Feat. sandwiches, sunscreen, rash guards and...... guess who else?
Magazine writers from the majors and mid-majors (Vogue, GQ, Vanity Fair, etc.) generally attend surf schools at least every other year around summer time and then publish stories of their learnings. I have never once been surprised by one of these stories until I read Jennifer Kester’s newest offering in this week’s Forbes. Would you like to be surprised too? Let’s read together!
My goal was minimal: Don’t drown. Sure, it was a low bar to set, but during the drive from the new Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina on the west coast of the island to meet my surf instructor on the northern part, I envisioned best-case scenarios that included slipping on the board and cracking my head. I didn’t even care if I managed to stand up on the board.
While I’m an adequate swimmer, I had never climbed on a surfboard and wasn’t sure that my first time should be in the same waters that draw professional surfers worldwide to participate in competitions as fierce as the waves.
For added pressure, my instructor was Makua Rothman, the World Surf League’s 2015 Big Wave world champion. He entered his first surf contest when he was three years old, at 18 caught a 66-foot wave to win the Billabong XXL World Challenge and at 23 scooped up the O’Neill World Cup and the World Tow-In title.
His connection to the water and land goes further than his many accomplishments. The 32-year-old was born for this: his full first name is Makuakai, which means “guardian of the sea,” and he’s the 12th great-grandson of King Kamehameha, the ruler who first united all of the Hawaiian Islands into a single kingdom.
It was inevitable that I would embarrass myself in front of one of the sport’s best athletes. Why wasn’t I paired with a kiddie instructor?
What a fabulous turn! Makua Rothman, the 12th great-grandson of King Kamehameha and, more impressively, oldest son of the great Eddie Rothman playing the role of hunky surf stud! Let’s read a little more!
Next, I waited belly down on the board next to Rothman for the right wave. As I relaxed on the board over the undulating waves and chatted, I almost forgot why I was there. Then Rothman suddenly yelled, “Go!”
I scrambled and started paddling, and as I felt the wave lift me up, I clumsily hoisted myself onto the board. Almost slipping, I somehow regained my balance and then firmly planted my feet in the position with my arms outstretched, as Rothman showed me. I rode the gentle wave, and it was exhilarating.
It all happened so fast, I didn’t get a chance to overthink my movements. And after the wave unfurled, I ungracefully crumbled into the water. But I was astounded that I surfed on my first try. In just minutes, it was over. I was done as far as I was concerned.
Then Rothman sidled up beside me on his surfboard and said, “Great job! Next time, you’ll ride the wave all the way to the shore.”
Next time? I was dumbstruck. Didn’t he realize that was just a fluke?
It goes on and is brilliant in that it is completely unexpected. And you should finish it all here all by yourself!