Editor’s Pre-Interview Note: From the moment I met Kula, I knew this girl was going to be something special. In Hawaii, we do an Aloha style greeting which involves a hug and a gentle kiss on the cheek. This greeting is usually reserved for close friends, family members or people you have not seen for a long time. When I met her at Starbucks this day, Kula, without hesitation, leaned in to greet me – Hawaii Style – and made me feel like we’ve been friends for years.
I’ll be perfectly honest with you. I’m your typical guy. When I saw the first few episodes of MTV’s Surf Girls (the reality TV show featuring 14 girls competing for a wildcard spot into the World Championship Tour), I was quite intrigued to say the least. As bad as this may sound, I was like, where else can I “legally” watch girls in bikinis dousing each other with water hoses? I even told my girlfriend one day that it was my new favorite show after seeing Vivian vacuuming the house in her bikini. I had to sleep on the couch that night.
Over time though, you really start to ignore the fact that these are 14 gorgeous girls in swimsuits and realize that the competition is real and that each girl has her own story to tell. Being from Hawaii, I was particularly interested in those with ties to the islands: Aimee, Jen, and Kula. Every time they got a green ranking or won a competition, I cheered. Every time they handled themselves with dignity and class, I cheered. Every time they overcame adversity, I just cheered. I was so happy and proud that Hawaii was representin’ on a national level.
Kula was one in particular whom I just had to root for. She seemed so sweet and real, yet was mentally tough when faced with some of the more tougher challenges, including losing her only Hawaii friend, Aimee, in the first episode, getting chicken pox, being away from loved ones, a bum shoulder, etc. Yet through it all, she persevered. The true epitome of a local girl making good.
I had the privilege of meeting this special girl, and I’m happy to say that “fame” has not affected her. She is as real as you can get. She remembers where she came from and knows exactly where she’s going. She’s intelligent & serious, yet fun. Cute, yet mature. Confident, yet humble.
I hope this interview will help you get a slight glimpse into the many wonderful sides of Kula Barbieto. She’s a sweet, local girl with lots of Aloha to share. We will definitely see a lot more of her in the future and I wish her all the best. I’m glad that I met her. I hope you enjoy meeting her too…
Interview with Kula Barbieto
(Edward Sugimoto) So I hear that you come from a surfing family. Is there a friendly, competitive spirit there or is it more of a leisurely, “family outing” atmosphere?
(Kula Barbieto) My family is very ocean oriented. My father is a commercial fisherman and brought us up to be water women. Growing up we would “spear fish”, “pound opihi”, “hand line fish”, “lay net”…..and most important surf! If it was flat we would go spear fishing, if there were waves we would surf. The ocean provided our family with food, income and fun. Surfing was never a sport or activity for fun, it was just a way of life.
(ES) Who do you look up to and/or wish to be like in the surfing industry?
(KB) I really look up to Bonga Perkins. Growing up and knowing him personally, he has always been a positive role model. He’s always giving, never taking. He can surf 1 foot Waikiki and surf 10 feet Pipes and still look good. He’s very successful in the surfing industry. Rell Sunn is not only a beautiful surfer but a beautiful person. She always looked after the children of Hawaii. She gave all of us hope, hope in surfing and hope in life. And she used to rip!
(ES) Are you currently sponsored? If not, here’s your chance to lobby for some sponsorships! 🙂 Which companies would you be intrigued by if they approached you for sponsorship opportunities?
(KB) I am sponsored by Roxy, Dakine, Honolulu Trading Company, Surfboards Makaha, Converse. And very thankful for it!
(ES) Are you happy at the level of surfing you are at right now? If not, what areas would you like to improve?
(KB) I need to work on my worrier skills. I need to improve on my competitive surfing and become more competitive. I’d much rather make friends in the water than enemies.
(ES) How was the whole MTV Surf Girls experience? What was one valuable lesson you took away from that experience? What is one thing you wish to forget?
(KB) It’s so hard to put my MTV experience into words… hmmm… It was the most amazing experience of my life, are you kidding!? It was a free surf trip around the world in 6 weeks. I met some great surfers and watermen and made some lifetime friends. But I did have to travel with complete strangers that I probably wouldn’t be traveling with if I could choose not to. I have learned many valuable lessons on that trip:
- When someone asks you to “borrow” something they probably mean “can I have”
- Always bring your own medicine and Band-Aids, you don’t want to be using toothpaste on your chicken pox like me
- Expect the most random things to happen to you while traveling in foreign countries (e.g. chickenpox, dislocated shoulder, shortage of Reese’s peanut butter cups and gum, etc.)
- Bring something from home with you while traveling. You’re bound to get homesick.
- Don’t be on national television while all of this happens to you.
- Bring more than 2 surfboards if you’re traveling anywhere near the South Pacific.
The one thing I wish to forget? I wish to never feel the way I did when I was stuck in quarantine for having chickenpox. I had just won first place and wanted to surf some real waves! I felt like a foreigner with a disease and could not leave my room for 1 week. I learned to have a lot of patience.
(ES) You and April had a healthy competition going on there. Was there really a deep-rooted dislike there or was it just some fancy editing to make the show look more exciting than it really was?
(KB) Let me just say that the editors really know how to do their job and they do it well… It’s something called “cut and paste”. You just have to remember it’s “television”… even Reality TV doesn’t have to be “real!!”
(ES) Who would you say has become your lifelong friends as a result of the show?
(KB) I have made many lifelong friends as a result of the show, during the show and after too!
(ES) Between Surf Girls and the WB’s Boarding House – North Shore, you realize that you guys started this whole new level of interest for surfing. What do you think about that?
(KB) The surfing industry is just getting bigger and bigger it could be good or bad, “happy or sad”. Sharing surfing with the world is great. I wish everyone could feel the way I do when I surf. Good in that it’s given women’s surfing so much exposure, which creates support for surfing. It’s bad in that sometimes things are better off not getting too exposed. Some things should be left unexploited, that’s what makes it so priceless.
(ES) Have you had any weird people coming up to you asking you some off the wall things? What about guys? Do more guys tend to try and hit on you now?
(KB) It’s weird that half of America and Europe now knows my name and what my laugh sounds like. And I know nothing about 0.009865% of America! As for guys…. there must be a drought here in Hawaii!
(ES) What has life been like post-Surf Girls?
(KB) Life has been a like a huge wave at teahupoo! Coming from nowhere, sucking up, taking me for a joy ride, holding me under for a few seconds, then me gasping for air! Other than that, life has been good. I have so many doors opening up for me and I feel like I have no limits. I love being a surfer, not knowing where I’ll be traveling next.
(ES) OK, ’nuff about surfing… how about some personal questions: Are you single? What kind of a guy do you typically go for?
(KB) No comment. Well, it would help if he knows how to swim, and extra points if he can surf! I like a guy who knows how to be good to his woman, cause every woman deserves a man like that!
(ES) Besides surfing, what do you like to do in your free time?
(KB) Surf! I mean skate, or dance hula and Tahitian. And I love to go fishing! Whether it’s spear fishing, hand-line fishing off of a boat or just casting from land, I love it all. Spending my free time with my family is a must. They live on different islands, so when I do see them it’s quality time spent.
(ES) Favorite Types of music? Artists? Movies? TV Shows? Books? Hobbies/Interests?
(KB) My favorite books are The Red Wind and Sharks Dialogue. Music to my ears are the Peter Moon Band, Matchbox Twenty and UB40. TV show: Will & Grace. Fav movie of all time: Dirty Dancing.
(ES) If you had an entire day with nothing at all planned, explain what you would do the second you roll out of bed until the second you roll back into bed.
(KB) Brush my teeth, surf, eat, surf, rest, surf, eat, brush my teeth, sleep (if I was in Tahiti).
(ES) You seem like a natural in front of the camera. Is acting something you might consider pursuing in the future?
(KB) I would love to work on screen, surfing, hosting a show or just acting.
(ES) What was the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Worst?
(KB) Best: Everyone is faced with hardships and adversities, it’s how you deal with it and overcome it that matters! Worst: What you don’t know won’t hurt you.
(ES) What is the biggest misconception people have about you?
(KB) Um, I really don’t know… I guess the whole world has a list for me after being on a reality show 🙂
(ES) Career-wise, what is your ultimate goal?
(KB) Short-term goal, career-wise: improve in surfing, experience as much as I can about the industry. Long-term goal: eventually create a name for myself in the surfing world and maybe someday host a show like Wild on E!
(ES) Outside the world of “surfing”, what are your ultimate dreams and desires?
(KB) I really just want to be content with myself wherever I end up career-wise and family-wise (when I eventually want children). I want to be able to tell them about all these amazing places I got to travel to and all these amazing people that I got to meet along the way, and all these incredible waves I got to surf! I want the whole package deal you know! A husband (who surfs and is nice), a house (on the beach please), kids (who listen and are polite), an amazing career (that lets me travel around the world and surf).
(ES) Any advice to young, aspiring surfers out there?
(KB) You never know until you go! Try and try hard! work and work hard! Sing like no one is listening! Don’t give up on anything!
(ES) When’s my first surf lesson? 😉
(KB) *laugh* Whenevers…