The Effortless Style of Karina Rozunko

Interview by Shana Chandra

Style is something Karina Rozunko has always known as a surfer.

When she was a kid, her favourite thing to do when catching a wave (once she could stand up) was to kneel on one leg and throw up the peace sign with both hands. Luckily, she still has photos of this, somewhere in an album at her parents’ San Clemente home. And it’s this style that’s made a name for Rozunko; whether it be the way she gracefully dances on her longboard, or her coveted aesthetic that lead to Vans asking her to design an apparel and shoe line. Or for her Jimmy Jazz and Ozzie Wright co-lab surf flick, Doll Riot. During her recent road trip through Australia, we hijacked Karina away from the not so good waves and met her at a café in Darlinghurst to talk Oz, Ozzie and the film they made in Bali.

What are you doing here in Australia?

My friend’s getting married in a couple of weeks, but I’m here picking up a surfboard and trying to shoot right now for a new project that I’m working on…

Are you allowed to say what it is?

Yeah, so I’m working on a bigger project, but the one I’m doing right now is for a clothing collection that is coming out with Vans. There’s five shoes, and four pieces of clothing. With the apparel team, we designed a pair of my favourite pants, which are kind of like work pants. There’s a pull-over with an angel embroidered on the front and patent leather shoes that I’m really excited about. The colourways are mustard yellow, dark blue and green.

You draw and watercolour too, I think I spied some in Doll Riot?

Ozzie actually did those, but I do like to draw and paint myself. I kind of like to keep them separate, I’m not trying to be an ‘artist’ or anything, it’s just something I like to do. I’m constantly travelling around, so it feels good to have something that I can come back to.

Where have you been road-tripping this time?

I flew into Sydney and then went to Byron because you kind of have to get waves. We’ve been there a couple of times to try to surf but there’s been no waves this trip, we’re getting kinda skunked. I’ve only surfed two times, but it’s fine, it’s good to be here.

Because you travel so much away from home, with longboarding is the culture different from country to country, and in what way does it differ like that?

I think it just depends on who you’re around. Australia has a nice longboard scene, but I guess it just depends on where you go. Like Noosa and Byron have a good thing going on. The waves are just so perfect for logging there.

What is a good wave for logging?

I guess tight pocket, knee to waist high. That’s kind of it. That’s all you need. You don’t really need a wave to ride with longboarding. I get pumped on two-foot waves, and everyone’s like, ‘We’re not surfing today’ and I’m already out there.

Because conditions can change. And just being in the water…

I get depressed if I don’t surf. Or not being in the ocean. Me and my friend were freaking out, we were like, ‘What’s wrong with us, we’re going crazy’ and then we realised we hadn’t surfed in two weeks.

What’s the longest you’ve ever gone?

Two weeks.

Tell me about the first time you stood on a longboard. How did you get there, how did you feel, who were you with?

I was so young. My Dad would take me out and put me on his back and would paddle me out, and I was terrified. He randomly just started letting me go on my own when I was younger. I remember, I thought it was the coolest trick when I went on one knee and throw up the peace sign.

Please tell me you have photos of that.

Yes. That was like, my signature move.

So, even then you had a bit of style going on, and your style is something lots of people comment on when you surf. How do you see your own style?

I think it’s important and I value style when I watch other people surf, so I think I’m conscious of what I do with my limbs. I was a gymnast as well, so I did a lot of dancing. I think that was a good transition, it carries over to longboarding nicely.

Just being aware of your body and your presence, that would’ve really helped.

Oh yeah. Always getting yelled at for what my hands were like in gymnastics, I made sure my fingers were out and perfect, so I do funny things when I surf.

Is the beach in front of your parent’s house in San Clemente where you grew up surfing?

Yeah. I mean it’s not actually that good of a wave but it’s a beach break and I think that makes you react and learn quicker because it’s a faster wave.

That’s what my boyfriend says. He grew up around Cronulla where there’s a tonne of heavy reef breaks, so he bodyboards, and he said he learned really quickly because of it. It’s made me appreciate surfing forms that are a little left of centre. I find it really funny how people get really opinionated about…

What you ride?

Yeah. Why do people care so much?

I don’t know, I was at a party the other night and everyone was talking about surfboards and it was weird, it was like talking politics. Someone was like, ‘Dude, whoever rides a single fin, that’s lame’ and someone else was like, ‘Twin fins suck’ and I was just blown away people care so much. I mean, I know what I prefer to surf and what I prefer to watch people surf, but I don’t think it’s anything to get in a fight over or discriminate about.

How is the longboarding lifestyle different to shortboarding?

Instead of travelling for contests and training all year to be the best, you’re kind of surfing and living. I think it goes hand in hand; with creating edits, it’s someone’s own art put into that, their feelings. Not necessarily just longboarding culture, there’s this whole independent side of the surfing world that’s people just being independent; shaping, making music, making art and surfing.

That’s what I liked so much about Doll Riot too, it was more about you, as opposed to just your surfing. You collaborated with Ozzie Wright and Jimmy on the video, how did you guys end up working together?

So, Jimmy and Ozzie are good friends and have been filming for years, and I was on a trip with Jimmy and Ozzie called him and said, ‘Hey, there’s a good swell at Deserts [Desert Point, Lombok]; let’s hop over,’ so these two worlds in surfing came into one. We went into Deserts, which I wasn’t surfing because it was huge. But it was a great thing to see. We just had so much time, hanging around there, because there’s no internet. And I had my journal laying around, because I always do, and Ozzie, whose art I’ve always loved, picked up my journal and started writing and drawing. It was pretty special. And it was Jimmy’s idea to put it in the film.

What are you most proud of in the film?

I’m just proud that it came together. I had such a specific vision of what I wanted and I’m really happy how it all came together. I think it reflects me pretty spot on. Girls haven’t really been putting out longboard edits, full-length ones, I guess. I want to see more of those. There are so many good longboard girls; I would be really happy to see some films of that.

My niece just got her first surfboard, what’s a piece of advice you’d give to her?

Go for it. Don’t be scared. It’s so much more of a mental thing than a physical thing. I think people’s fear of what they’re going to look like or feeling like an idiot holds them back.

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