Johnny the Ripper

Watching anyone rip on a lonboard is a rare pleasure. Seeing a young grom effortlessly reenacting the best of classic soulsurfing is a privilege. Meet John Michael Van Hohenstein, herald of the new Waikiki cool.


John is almost your average millennial. At fourteen, he handles social media better than your own marketing department ever will, hangs at the skatepark, chills with his mates, goes to school every day but somehow manages to spend inordinate amount of time in the ocean. Not just that, but his favourite toy happens to be a 9ft classic longboard, which he brings to Queens in Waikiki, turning the surf spot into the earth's coolest playground.

John's father settled on Oahu, Hawaii, after travelling through South-East Asia and choosing the perfect spot to nurture grom growth. Like rare fruit in gentle tropical heat, John bloomed into a keen surfer, winning his first shortboard content at the age of 9. He soon secured a sponsorship from local shop Moku Surf and got blanks shaped by Robin Johnston who made him his first custom longboard. The novelty never wore off, and Johnny's new favourite tricks moved from radical turns to hang-tens, roundhouses, tail threes, and helicopters.

Having never watched a classic surf movie in his life, his ageless style was  entirely learnt in the lineup, watching 'uncles' like Kai Sallas and the local beach boys, or other Waikiki groms hardly his elders like Kaniela Stewart, Kai Takayama, or Lala Tomas. Johnny is now Hawaii State Longboard Champion for under 17 and slowly getting more contests under his belt, without complacency: "the hardest competition I ever done was the Turtle Bay Resort Pro, a World Surf League (WSL) event, where I surfed against competitors from all over the world", not mentioning half of them were already established pros at least twice his age, and that he still reached quarter finals.

Unsurpringly, John is hoping to turn pro and travel the world pursuing his dream. Starting with California in June of this year, representing Hawaii at the USA Surfing Championships Longboard division. Give his GoFundMe page a look and throw in a couple of your local banknotes: we guarantee this is safe stoke placement, giving you unlimited access to claims you were there for the world champ from day 1 (and a half).

Best of luck Johnny!

Johnny the Ripper on Instagram
John on GoFundMe

📷: Cory Ida, Andy Hawes, Dan's Surf videos


Chief Storyteller at Swellbound