Imagine being 18 years old, and when someone asks you about your career aspirations, you say you want to be “an actress, a professional athlete and a fashion designer.”
“Keep on dreaming” would probably be the response from the cynics among us, but for Santa Barbara native Maika Monroe, all of these dreams actually are coming true at once.
“I can’t even believe it,” said Monroe, who left Santa Barbara High School last year for the windy waters of the Dominican Republic (with her mom, Dixie, as chaperone) to train to become a professional kiteboarder. If that’s not exciting enough, her first movie comes out later this year, an as-yet-untitled project in which she co-stars as High School Musical heartthrob Zac Efron’s girlfriend.
She had been training in the Dominican Republic for about three months — all the while working with her acting coach via Skype and sending out audition tapes for movies — when she got the call to meet with the director.
“I think I had a day to get home,” Monroe said. “I can remember my mom and I were frantically packing everything up.
“I met with the director and I think they called six girls for the call back, and then the following day met again and then the next day I got a call that I booked it.”
Still clearly tickled by the memory, she continued: “I remember just screaming and being so excited. I was home in Santa Barbara probably for another week, then I was flying out to Chicago to start filming. It just happened so fast. It was crazy.”
Her friends’ reaction to the news?
“They were just freaking out,” she laughed. “Because all of my friends, we would always watch the High School Musical movies and get all of the magazines, and I was actually going to be filming with him. And not just filming with him but playing his girlfriend!”
She and Efron didn’t meet or even talk before they started filming, which is unusual.
“I was preparing myself,” Monroe said. “I’m thinking this guy has to be kind of arrogant and stuck up because, you know, how dang cute he is. But he is just so much fun and so down to earth. We had the best time.”
While we’re on the subject of being dang cute and down to earth, all of her amazing success doesn’t seem to be going to the head of Monroe, who attended Montessori Center School, Santa Barbara Middle School and Santa Barbara High. In the second semester of her senior year, she opted to finish up remotely so she could train for kiteboarding.
“I had to say goodbye to all of my friends and my dad stayed back home,” she said. “It was hard; it was really hard.”
It was Monroe’s father, Jack, who started kiteboarding first, when Maika was about 11.
“I just remember watching him and saying, ‘Oh, my gosh, that is so cool,’” she said. “I was always such a beach girl, loved the ocean, and so finally I convinced him to teach me when I was about 13. We took our first trip to Puerto Rico for kiteboarding, because there’s great wind there. Ever since then I’ve just been learning my butt off!”
Going to the Dominican Republic gave Monroe the boost she needed, and things have yet to slow down.
“It’s hard balancing both,” she said of kiteboarding and acting. “I was able to compete about a month ago in Australia, which was so awesome. I was glad that I had the time to take off from work (as an actress) and be able to do that because it was so much fun.”
“That would be so cool,” she said.
One of her biggest sponsors is Airbound Apparel, which specializes in beach and kiteboarding clothes.
“They asked me to design a women’s line, so I have some shirts out and I’m starting to work on the fall stuff,” Monroe said. “It will be a whole line and will include bathing suits. ... I’m basically designing and creating all of the graphics for the T-shirts and choosing the styles, colors, everything. It’s so much fun. I love it!”
Yes, life couldn’t get much sweeter for this hometown girl, who recently got her first apartment, which she shares with her dog, Romeo, a rescue puppy who stole her heart when she found him on the streets of the Dominican Republic.
“This is going to be my first big film and I had the most incredible cast,” she said. “I love it so much but I love kiteboarding, too, so I’m trying to balance and do the best I can.”
It may not have added to the balance, but Monroe recently managed to slip into her busy schedule a music video for the Synthesizers. In the video, Matthew McConaughey reprises his David Wooderson character from Dazed and Confused.
When she’s not making movies and videos, kiteboarding or designing her clothing line, Monroe can be found at her favorite spot on Butterfly Beach.
“I live at the beach as much as I can,” she explained. “I love any kind of water sport, including wakeboarding, which is a lot like kiteboarding, and surfing.
“I’m not very good at surfing but I still like it,” she laughed.
“I can’t believe that I’m pursuing all my dreams and they are coming true at 18,” she said. “Everything that I love and everything that I want to do with my life, I’m doing right now, and it’s so so amazing and so exciting!”