From Stab issue 61, on sale now…
On the Cover: Makua Rothman on a Madame Jaws Miracle, shot by Zak Noyle/A-Frame. Words by Derek Rielly.
A little after October hit, that freak Jaws leapt out of bed and sloshed water on her face. You know Jaws or Peahi, right? That brawny queen on Maui that birthed tow-in surfing, pretty much. Well, now it ain’t so much about the tows and the skis and the noise and the birds in the sky, but a band of real-life big-wave cats on surfboards, like, 10-feet plus clubs. You know their names: Shane Dorian, Ian Walsh, Mark Healey… Makua Rothman.
Stab has kicked with the kid Makua since he was, what, 10, maybe, two years after he was collared by a two-wave hold-down at Waimea Bay during a ceremony for the Eddie Aikau. He’s 28 now and, boy, don’t he know how to swing into the blackness.
How about we light up on the wave, here, and on the cover, that monstrous, terrible stud… That’s the first day of the swell. The morning of the swell was only about three feet, maybe five feet all day. I surfed Sunset that morning (on Oahu) and it was, like, 15 feet. Maybe 18 feet. I got one of the biggest barrels I ever got at Sunset Point (Makua grew up and still lives at Backyards Sunset) on the inside bowl and I thought, wow, the swell’s starting to pick up here I might as well jump on a plane. So I jumped on a one thirty flight, got to the beach around three thirty and it just went, here we go! As soon as I showed up, the first 25-foot set came in. And, I was like, I just timed this perfectly.
Talk me through your experience here… I paddled for the first wave of the set and I missed it because I was out of position and Shan-o paddled for the next one and he missed that one and I just moved for some reason. I knew the third wave of the set was going to be a huge one and pretty much be right where I was and somehow I went over the wave and it was like this. It was the third wave so the wind and wrinkles were out of it. It was so so super glassy and I I was thinking to myself, this thing looks pretty nuts, brah. I had to just… whip it. I turned around and said, here we go. It got really steep so my board did a little turn back towards the wave and, as I was dropping down, I could tell just how hollow this thing was behind me and I was thinking if I get to the bottom and this ten six doesn’t turn… we’re going to have problems. I got to the problem and somehow it just set the rail. Whoooa I could not believe how good the board turned. Kinda got up high, pointed it towed the shoulder and made it.
How’d it feel being a spittoon for that monster? The spit missed me for some reason. If you look at Shane-o’s wave, the one that everyone was ranting about, it kinda crumbles. It crumbles off the drop, and then it doubles up and then it barrels on the inside and spits hard. This wave I caught, that wave was straight from out the back, top to bottom, big as Jaws gets, almost, top to bottom…you saw how big that spit is…
Crazy! Like P-Pass but fucking…huge.
Ain’t a problem when you’ve been slicing whales since you six. Well, when I was young I was always… fat. I was always the fat kid. I was teased: Lunchbox, Cheeseburger, Puffer Fish, Pillsbury Dough Boy and I never could really surf those small waves cause I was just the fat kid. So, the bigger waves were easier for me. And so, just from being teased, fat this, fat that, and every mean thing you could say to a kid, it just made me mad so when the waves were big I just tried to catch a bigger wave than them and then tease them back: “You’re scared, you’re fucking surfing on the shore.” It was the only way to get back at everybody.
What’s your biggest fear in a session like this? The biggest fear is not getting the good one and coming in and watching everyone else getting congratulated and you went out there and you had the chance to go. That’s my biggest fear. Coming in with nothing to show. That would absolutely fucking break my heart. It would drive me to complete madness.