On a typically beautiful LA day in Silverlake, California, we met with Makua Rothman, surfer, singer and all around personality. It was hard not to smile every time he spoke. He filled the room with compliments, warmth and positive energy, much to be expected from a Hawaiian native and self-proclaimed beach bum. He is currently sponsored by RVCA, SHADE Sunscreen, and Oakley, among others. Having returning from Chile and in the midst of him being bestowed the World's #1 Surfer crown earlier in the year, he was able to humbly set aside his incredibly impressive title and let us play dress up for a while. In between shots, we talked style, surf and where he plans on taking his music career.
How did you start surfing? Do you remember surfing at a young age?
Makua Rothman: I remember surfing with my dad who got me into surfing. He put me on a surfboard and that was all she wrote.
So you just fell in love with it instantly?
Makua Rothman: Mmhmm
It was a natural progression.
Makua Rothman: My ancestry created the sport of surfing.
Makua Rothman: I'm the 11th great-grandson of the great King of Hawaii, so it’s only natural for me to do a sport that was for kings.
I think you're doing it some justice.
What was it like growing up in a surfing house? You said it was easy for you, so there was no pressure attached to it?
Makua Rothman: It was all the kids did around the block; it’s what we all were born to do, so that’s what we did.
Was there an "ah-ha" moment where you realized you could do this for a living?
Makua Rothman: The day I caught a 66-foot wave at 18 years old at the world’s biggest waving track in the world was my "ah-ha" moment.
Was that during the competition?
Makua Rothman: Yes, at the Billabong XXL Big Wave Challenge Awards. [I was] the person who got the ride of the year.
Have you had any thrilling near-death experiences with surfing, or has it been steady?
Makua Rothman: That time [riding the 66-foot wave]. If I would have knocked out, then I would have been dead, so that’s the closest. My teeth and face were gone so somebody was watching out, because if I went unconscious, I wouldn't be here talking to you. It wasn't that thrilling, but it was an experience and I’m just happy to be here today.
Was it easy to get back into it?
Makua Rothman: It’s like riding a bike.
Was there no fear? Because I'd be terrified!
Makua Rothman: The fear of never riding again was bigger than getting back in the water.
What’s the coolest place you've ever been to for surfing and competing?
Makua Rothman: The coolest place - everywhere is really special in its own way, every place has its own culture, its own special vibe to it.
You're really into music; is there any songs you listen to before competitions to get pumped up?
Makua Rothman: It depends on what mood I'm in. I listen to a lot of reggae, rap, and Hawaiian music. A lot, a lot of Hawaiian music.
How did you get started in music?
Makua Rothman: My grandmother taught me how to play music. My recording career, my strength and conditioning coach was saying to me, “instead of going to Indonesia with a thousand other surfers, why don't you try and play music, you'll be one of the only surfers that plays music and surfs, it could be a special thing you really don't see, I think its your calling, I think you should do it.”
Was there any fear that people wouldn't take you seriously as a musician because you're coming from being an athlete?
Makua Rothman: Well, I mean not likely, but they have to respect me for what I do, riding 66-foot waves and being a champion, people might not like you stepping into a new sport, but they definitely have to respect what I do.
For sure. We do a lot of stuff on our website about style and we were talking about it a little before [the interview], but tell me more about your personal style.
Makua Rothman: Just a beach boy. Surfboards, slippers, some shades and I'm good.
Casual beach bum. How did you get involved with RVCA?
Makua Rothman: I got involved with them through a man named Pat Tenore who is the founder [editors note: he is the co-founder]. He saw the multifaceted talents that I do than just being a surfer and really believed in what I can do, not just in the water but out as well, and really just backed my whole program. It’s the reason here [with you] today and involved with RVCA.
Do you have a staple in your wardrobe?
Makua Rothman: Cargo army shorts.
I think they’re pretty classic; they never go out of style. Do you have any style advice for other guys?
Makua Rothman: Yeah, don't dress like me.
Makua Rothman: I'm actually going to need a stylist because I need someone pretty soon.
Hey, I'm down!
Makua Rothman: [points to his shirt, which was styled by Labeling Men for the shoot] I laughed at this shirt when I walked in!
The most important thing is to try it on!
Makua Rothman: That's my style advice - to try it on!
Do you have any last words of wisdom that you live your life by?
Makua Rothman: Just "Aloha Everybody" and just "Surf to live, live to surf." And thank you guys for your time.
Photos by David Chang
Interview + Styling by Amelia Williams