Moments before Conner Coffin picked up the phone, he was duking it out with Gabriel Medina in 2 foot Huntington junk for their round of 96 heat at the US Open. He got done – by less than a point – the second time in as many events he’s lost by that margin to one of the world’s top two juniors (John John did him by about that same at firing J Bay recently). “I’m not like I wanna beat this guy. That’s not really how I set goals…but it would have been good to win that heat,” he laughs.
When Stab first met Conner he was a prodigiously talented 17 year old with a golden fuzz on his cheeks and a potentially terminal confidence problem. He’d even resorted to reading whacky ‘inner zen’ self-help books. And so when we caught up with him this time, we were keen to know how the naturally crowd-averse 19 year old from sleepy Santa Barbra was dealing with surfing’s biggest circus, as well as get a progress report on his passage through surfing’s treacherous coming of age period.
You’ve said in the past you’re not naturally competitive. How do you find events like this with four guys on a single, inconsistent peak?
Yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t call myself not competitive. I do get stoked if I beat someone who is better than me. I think the hardest part for me is the wave catching, you know, being aggressive to get the best waves. When the waves are two foot and there are three two wave sets in a heat, maybe only two sets, if you’re not on those good set waves you’re not making it through heats. That’s what I find the hardest part. I want to make it through heats but also surf well and that’s where I’m competitive. Hassling super hard for waves is where I find it hard to compete.
What’s your relationship with the US Open?
When I was a super-grom I used to always be down here with my friends from Santa Barbra watching all the guys and getting autographs. I remember the first year being in the comp I was 14 and soooo nervous. I used to dread it a bit because of the crowds and that was overwhelming but now I embrace it. I see it as a fun thing hanging out with everyone, the fans, and eating tacos. It’s nice to be able to get out of the scene at the end but I dig it.
Being a young, sought after surfer. Is it easy to get distracted?
Definitely. It’s a fricken mess. It’s crazy. It takes a long time just to walk down and surf in your heat but you’ve gotta embrace it. There are a lot of parties and movie premieres so it’s easy to get trashed. But you just do a bit of both – go out to a few parties and make sure you get to bed on time (laughter). Or not, but not too late. The waves aren’t the best, so it’s a challenging place to surf. You got outside waves and reforms, so a big part is just being positive and getting a board that works well. Then you’ve got the people. You gotta try and block out the whole thing and pretend you’re out there surfing and there’s not 100 000 people on the beach watching you.
There was a point where you having a bit of a crisis of confidence. Have you beaten that?
I’d say a contest is hard to win every time. There is only one winner. A couple of years ago I was having a hard time with contests, not enjoying it for what it is. Gerr is helping me out a lot with that with being present and having fun surfing and relaxing and do a few more carves, and surf all the time to prepare for a heat so you’re just going out to surf again in a heat and not putting added more pressure on yourself. Even the heats I’ve lost in like today, I feel like I’ve surfed well and that’s more about for me. Sometimes you’re not on the best waves and you get beaten and that’s okay. Gabe is one of the best surfers in the world so you can’t beat them all the time. As long as I’m surfing somewhat to my potential, that’s okay. More times than not you’ll be moving through heats. Ease up on the biggest picture.
You are one of America’s most highly touted juniors. How are you finding this coming of age transition to the Big Leagues?
It’s a tricky time but I’m enjoying it. I’m trying to balance the contests with lots of fun free surfing trips and just trying to have fun. Fun is easy when you’re traveling and getting good waves with your friends. And doing the comps too, but not too many. I’m only 19 so there is a lot of time to do comps. But right now I have that year or two period to do a lot of freesurfing to develop my surfing as well as doing the WQS and start getting used to being in that game. I feel like I just want to work on my surfing a lot and get it strong. I dunno, it’s tough. In the 96 round of a Prime there are 32 World Tour surfers and every heat is hard. It’s gnarly. It’s not easy to jump off the junior series and go straight into getting results and qualify. Kudos to Kolohe, Gabriel and John John, but it takes a lot, man. It’s hard. - Jed Smith
Check Condor’s stand out performance in the Electric Wilderness video below.