Is Tanner McDaniel The Most Talented 18-Year-Old Rider Ever?

Photo: @joshuatabone

Photo: @joshuatabone

Hawaii's Tanner McDaniel has long been heralded a childhood prodigy – guided by Stewart since his early tweens, dominating waves like Pipe before he could even drive, and donning a World Tour rashie while most kids his age were picking out Prom suits.

Now, he’s 18. And though he’s technically no longer a child prodigy, his talent and drive remains.

Proof? An upcoming clip titled Right On, showcasing his supercharged free-surfing skills from 2017.

We recently caught up with Tanner from his Kauai home base – freshly caffeinated and cruising the island in his dad’s Nissan Frontier before his next trip to the North Shore for the winter months – to get the lowdown on his new clip, coming of age and what’s in store for 2018.

Photo:  @joshuatabone

MM: What’s up, Tanner?

TM: I'm back home, just cruising. There's been a few waves but it's a pretty slow start to the season.

Are you going to the North Shore this winter?

Yeah, for sure. I usually like to spend quite a bit of time over at Pipe, it's just such an intense vibe over there. It's quite a big change of pace from where I live, which is a real small-town vibe.

Where do you shack up on the North Shore?

I have family friends who live at Sunset, so I just stay with them.


Yeah, it's not too bad, pretty convenient. They're super cool. I've got a bike so I just cruise around, hit Foodland, stock up the fridge. Just post up.

And you’ve got your upcoming clip, Right On, dropping soon.

Yeah. I'm pretty stoked with how it came out. The first cut came out really well, and the next version is going to be even better quality. I’m stoked to show the world.

What can we expect to see?

There's footage from Pipe, California, Mexico, The Canaries and Portugal. It's kind of long, but it doesn't feel like it. No real pauses, just rapid fire coming at you. And that's how I wanted to do it, to focus on showing my surfing. There's no footage of any waves I had in competition in the clip; It's just free-surfing. I kind of made a point of not putting any waves from competition in.

Why's that?

I didn't feel like any of the waves fit with the vibe. Yeah, I was just like, we don't need to put a comp wave in to fill the gap. We had enough footage.

Who have you been working on the clip with?

Most of the footage was filmed by my friend from California, Alex Perez. He came along with me to Europe and Hawaii this year, and we did a trip at the end of the summer to Puerto Escondido. The Science team came along for a little strike mission. My Dad actually came too – it was the first trip I'd done with him in a couple of years.

How was it with your dad?

Yeah, it was fun. He lived in California his whole life so he grew up spending a lot of time in Mexico. And my grandparents live in Baja so I grew up around there. It just feels real familiar. I went to Puerto with him when I was 13, and every year he's wanted to go back. He works pretty hard fulltime so it was cool to get him to have a break.

Does your dad surf?

He's a stand-up paddle boarder.

How do you rate him?

He's pretty decent. I've actually seen him get some pretty sick pits before. Actually seen him get into a barrel and come out. Like sometimes, if I didn't have anyone to surf with in the waves around here, he would just come out on his board and just sit and cruise.

Cool. And you're 18 now.

Yeah. I'll be 19 in a couple of months.

Photo: @joshuatabone

Photo: @joshuatabone


The age of adulthood.

Yeah, it's kind of annoying being 18 in the US because you can do a lot of things, but there's a lot of things that suck. You have to pay taxes now. The only real good thing was I got to get my drivers license.

Clocking up the miles?

As much as I can on a little island.

Technically, you’re legal to party in most countries now.

I experienced that a little bit in the Canaries and Europe. It was pretty fun. Pretty cool just to be able to like, be out in the world as an equal to everyone. You're not a minor, you're not underage – you can go wherever. You're not as limited as you would be in the US with clubs and bars and whatever.

Is there more pressure now that you've turned 18?

It's funny, because some people definitely still think of me as a grom. Obviously the older guys will, and they always will no matter what. I'm kind of in a weird in-between stage right now. I'm a grom to some people, but to others I'm not. I don't know – it's cool and weird at the same time. People don't quite know how to look at me yet. I feel like there is a little bit of pressure for me to show that I'm still continuing to progress. Like, I'm just not gonna stay at the same level of my surfing as when I was younger. I've got to keep the ball rolling. That's maybe the only pressure I've felt. For a while I was in a position where I had everything to prove and nothing to lose. So it was like, if I excelled in whatever I was doing then great. And if I didn't really, then it was like, "Oh whatever, he's just a grom". So I kind of had that to fall back on. Not that I really wanted to ever have to do that. I always wanted to be going above and beyond what people expected and thought of me. I've set the bar for myself and I can't go back now.