After graduating from Stanford, Malu’s prolific surf career has continued to grow — as has her desire to protect the environment that made her who she is. Malu is now ascending to the next level of her academic journey, pursuing her PhD with the Ocean and Resources Engineering program at the University of Hawaii. Inspired by one of her mentors, Hawaii Island surfer, chemist and journalist Dr. Cliff Kapono, Malu is studying how coral reef morphology affects the hydrodynamics of a wave. Using data sampling and computer models, Malu simulates reef structure in order to derive the tensile strength (breaking point) of different coral species, and to predict how this tensile strength will be affected by major bleaching and storm events. Malu’s ultimate aim is that this information, in combination with applied weather modeling, will create a method to predict (and eventually bolster) the resiliency of coral reef populations around the world.
Another project that Malu is committed to is The MegaLab, a collective of scientists, athletes and artists focused on conducting underwater topographical mapping of the world’s best surf spots. The MegaLab’s hope is to monitor coral reef health at high-exposure surf breaks like Cloudbreak and Teahupoo, ultimately raising awareness of the critical role that coral serves both in wave creation and marine biodiversity.
Malu is a living manifestation of the ocean that molded her — and through her work as a dedicated protector of the reef and the sea, she is also a living embodiment of “aloha ‘āina”, which is the Hawaiian concept that describes the importance of “protecting and caring for the land and ocean you love”. Now that is a beautiful wave to chase.