A few years ago, at a North Shore outer reef, Koa Rothman found himself in a tough situation: staring down a 30-foot wall of roaring whitewater. He was caught inside by the biggest set he’d ever seen, and there was little to do but ditch his board, dive under the carnage, and hope that he would eventually resurface.
It was a brutal beating. Underwater, his ears were filled with sharp cracks and pops, which he’d later realize were the sounds of leashes and boards snapping. He tried his best to keep calm. He knew his life might depend on it.
“I was 16 years old at the time,” Rothman, now 20, calmly recalls. “That was a really heavy experience for me, but looking back on it now, that’s when I realized I could stay focused and calm in some really big waves. From then on, I knew I could handle it.”
Since that day, Rothman has earned a reputation by charging the kind of waves that would bring most surfers to their knees, including the monstrous Teahupoo barrel that graced the cover of our 2013 Big Issue. But he’ll be the first person to tell you that he’s not immune to fear.
“Of course I get scared,” Rothman explains. “But you have to learn to let your fear push you. It can actually help sometimes. It gets your adrenaline going and keeps you focused, which helps you go a little harder. It also helps having friends out there with you who are comfortable in those conditions as well. I know that they’ve got my back and I’ve got theirs if things go wrong.”
With surfers like Kala Alexander, Mark Healey, and Rothman’s brother, Makua, looking out for him, Rothman is in good hands, all things considered. But their influence extends beyond the big-wave realm. Like his mentors, Rothman has also become a force of nature out at Pipeline as well, getting some of the best waves at the famed reef on any given swell.
“You’ve got to love the way that Koa surfs Pipe these days,” says Healey. “He just puts his head down, finds the best waves, and charges. You see so many young surfers who don’t really push themselves as hard as they should, but that’s not the case with Koa and his crew. He’s really shown just how committed he is over the last few years and I think he’s impressed a lot of people.”
While Rothman wants to continue honing his game at Pipe and the many big-wave breaks along Hawaiian shores, he’s also eager to prove himself in waves of consequence beyond his backyard.
“There’s so much out there,” Rothman says. “So many waves, people, and places. I’m just looking forward to seeing it all and catching the wave of my life along the way.”
Along a hidden stretch of reef located just outside Honolulu, Seth Moniz slowly swims on the ocean’s surface, scanning for something among the coral to put on his family’s table. When he spots an uhu—a Hawaiian parrotfish—he carefully inches closer and takes aim with his spear. Every movement is slow and deliberate, and the fish is wholly unaware of Moniz as he slowly squeezes the trigger. It’s all over in an instant. Tonight, he’s bringing home dinner.
When most young pro surfers look at the ocean, they see ramps, barrels, and lips. They see waves, or, God forbid, scoring potential. When Seth Moniz looks at the ocean, however, he sees something more.
“In Hawaii, it’s one thing to just be a good surfer,” says Moniz. “There are tons of good surfers out here. But I really want to be more than just someone who’s good at airs or charging big waves. I want to know how to fish, how to read the swell, and how to dive. That’s part of what makes Hawaiian surfers so unique. We know the ocean. To me, that’s what is most important.”
At just 16 years old, Moniz is quickly becoming the embodiment of the Hawaiian waterman. And while he has proven himself to be an incredible young surfer and competitor, claiming an NSSA Nationals title last year, his main goal isn’t just to win contests, but to develop a deeper understanding of the ocean.
With one of Hawaii’s greatest surfing pedigrees, it’s clear from where Moniz derives both his wisdom and talent. His father, one-time World Tour competitor Tony Moniz, is a respected waterman who runs a surf school on Oahu’s South Shore. And, like Seth, his siblings—Micah, Josh, Isaiah, and Kelia—are all exceptional surfers in their own right, with Kelia holding two world titles in women’s longboarding. When Moniz enters the water with his brothers and sister, whether they’re pulling into Backdoor drainers or hunting for rampy sections at Rocky Point, it’s obvious that they are constantly pushing each other to new heights.
“Whether it’s surfing, diving, or fishing, the ocean is a huge part of our lives,” says Moniz. “It brings us all together, and I know that there’s so much more to it than three turns to the beach. As Hawaiians, knowing about the ocean has always been part of our past. And I want that knowledge to be part of my future.”
Reflections from the Aleutians
A few months removed from an amazing journey through the Aleutian Islands with Josh Mulcoy and Alex Gray, Canada's Peter Devries reflects on his trip through Alaska.
Good vibes abound at the Town and Country Grom Contest at Waikiki
"I hope they run this event for another hundred years. This is what surfing is supposed to be about.” —Kekoa Bacalso
The pro surfer turned activist is running for mayor of Kauai
Last week, Dustin Barca filed the official paperwork to enter the upcoming mayoral race in Kauai. Barca, a former World Tour surfer and, in recent years, an anti-GMO activist, discusses what prompted his move into politics, what changes he would make if elected, and his plan to run around the entire island to raise support.
The Triple Crown frontman discusses the ASP's new deal
"The ASP is pretty much gonna be running the show now. They’re taking over production and the prize money. All that stuff. Our Triple Crown crew over here will continue what we're doing, but the ASP is going to enhance our capabilities." —Randy Rarick
New trials event for Pipe Masters will also be introduced
Sources have confirmed to SURFER that ZoSea will bring the Triple Crown under its umbrella by licensing the series. Vans will continue to remain the presenting sponsor.
Brazilian customs seizes Adriano De Souza's boards
Adriano De Souza began the Billabong Pro Rio without some of his most trusted sleds. In the days leading up to the start of the Rio event, Adriano had some of his boards seized by Brazilian customs and was forced to surf his Round 1 heat today on a backup board.
The acquisition brings the awards show under the same roof as the Big Wave World Tour
The ASP's decision to purchase the XXL Awards falls in line with a number of recent purchases the organization has made, including their acquisition of the Big Wave World Tour.
After falling off the World Tour, Damien Hobgood looks toward the future
Damien discusses his new life away from the World Tour, his plans on returning, and his newfound love of big-wave surfing.