the lives of the Moniz kids, along with building mentoring relationships with North Shore groms like up and comer Luke Swanson, son of ‘Grom Mom’ Monica Swanson.
“When I was growing up, it was the small things that would get me stoked,” he says, “whether it was giving me stickers or pointing me in the right direction.”
Aaron looks forward to having the same impact on the youth around him. He says he wants them to know that, “no matter how hard it is, there’s hope out there.”
Check Aaron out in the newest film by Bryan Jennings, Surfers and Cowboys! Trailer below: