By: Brian Terhorst
Photographer: Aaron Goulding
For the past decade he stood fearlessly in front of Monster Waves, Crazed Pro Surfers and a Brutal, Relentless Trainer. Now Makua sets his sights on his next momentous challenge…The Music Industry. ‘Frontman with a Ukulele’ may be his biggest test to date.
Born into North Shore Royalty and unfettered access to the best training grounds on the planet have allowed Makua much success as a world class waterman. He is the son of Eddie Rothman, founder of “Da Hui.” His father, along with an impressive list of surf legends, mentored him on the ways of the North Shore & big wave surfing. His size allowed him to dominate on waves much larger than his peers, even as a youth. A big kid growing up, Makua found smaller, less powerful waves more difficult for him to surf. Bigger, more powerful waves, better suited his surfing, and Makua was quick to push the limits at a young age, surfing famous big-wave spots like Sunset Beach and Pipeline.
Makua began surfing at the early age of two, but got his first taste of tow-in surfing at the age of 13 when his dad and family friend Darrick Doerner first taught Makua. With Doerner, one of the pioneer’s in tow-in surfing, as his guide, Makua eventually learned the ropes of tow-in surfing and in 2002 won the Billabong XXL Big Wave Challenge Award in one of the most historic big-wave sessions in history. His fearless surfing of the 66 foot wave earned him $66,000, a thousand dollars for every foot. It was the largest wave in the world to be surfed that winter.
In 2004, Makua weighed 189 pounds – heavier than most professional surfers. But after rigorously working with trainer and friend Rob Garcia, Makua brought his weight down, & kept it down, to roughly 160 pounds. This weight loss has significantly benefited Makua’s surfing. Still a ranked ASP pro he stays in top physical shape by training in San Diego with Rob G. at The Arena MMA Gym. Rob is the San Diego based strength and conditioning coach and trainer for professional athletes including; boxer Oscar De La Hoya, Pro Surfer Kelly Slater and Pro Skateboarder Pierre-Luc Gagnon. He is regarded as one of the best, if not the best, in his field.
In between sessions at local breaks with surfing buddies Nathan Fletcher and Danny Fuller and conditioning training with Rob Garcia, he spends plenty of time in studio with his bandmates ‘The Skains’. After catching his opening set at the Switchfoot Bro-Am we were more than a bit impressed with his stage presence and ability to get the (roughly) 8000 Switchfoot fans up on their feet, applauding and cheering.
We had the opportunity to meet up with Makua this past month and ask him some questions. Here’s what we got:
Revolt In Style: What’s scarier for you, looking down a sixty foot wave or looking down at 60.000 people?
Makua: [He laughs] A sixty foot wave. Playing music in front of people is just a bonus for everything I’ve done in life so far. A wave? That’s life or death…
RIS: We saw you open at the Switchfoot Bro Am. Your stage presence was impressive bro. You had that whole crowd going off. What’s that feel like?
MR: You got to be confident & make the people happy. They are there to see a show. Anyone can put in a cd & listen to music. But to have someone come out & make the effort to be here? Then they deserve a good show.
RIS: So what started off your surf career? Tow-in at Jaws?
MR: If you really really think about it, there wasn’t any kids doing what I was doing. Me & Ryan Rossen, [tow in partner] were the only ones. Ian Walsh & all those guys…they didn’t think about towing in. I basically pioneered the whole [young kids], charging big waves. We were just in high school!
RIS: What are your goals with your music?
MR: I want to send a message first of all – Just jamming you know? it’s about having fun at the beach & have fun with your family, have fun with everybody, just have a good time. My music is to listen to while you’re having a good time. There’s a lot of love songs, there’s some political songs, some feel good songs, a few reggae style songs. If my music blows up I’m gonna be stoked, but for now, I just want to jam. I just want to make people feel good with my music.
RIS: Who are some of your influences musically?
MR: Bruddah Iz… All the old-timers that played music that meant something. The greats that actually played the instruments. Not just created by someone, sung by someone else & packaged, ya know?
RIS: What got you together with the Skains?
MR: Those are my nephews. Gavin & Zion Garcia. I actually taught Gavin how to play his first song on the guitar. They’ve been part of my family since they were born.
RIS: Let’s talk about the new album. When is it coming out & who’s behind it?
MR: The album is coming out soon (later this Fall) & Rick DeVoe Management is behind the release. We’re recording it at the Studio in Point Loma.
RIS: What’s that Ukulele worth?
MR: Eleven thousand. But wait till they see this cover…I get two more bruddah! [he laughs]
RIS: Are you still gonna compete in surfing?
MR: Yeah. I still compete. ASP competitor. The Triple Crown, Eddie Akua & all the select events.
RIS: So that’s just how it goes? Your people just hook you up to travel the world, surf insane waves & film it all?
MR: Sponsors take care of us unreal bruddah, whatever we need they take care of us, they’re unbelievable. I got the best sponsors I could ever ask for.
RIS: So do these guys sponsor the music as well?
MR: That’s what I want to do is be sponsored as an athlete and a musician. If they sponsor me they endorse everything that I do. Music, Surf, everything.
RIS: Let’s give ‘em a shout while we’re thinking about it.
MR: My sponsors are: RVCA, Monster Energy, Oakley Sunglasses, I just made a new pad w/ Astro Deck, Town & Country Surf Shop, JS Surfboards & working on some stuff with the People’s Movement Shoe Company.
RIS: What do you think about San Diego?
MR: I love San Diego. This is my second home in the spring. I’ve been coming here for the last seven years. This is longest I’ve ever stayed, but San Diego is cool. A lot of nice people down here, a nice chill vibe.
RIS: You always train w/ Rob G when you’re here?
MR: Always. I do everything with Rob. Strength & conditioning. Any kind of fitness, whatever…surfing boxing, running, Everything full on.
RIS: Well thanks for the interview & spending time w/ us. Good luck on the new music. Now let’s go get some food. What you feelin’?
MR: Yeah, thanks to you guys for doing this & thanks to Revolt In Style. I like steak.