Remember that slow motion high of your very first wave? Gliding on the ocean’s energy and smiling so hard you thought you’d break your face. As a private surf instructor on the North Shore of Hawaii, Rosie Jaffurs vicariously re-lives that experience almost every day through the stoked eyes of her clients.
“It just brought me a feeling I didn’t know about,” says Rosie about the happiness she gains while teaching surfing. Born and raised on Pupukea, the mountainous region above Waimea Bay in Oahu, Rosie Jaffurs talks about her paradise home with as much awe and gratitude for her lucky lifestyle as tourists passing through. She didn’t have any “locals only” attitude about her favorite spots, instead openly guiding the Seeababes with the utmost hospitality during our last trip to Oahu.
“When I travel to another place, I want to hang with the locals and get their experience. For me to be able to return that, that makes me stoked,” Rosie explains. Drawing upon the teachings of her mentor Montgomery “Buttons” Kaluhiokalani, the famously stylish Hawaiian surfer that passed in 2013 — or as Rosie calls him, “Uncle Buttons” — the vibe around Rosie is always surrounded by fun and stoke. We caught up with this North shore native to find out what it was like to know Buttons in his final days, and her favorites spots to log.
|Rosie wears the Jalama Bikini in Vintage Rose. Photo by Luki O'Keefe.
In what part of Hawaii did you grow up? How did you parents arrive to the islands?
I’m born and raised on Pupukea, which is above Waimea Bay. My dad moved to Hawaii when he was 18. He was a surfer from Maryland and had to travel hours for usually very junk surf. He read in the surfing magazines that the average height for surf in Hawaii was four feet. He bought property in Pupukea because he enjoyed being in the mountains, yet five minutes from the beach. Growing up I always wanted him to sell our house and buy beachfront. I'm glad he never listened to me because if I'm not escaping this world by surfing, nowadays I'll go up in the mountains and escape the crowded North shore. I live with my boyfriend now who is beachfront on Waimea point.
My mom grew up in Hawaii. My grandfather [on my mom’s side] worked in the plantations. That’s why a lot of immigrants — Chinese, Japanese and Filipinos — came to Hawaii because they were brought here to work in the cane fields, or pineapple fields. That’s what brought my Chinese grandfather here.
What culture significance does Waimea Bay have? And what does it mean to you?
Waimea is a very sacred place for the Hawaiian culture because you could only live there back in the day if u were Ali'i, chief, or royalty. Later after the caste system was broken, Waimea Valley was used as a "college" for young apprentices learning a new ministry.
My boyfriend was raised on the exact opposite of Waimea and our meeting place is in between, which is exactly at Waimea Bay. It's just the beauty of Waimea gets me and I just know that’s my home. It always has been.
|Rosie wears the Doheny Rashguard in Aquaflor. Photo by Luki O'Keefe.
How did you get into teaching surf lessons?
I was working for Buttons [at Buttons Surf School] and at the time, he was slowly dying because he had cancer and was really sick. [Before,] if there was a big 200-pound man, Uncle Buttons could push the guy in, no problem. But he got to the point that he was so weak that I would have to push that 200 pound man. He could sit back and relax and not have to worry about the lessons anymore. He knew that I would take care of them. I came into the picture after he had started getting sick. He was pretty sick for the last couple of years.
|Rosie in the Doheny Rashguard in Black Porto. Photo by Luki O'Keefe.
What did you learn from Buttons about life and teaching surf lessons?
Buttons showed me — I have a couple uncles who show me — how to be the Aloha spirit. Buttons was full of joy and energy. He was nice to everyone around, helped everybody who was out there, including the other surf schools. He would make sure everyone was getting along. If there was a problem, he was the guy to go take care of it in a calmly manner.
Seeing the way Uncle Buttons worked and acted towards people — that influenced me. The way he surfs — I always make sure when I’m surfing, I’m having fun. You’re not out there to get the best waves, as long as you’re having fun, that’s the important part. If you’re not having fun [Buttons is] going to burn you and make you laugh and make sure you’re not trying to ruin the vibe.
As long as you’re happy and that you’re showing [your customers] that you are having a good time, then your customer is stoked. They feel like they’re hanging out with a local. Caring about their special needs, making sure they are comfortable. They would be scared, but it would still push them to get a big one. Once they got a big one they would froth so hard they would want to get another big one like that. Even when they wipe out, tell them its okay. It’s all part of it. Keep the fun vibe up.
|One of our favorite images of Rosie perched on the nose wearing the Seea Capitola. Photo by Keoki Saguibo.
After Buttons passed, you started your own surf school. What do you love giving surf lessons?
It brings me joy. Everybody is stoked. They are stoked they learned how to surf and caught this wave. It makes me feel good that I can share this with them. It just brought me a feeling I didn’t know about. I used to be one of those haters, ‘Why are these people getting a surf lesson?' Since I’ve done it, its changed my attitude. These people are looking for usually that one-time experience and how much stoke it brings someone to catch a wave.
A lot of people that are around me running a business, they are sitting back and collecting money and they are giving people a bare minimum lesson, minimum instruction, and not safe instruction either. That just hurts me. This person doesn’t even know their life is in danger. Some people who are running surf schools, they are not from the North shore. Which is fine, but that makes me feel, “if they can do it, I should be able to do it also.”
|Rosie loves going right, wearing the Zuma in Vintage Rose. Photo by Luki O'Keefe.
What’s the vibe surfing in Hawaii with the crowds and as a girl?
We have to deal with people from all over the world during our wintertime. We’re used to it. As long as you’re respectful in the line-up nobody is going to bother you. I know who’s been waiting their turn and who hasn’t. It’s mostly uncles who have been surfing for a while. They are stoked on girls, but they are not that stoked if you burn them, or you’re going on every single wave, or you’re paddling for waves and missing them. Girl longboarding, I think guys love it and hate it at the same time. They are stoked when they see a girl get a nice wave, and she rides it properly, with style.
You can go and paddle out and be laughing and be joyous and that’s infectious. If everybody is angry, yelling, that ruins the vibe. Basically I can go out there, and show that I’m having a good time and that will lighten the mood up with everybody. That’s how I show the aloha spirit. If people are trying to be aggro, I try to bring the vibe of, ‘we’re lucky we’re all out there.’ If you get one, be stoked.
|Rosie Jaffurs in the Tofino in Black Porto. Photo by Luki O'Keefe.
How do you feel wearing Seea while surfing?
I enjoy wearing Seea because all the pieces are gorgeous and unique, making me feel beautiful when I'm in them. The elegance I feel when I'm in them adds to my surfing by helping keep movements graceful and soft. The suits stay in place while the waves crash down, allowing me to continue paddling or riding, rather than dismounting or stopping because the suit flew up or down, in or out.
|Rosie Jaffurs leading the way with Taylor Nelson right behind her. Photo by Luki O'Keefe.
How did you meet California Seeababe Taylor Nelson?
I was surfing out at Chuns and I saw her on the nose. She told me I rip, and I was like, ‘No way you rip!’ All my friends are goofy footers, so they don’t surf at Chuns [which is right. Taylor grew up surfing Malibu's first point]. So I’m like, perfect, ‘a girl that likes to surf rights and is a noserider. Let’s go surf!”
There are not a lot of logger girls in general. I surf Chuns every single day so we would always communicate to surf at the same time. If you know the surf is no good anyway, we’ll go on an adventure somewhere and try something new... Taylor and I are always constantly frothing to surf. It works out perfectly.
What are some of your favorite places on the island that you take visitors to?
I’m the most comfortable with Chuns. We wake up every day and surf Chuns. It depends on what season it is. If it’s summer, we like Waimea because the water is so clear and blue. And during the winter time I like to take them to Waimea and show them the big waves there.
Thank you Rosie for being a Seea ambassador of Aloha in Hawaii!