Entrepreneurial surfer from Santa Monica, California; one of the original post-World War II Malibu regulars; cofounder in 1963 of Surf Line Hawaii, a surfboard retail outlet, and founder of Jams beachwear in 1964.
Rochlen was born (1924) and raised in Santa Monica, and began surfing at age 15. After serving in the Marine Corps, he returned to Santa Monica in 1946 where he surfed, worked as a lifeguard, did some Hollywood stunt work, and began building surfboards that quickly became popular among Malibu Colony movie celebrities, including Gary Cooper and Peter Lawford. Along with fellow surfer-designers like Joe Quigg and Matt Kivlin, Rochlen helped develop the popular Malibu chip board in the late '40s and early '50s. In 1949, a shirtless Rochlen (6' 1", 190 lbs) was featured on the cover of Life magazine, for an article titled "Holiday at the Beach."
Rochlen received a B.A. in psychology from UCLA in 1954, worked as a systems analyst for the Santa Monica–based RAND Corporation think tank, then moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1962, where he founded Surf Line Hawaii with California surfer Dick Metz. Rochlen and his Hawaiian-born wife created the Jams line the following year; the long, loose-fitting, brightly colored surf trunks were an instant success, and soon available in department stores across America. Future Pipeline ace Gerry Lopez was among the many shapers who worked at Surf Line Hawaii. In 1969, Rochlen sold Surf Line and focused on Jams; eventually the company had more than 100 employees and its still-incredibly-loud beachwear was sold around the world.
Rochlen was also known as one of surfing's most thoughtful and articulate voices. "It's simple," he said when asked by American surf writer Leonard Lueras in 1984 to explain the sport's attraction. "The ocean is the most wondrous thing on the planet, and a breaking wave is the single most exciting thing happening in the ocean." Riding a wave, Rochlen said, allowed you to "reach out and touch the face of God."
Rochlen died in 2003, age 78, of pancreatic cancer. He had five children, and the youngest, Pua, become president of Surf Line Hawaii. In 2010, Rochlen was inducted to Surfing Walk of Fame, in Huntington Beach
Rochlen's nephew, "Baby Dave" Rochlen, won the 1962 Malibu Invitational, as well as the paddling division of the 1961 West Coast Surfing Championships. In the mid-'60s he was the chaperone-coach for the Makaha Skateboard team, and then the Hobie Skateboard team.