“I don’t know if you’ll be able to surf again, let alone walk normally.”
No surfer ever wants to hear that, and certainly not a teenager in his prime. For 18-year-old Braiden Maither, it felt as if the doctors just pulled the rug out from under him.
Born and raised on Maui in Hawaii, Braiden started surfing at a young age, with his father showing him how to stand on a board at the age of two. At 10, he got his own surfboard, and the sport became his way of life.
He quickly started competing, and by the age of 18 had already been part of the WSL Qualifying Series for a few years. His future seemed almost all mapped out, until that fateful day. It took six months to get the correct diagnosis.
Six months of hundreds of doctor’s appointments, MRIs, scanners, and going through every test under the sun. Ankylosing Spondylitis. A rare form of arthritis affecting the spine, which with time thins and narrows to the point of never being able to walk again.
Now eight years later, Braiden has just returned from a laid-back, three-week surf trip with his friends in Indonesia. The southeast Asian nation is undoubtedly his favorite place in the world besides Hawaii. He is drawn by the locals, the food, the landscapes, the 17,000 islands, and of course the waves.
On this recent trip, he and his friends explored the Mentawai Islands. Every day, they grabbed their boards, hopped on a speed boat, and tried to find the best surfing conditions for that day.