Koa Rothman, 20 year old Hawaiian big wave surfer, is always charging. The above clip, which you’ve probably watched twice already, features some of his latest barrels, plus the Teahupoo death slab that won him two awards at the XXL awards last weekend – Tube of the Year and Wipeout of the Year – for the same wave.
So what does it feel like getting rolled by a Teahupoo monster? Koa talks us through it.
Congrats on the double-win this year – when did it feel like it was going from barrel of the year to wipeout of the year? What happened? What was going through your mind?
Well, as I was towing into that wave everyone in the lineup was trying to go and Laird looked back and said, ‘This is your fucking wave! You better go!!!’ and I was like, ‘I guess I’m going.’
I let go of the rope and thought, ‘Oh okay, it’s bigger than I thought it was going to be.’
I got to the bottom and it was sucking up harder than anything I’ve ever seen and I remember trying to stay as straight as I could and just losing all my speed from the barrel sucking in so hard. I remember falling onto my back and realizing how big it really was and watching the biggest lip I’ve ever seen land next to my head.
Then when I fell it felt like it went silent for five seconds then it felt like I got hit by a semi-trailer truck and it dragged me around for about forty seconds. I thought I was going to die.
You’ve had multiple barrels and wipeouts, how does the win this year stack up against the others?
I’ve never actually won anything so this was just beyond anything I could imagine, and that wave was the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced – the ride and wipeout.
How did you feel the next day? How was your body feeling?
The next day I was just happy my brother was ok [from a wipeout of his own], he had hit his face on the reef really bad and needed surgery. I was feeling really sore and could barely surf – my whole body was sore, even my fingertips.
Compared to a lot of the other big wave surfers, you’re pretty young. How old were you when first started charging the bigger waves?
I think when I first started surfing big waves, like really big waves, I was probably 17, but even when I was a little kid I wanted to be out there.
What’s the plan for this year? Any trips coming up or are you going to hang at home?
I think this year I’m just gonna chase perfect waves around the world with good friends. Actually I think I see a huge swell going to Tahiti – haha.