Makua Rothman

Zak Noyle photo

Zak Noyle photo

More than a decade after successfully conquering a 66-foot wave, surfer Makua Rothman hopes to ride a different swell of success as a musician.

His first solo album, Sound Wave, was released digitally in December, reaching the No. 1 spot on the Billboard and iTunes Reggae charts.

“That was awesome,” he says. “I mean, that’s all icing on the cake.” Rothman, who appeared on MidWeek‘s June 18, 2003, cover, has been playing music as a hobby since childhood. His transition to a professional career began at the urging of trainer Rob Garcia, who convinced him to give it a try … “and somehow here I am today with an album,” he says, adding that music is something he simply loves.

Primarily an ukulele player, he learned from his grandmother, relatives and the late Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole.

“We all looked up to him (Kamakawiwo’ole) and his music, and everything he’s done and the way he represented himself as a Hawaiian,” Rothman says. “All that kind of stuff is what I really looked up to, and just to have him in my presence and be able to learn from him was amazing.”

He began working on his album last May, recording and producing it alongside artist, composer and producer John “Feldy” Feldmann in Los Angeles, Calif.

“It was just amazing – the people I got to write with and the people I got to be around during that time,” he says.

Rothman, who holds credits for composing 11 of the 12 tracks on his CD, collaborated with other artists and drew from personal experiences as inspiration for each piece.

The CD is an eclectic mixture of reggae, rock and pop, and though Rothman says all are his favorites, one song that especially stands out is ‘Ulili E, which features an old Kamakawiwo’ole track.

“It’s like a dream come true,” he says.

His music also was featured in a recent episode of Hawaii Five-0.

Right now, he’s looking forward to completing at least 100 days of touring. Though he currently is consumed with promoting his album and preparing to tour, don’t expect Rothman to completely give up surfing anytime soon. He most recently competed in this year’s Volcom Pipe Pro.

His experience as a surfer, he says, has lent itself well to his career as a musician.

“A lot of us play music after we surf,” he says.

Rothman, whose physical album was released Feb. 4, will throw a CD release concert Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at Hawaii Theatre. Tickets are available online at or by calling 528-0506. Fans who use promo code “GNARLY” receive a discount.

“Without the support from fans and friends and family, I wouldn’t be able to do this, so this is all for you guys,” he says.