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Surfer and singer songwriter, he can do it all

Makuakai Rothman accounts for the panic that took hold of him at Fiji

Apr 22, 2021


By Aloha Lau

Makuakai Rothman is a well-known big name in professional surfing. Flashing back to one of his scariest wipeouts, the big wave surfer can account for the panic that took hold of him at Cloudbreak, Namotu, Fiji.

“I remember trying to come up, but something just kept holding me down, holding me down, holding me down,” Rothman said. “It was so violent, and one of the most radical waves Iʻve ever taken on.”

“I don’t know if my body gave up or my mind gave up, but I remember thinking,  ʻI just hope that they can save me,’” Rothman said.

It was one of the most monstrous waves heʻd ever faced, but it never stopped Rothman from furthering his career.

It all started just off-shore

It wasn’t always smooth sailing growing up for Rothman. He recalled living in a tent on the Kaunala, or “Sunset Point” at a rather young age, and the ocean was always right there. He connected with the ocean on a deeper level.

“It was just me and the ocean, and it was the only place that really made me feel happy when I was young,” Rothman said.

It was inevitable that he would start surfing at the early age of four, and started competing when he was about 14.

“It's just such a blessing to grow up where I was at the time,” Rothman added. “I think surfing chose me.”

How to prepare for competition

Since then, Rothman has grown tremendously as a big wave surfer and has participated in surfing competitions worldwide. He prepared for competitions by practicing his craft as well as working on his breathing techniques. Beyond Rothman’s physical strength, he emphasizes the importance of maintaining a strong mindset while preparing for the big surf.

“You could be in physical shape — muscles everywhere — but if your mind's not right, just like anything else in life you gotta have your mind right, right?” Rothman said.

Rothman’s other talents

Surfing aside, Rothman has many other talents. He dived into the world of singing/songwriting, and incorporates the sweet tunes of the ukulele.

Rothman knew that he had bigger capabilities and was destined for much more than the ocean. He released several singles and EPs, and has even created an album as well. His most recent single, “Paradise,” was released in December of 2020, and Rothman is looking forward to creating new music.

Besides music, Rothman enjoys activities like hunting and diving during his leisure time. He even likes to root back to his culture while participating in traditional farming and harvesting of kalo. Besides all this his favorite thing is being a father to his children. Balancing work and play can get hectic but Rothman said that having a loving and supportive other half definitely helps and emphasizes the importance of time management.

“We only have so much time in the day so we have to make the most of it!” Rothman said.

What’s next?

Rothman is optimistic about the future of his wave-riding career, and is expecting to get back into competing again.

The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational competition is in motion for this year and Rothman says he’s hopeful that it will run sometime in the summer– depending on what the ocean has in store.

Other than just having fingers-crossed, Rothman is ready for whatever happens next.

Advice to those who want to learn to surf

Many people far and wide have the urge to learn to surf. And although Hawai’i has many surfing lesson establishments, not all of them should be trustworthy, according to Rothman. He encourages everyone who wants to give surfing a try to make sure they learn from a certified and or professional trainer/coach before paddling out.

“Take it easy, do your research and just know your limits,” Rothman said.  “Say you don't know your comfort level in the water; mother nature is not to be played with, and the ocean is unpredictable, so take it slow.”

Along with being a design editor for Ho‘a O‘ahu, Kuʻualohapauʻole "Aloha" Lau...

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