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Sunday, April 15, 2007 9:21 AM

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MTV reality series: ’Living Lahaina’ set for debut

LAHAINA – They’re calling it the countdown to judgment day.

Five normally laid-back surfers are slightly stressed out in anticipation of their “Living Lahaina” world premiere, a new MTV reality series that follows the Lahaina-based friends and co-workers.

“It’s judgment day,” said Casey, one of the show’s stars during an interview last week.

“I’m living with the gnarliest anxiety,” said Matt, another cast member

The eight-episode series, scheduled to debut Tuesday at 10:30 p.m., focuses on surf instructors with Royal Hawaiian Surf Academy and owner/patriarch Kimo Kinimaka. Kinimaka said the often-funny show is part of what MTV is packaging as “Tough Tuesdays” – an action-packed lineup that appears to be the equivalent of testosterone-filled keg stands.

“It’s not just about living Lahaina,” Kinimaka said. “It’s about what living in Lahaina has allowed these guys to do and the places they can go.”

The show comes on the heels of another MTV first-time Maui reality series called “Maui Fever” that caught heat for its all-white main cast, which critics said was a misrepresentation of Hawaii’s ethnic diversity, among other issues. That show, which was filmed separately from “Living Lahaina,” featured the lives and loves of a group of friends living in Kaanapali.

On one hand, “Living Lahaina” could be a swell start for the surfers’ budding careers. MTV’s exposure could be a tow-in to other job opportunities.

On the flip side, the genre tends to leave overnight celebrities completely wiped out after seeing the post-editing footage — a reality that left some “Maui Fever” cast members in over their heads with negative feedback.

“I just hope the community likes it,” Casey said. “We’ll see . . .”

‘We’re all pretty nuts’

The main “Living Lahaina” cast comprises Royal Hawaiian surf instructors Alex, 25, Matt, 26, Dave, 24, Casey, 25, Sean Souza, 26, and founder Kinimaka, 44 (MTV released full names for only select cast member).

The crew of mostly Maui transplants from California — with the exception of aspiring-UFC fighter Souza, originally from Kahaluu, Oahu, and Kinimaka of Lahaina — live and work together at the school.

Paddleboarding from Maui to Lanai? Yes. Chumming the water to attract sharks? No. Mountainboarding in Kula? Yes. Making out with girls on camera? No.

The “Living Lahaina” boys said they often sparred with the MTV crew over what they would and would not do.

For one: They said they refused to tie fish heads to their arms to bait sharks — an MTV idea — because of the safety risks and the cultural implications (“Would you want me to go mess around with your aumakua?” Kinimaka said.)

The boys said they did agree, though, to paddleboard from Maui to Lanai when the camera conditions, not necessarily the weather and wave conditions, were right. And that’s just one of their crazy stints.

Souza, who had one of his Maui fights captured for the show, said the filming was “a whirlwind” that included paintballing, partying, climbing through lava tubes, surfing and other extreme feats.

Kinimaka said they filmed everywhere from Kahakuloa to Hana, from Twin Falls to Pools of Oheo; they even traveled to Kauai, California and as far as Indonesia.

Big-wave surfing legends and expert watermen, such as Titus Kinimaka, Archie Kalepa and Buzzie Kerbox, will appear in the series, Kinimaka said.

“It’s high-impact, on your toes, at the edge of your seat entertainment,” Kimo Kinimaka said.

In choosing a cast, MTV was looking for “guys who are nuts,” said Souza, who has four freestyle fights and two years of MMA experience under his belt. “We’re all pretty nuts.”

The series preview resembles MTV’s hit show-turned-movie Jackass, where ballsy males virtually sweat machismo by pulling off pranks and wild stunts.

While the MTV “Living Lahaina” synopsis boasts of the boys’ skills when it comes to handling boards and babes, the cast members said that they refused to make out with girls on camera because that’s not the kind of action they were looking for.

“There’s zero making out,” Casey said.

Life After ‘Living Lahaina’

Alex’s cousin, who works in the film industry, pitched the premise for the show to MTV three years ago, the boys said. The pilot episode caught a green light from MTV producers faster than most shows, Matt said. Filming started in November, and final scenes were finished in March.

Drew Tappon, senior vice president of MTV’s original programming and series development, said MTV was looking to do a series on surfers. Once they came across the academy, everything fell into place:

“This group of friends, coupled with the incredible, picturesque community, made Lahaina an ideal setting for the series.”

“Most of these guys have lived in Hawaii for years and call it their home, he said via e-mail. “Also, these guys constantly said they were ‘living the life in Maui’ so we thought that ‘Living Lahaina’ would be the perfect title, given the spirit of the show.”

While the filming had its high points, the boys acknowledge the risks involved in participating in a reality series, especially one that is filmed on Maui.

“Where we are has a different feel. (In other places) no one has respect for their community, for their neighbors,” Matt said, noting that he’s proud to work at the “best surf school on Maui.”

“When it comes down to it, we’re representing Kimo and the school.”

Casey and Matt said that their lives started to change after people heard that they will be in the show.

“People are calling me from back in the day who I haven’t talked to for a while,” Matt said.

When the show was promoted, “I thought, there goes our world,” said Casey, adding that some of his friends have bailed out on him because of his role in the new reality series and the spotlight that may come with it.

Souza said that some of the extreme feats were intense and may not have always been the “wisest decisions.” However, the boys “did nothing disrespectful toward the culture,” he said.

As Kinimaka’s wife and mother of five, Julie Kinimaka said she’s “on edge” about how her family and her husband’s business will be portrayed.

“I care about these boys,” she said. “I know in Kimo’s first encounter with MTV, he said what he wanted and what he did not want. I know he made that clear. I’m just praying MTV respects that.”

Regardless of what happens after judgment day, one thing’s already decided: “These boys are my family,” Kimo Kinimaka said.

“We going make you guys proud,” he added. “You going see. It’s different; it’s funny.”

n Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at

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