Underagers Koa Rothman, Beau Foster, John John Florence and Ezekiel Lau Expand On Fear, Fun, Flying and Fire

koa rothman
Koa Rothman, Teahupo’o. Photo: Domeinc Mosqueira

Koa Rothman on fear
KOA: I'm scared on the big days just like everyone else. But I grew up in a place that has a lot of bigger waves so I feel more comfortable in large surf than in small surf. My family never forced me to surf big waves, I just wanted to do what my older brother was doing. I really look up to Makua in big waves because when he was my age, he had already caught a 66-footer, which was the biggest in the world at that time.

If my friends are going, I'm going too. It makes it a lot less scary when they are in the same position as you. Teahupo'o is a lot different than Pipe, but again, it all comes back to my friends going out there and getting big waves. I just want to keep up with everybody and make sure we're pushing each other harder and harder.

I've been pushed the most by John John's little brother, Nathan. We're the same age and every trip I've done to Tahiti has been with him and his younger brother, Ivan. Nathan is so crazy out there — he just makes me want to go on a bigger one. I'm not really scared of not succeeding. I mean, this is what I love to do and I just want to make the most of every opportunity.

beau foster
Beau Foster, australia. Photo: Nathan Smith

Beau Foster on fun
BEAU: Right now fun in surfing for me is experimenting with different boards. I went home a couple of weeks ago and got a new board, a Haydenshapes Psychedelic Germ. It's kind of fat and has a concave on the bottom of the nose like a boat hull. It has a very different feel, but that's part of the fun with trying new equipment.

When I went home the waves were as fun as I could dream of, just little peaks up and down the beach with nobody around. But seeing as how there is no one around, there is not much to do outside surfing. I spent three months in California for the summer and it's pretty frickin' fun to hang out there. You can just go out and party all night long and then go surf all through the day. The waves aren't as good, but California is so sick compared to where I live at home. Especially at f–king 19 years old, it's almost too much to handle at times.

I get stoked being with good people, just having a good time with friends. I'm really psyched on traveling at the moment. It's so nice to be able to go away and visit friends in different places. I am just grateful for everything that I have at the moment, just happy all the time. Like I could be out in the desert and still be having fun.

John John Florence, Western Australia. Photo: Tungsten

John John on flying
JOHN JOHN: I feel like airs are getting more and more innovative, mainly in that they're following more in the steps of snowboarding. Guys are trying to make really big airs functional now. By functional, I mean rotating in the right way so that your body doesn't seem awkward in the air. Sort of like how snowboarders do. For instance, when you do a slob air, you're not just grabbing slob just to grab, you're actually pulling your board with your hand while twisting.

I think that skating and snowboarding help your air game, but more on a subconscious level. Like, I definitely don't do an air while surfing and think about skating.

In my dreams I'd like to land some flips, but also land higher and higher inverted rotations.

Ezekiel Lau, Indonesia. Photo: tom Carey

Ezekiel Lau on fire
EZEKIEL: Going to school really made me sit and watch a lot of my friends and peers go and do their thing while I was stuck in the classroom. So that has definitely given me a drive, or fire, and I almost feel that I have more to prove in a shorter time. But I try not to get too ahead of myself.

Winning NSSA Nationals was a big highlight for me. That was my goal ever since I was a youngin'. So for me to actually clench the Open Juniors and Open Mens was pretty awesome. I still wish they were giving away the cars though — that really would have done it for me. Shortly after, I went into J-Bay and Japan feeling really good, and was able to get some really good results there. J-Bay was probably the best contest I have ever surfed in my life. The waves were firing, so I could just let loose and surf. Then I went to Japan and it was the complete opposite — a 1-foot, little grovel-fest. But I was able to squeeze a win out of it so I'm pretty pleased. Plus, Japan is probably the funnest place on earth.

Ultimately, I hope to keep this momentum going in contests. I have been doing well in the past events, so I'm really happy about that. But I also know that you can go through some bad down-slopes, where it feels like no matter what you do things just don't go your way. I'm prepared to face those challenges and hope in the next couple of years I will be somewhere close to qualifying. But I like to make small goals for myself that will set me up for bigger things in the long run.