At just 24 years old, Karina Rozunko has already carved out a coveted spot in the world of traditional longboarding, celebrated by her contemporaries for her uninhibited free-flowing approach and effortless style, enthused with the heritage of her San Clemente homeland.
I’m catching up with Karina from Byron Bay where she’s been shacked up scoring swell in Australia. “Life is good,” she tells me.
“My partner Jimmy and I have created two movie edits together. So, we’re working on one right now as we’re over here during this time of kind of… nothingness, which will be fun to see. But yeah, just been busy surfing!” After riding out the first of the COVID-19 quarantines of 2020 in Bali (which got “super weird…we weren’t allowed to go surfing or step foot on the beach!”), Karina made it back home to California before getting her visa to Australia, doing the “whole two-week quarantine and everything in a hotel…it was treacherous” she laughs.
When I ask her how it feels to be considered a bonafide style influence herself for many these days, she modestly tells me “I’m 24, I don’t feel like I have paved the way or done anything yet, but if I have influenced anyone that’s rad because I love what I do.”
Photos: (L) John Elwell (R) Tom Keck
“First, I’m going to start off with Linda Benson. Linda is a surfer who grew up in California in the ’50s. I was always mesmerized by her switch stance and how she was surfing those heavy boards and charging on such big waves going from switch to regular. Not only was she ripping, but she would just rock around in the best swimwear and the raddest little pixie cut. Before Gidget was a thing, she was the real surf star. I would see her surf Cardiff all the time and think it’s so cool how she’s still out there. She’s just awesome.”
“Then next, of course, Kassia. Growing up, Kassia was the It girl. I guess she was my number one influence growing up. We both got boards off Donald Takayama and I remember seeing posters of her up in the shop hoping to run into her while ordering a board, which is pretty cute. She was so effortlessly cool, and beyond surfing, was taking photographs, writing poetry and was just the best all around human in the water. I remember her paddling up to me at Malibu cheering me onto a wave, I thought it was so cool. I was like starstruck, like, oh my gosh, she’s saying hi to me, let alone telling me to go on a wave! She’s so cool and was just always positive and awesome in the water.”
Brittany Quinn Leonard
“Number three is kind of a wild card. Her name’s Brittany Quinn. I remember always hearing about Brittney from Malibu, she lives in Scorpion Bay Mexico and her surfing is incredible. She rides matts, mid-lengths and longboards like it’s nobody’s business. Her and her partner Mateo create these incredible full channel bottom boards with beautiful fabric inlay, in a school bus on their property. Since forever she’s been making the coolest board shorts and is such an icon. Her doing everything on her own is pretty unique from the clothes and boardshorts she makes to the boards she rides. I got to meet her and Matt and surf with them this last year and they are the best. It was really cool to finally meet her and see what she’s all about.”
Photos: (L) Greg MacGillivray via EOS (R) Unknown
“She also grew up in California, from Pennsylvania, and I just feel that connection… Linda and Margo both grew up in California trying to pioneer women’s surfing. It’s really sick. And her surfing is just incredible. She does these bottom turns that I just want to copy so bad. She just waits till she gets to the very bottom of the wave and then just projects and gets so much speed and just charges. The lines she draws are as smooth and good as the boys. She was doing what they did way back before that was even a thing. She was the first women’s professional surfer in the world which is pretty neat.”
“Al has always been one of my favourite surfers. I would see him and Robin Kegel surfing down at Sano on Gatos [boards made by Robin’s shaping outfit, Gato Heroi] and thought what they were doing was so progressive, but still had everything that I was drawn to about surfing. I feel like that era of surfers was core. He actually invited me on a trip to Noosa to shoot ‘Tan Madonna’ which was pretty exciting. Alex has really changed the perception of what longboarding was to what it is now in the best way possible. I feel like longboarding today is now so much of a ‘sport.’”