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So Good, So Young Baby-faced brothers Kai and Kellen Ellison are the surfing world's next wave

Jan. 21, 2002
Jan. 21, 2002

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Jan. 21, 2002

Catching Up With...

So Good, So Young Baby-faced brothers Kai and Kellen Ellison are the surfing world's next wave

Just off a green shoreline torn from a tourist brochure, the
Ellison brothers are ripping divots into the glossy swells of
the Indian Ocean. A wave rises and hangs before crashing into a
cirrus cloud of whitewater, from which one of the Ellisons--it's
impossible to tell the difference from a distance--emerges to
take a last cutback before launching off the crest and into the
sky.

This is an article from the Jan. 21, 2002 issue

The performance is the stuff of surf videos--skillful, brash and
full of grace. It's only when the pint-sized surfing prodigies,
14-year-old Kai and 13-year-old Kellen Ellison, in the Mentawai
Islands off the coast of Indonesia as part of a two-week surfing
trip, paddle back to the boat and one gets a good look at their
cherubic faces that the brain does a backflip.

Raised in the oceanfront town of Ventura, Calif., the
brothers--two of the top-rated juniors in the country--spent
their childhoods on the beach, first mastering boogie boards and
then catching rides with their father, Mark, on the nose of his
longboard. (Mother Erin also surfs.) By the time they were seven
and six, they were surfing on their own (with a shove of the
board from Dad to get them going); by 11 and 10 both were
competing in tournaments.

These days the boys surf daily and meet twice a week with
professional surfer Sean Hayes, their coach for the last three
years. Their practice has paid off. Last year Kellen won 13
National Scholastic Surfing Association titles in the 10-12 age
group, more than any surfer in any age group, and finished
second nationally in the Open Boys division. Kai's results
weren't quite as eye-popping (as a 13-year-old he was competing
against older boys in the 13-16 juniors division), but he
finished fifth in the 2000 National Championships, and this
season he's won three tournaments and is ranked second in the
Gold Coast Explorer Boys division (a regional 12-14 age group),
behind only ... Kellen.

When asked about any sibling ribbing, Kellen exhibits an
uncommon level of younger-bro restraint. "Yeah, it's a little
weird," he says, "but we're cool about it." Kai is equally
diplomatic. "We're not too competitive," he claims--though
millions of older brothers out there know better than to believe
him.

--Chris Ballard

THREE COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY WILLIAM SHARP Anything you can do...Little brother Kellen (top, and shirtless above) currently tops Kai in the rankings, but the two insist there's no sibling rivalry.