Nobody wants it more than Kolohe "45-days-up-before-4" Andino. Photo: WSL
It's Been 10 Years Since A Male Californian Won A CT Event
"Californian surfers are brought up fucking soft and pampered." - Kolohe Andino on how this decade-long trend came to be.
That’s how long it’s been since a male Californian won a Championship Tour event.
Bobby Martinez was the last to do it in 2009, leaving radical Californian talents like Dane Reynolds, Kolohe Andino, Nat Young, Brett Simpson, Conner Coffin, Brett Simpson, Pat Gudauskas, Griffin Colapinto, (previously) Kanoa Igarashi, and Brett Simpson eerily winless.
The only question worth asking is: Why?
Considering they've owned more than 10% of total CT slots over the past ten years, and taking into account the talent of that group in comparison to, say, Willian Cardoso (who won an event in his rookie season), it seems strange that roughly 100 events could go by without one Bear Flagger reigning supreme.
And yes, they’ve gotten close.
Kolohe has three seconds to his name, as does Nat Young. Dane nearly took home trophies at Lowers and France, while Conner made a final at Portugal and Kanoa another at Pipe (while he was still under the US banner). That makes California 0-for-10 since the new decade began.
Despite the Participation Trophy era in which we live, when it comes to surfing, silver medals do not suffice. So we asked California's two foremost CT "veterans": Why can’t you guys* win?
(A year and a half ago, we posed this same question to three of California’s former CT winners, Rob Machado, Taylor Knox, and Bobby Martinez. You can read that here.)
Conner Coffin (has had one CT final in his career, finished 7th place overall in 2018)
On how California has gone so long without an event win:
Holy shit, I don’t know! A bunch of us have finished in the top-10 too, so I think it’s wild that no one from California has won an event in the past decade.
I feel like to win an event, you have to have that mojo going and make sure you ride it to the finish line – you can’t slow down at all.
On why he, personally, hasn’t taken home a victory:
I can’t speak for the other Californians, but for me, I think I just really started to believe I could win an event in my last year of being on Tour. I maybe had glimmers of hope before that, but my confidence and belief in myself weren’t there before.
I used to be like, “Oh, I’m in the quarters against Mick, this is rad,” instead of just considering it as another heat and being super hungry to win it. I was already stoked with that result, ya know? But the extra experience that I’ve gathered at the pointy end of the events is extremely valuable, and I’ve changed that mindset in recent times.
I don’t have the air game that some of the top guys have, so that probably makes it harder to win a few events on tour as well. But I know my strengths, and I know I can do it, so I think it’ll take that little bit of extra drive, hunger, and belief coupled with some solid surfing for me to finally win one!
On why Brazilians win so often (they claimed 9 of 11 events in 2018):
I think the Brazilians are really hungry because surfing is such a sick lifestyle and it’s become a way to a great life, especially when you’re coming from a place where there’s a lot less opportunity than somewhere like California.
Even within the surf industry – less and less these days, but still – Californians have had the opportunity to make a decent living outside of the jersey, whereas in Brazil that’s not typically feasible. But Brazilians are super talented and they have that attitude that they will do whatever it takes to win.
We’re all products of our environment and Brazil is a badass place where you have to be full alpha to get to the top!
Kolohe Andino (has had three CT finals in his career, finished 11th place overall in 2018)
On learning that Bobby was the last male Californian to win a CT (in 2009):
Fuck, it's pretty crazy, huh? Especially because Nat and I have each had three tries, then Dane had a couple too. Plus Conner and Kanoa. Yeah, it’s wild.
On seeing surfing as a culture, not a “sport":
Miki Dora was one of the best surfers in the world, but he never competed. He was just this rad, fucking badass surf dude that lived on the beach, you know? And I feel like that spirit has kind of persisted within the California surfing culture. It's always been more about seeming "cool" than it is trying to win at all costs.
Even for someone like myself, who had sponsors as a kid and loved competing, I just liked being a little “ripper grom” in San Clemente and all the perks that came with it – money, media attention, chicks, whatever – but I wasn’t thinking of World Titles.
When I was young, my favorite surfer was Taj, and he never won a Title. Then it changed to Dane, who is obviously not known for his "competitive" surfing. It wasn’t until I got on Tour that I realized I wanted to win a World Title and started working toward that goal**. Whereas I feel like Gabriel probably wanted to become World Champion as soon as he started surfing.
On Brazil’s X-factor:
Look at Gabriel, Filipe, and Italo. All three of them kinda came out of nowhere, and they were pretty much instantly successful on the Tour. Imagine how much work they had to put in when nobody was looking to get to that level. They must have really wanted it.
And those guys are all amazing surfers, but it’s about confidence as much as it is ability. When they put the jersey on, it's like they go into a monster mode where they're going for the biggest stuff they’ve ever tried, and then somehow they can’t fall off. You're like, "What the fuck?"
We’ve all felt that type of confidence before, but it comes and it goes. Meanwhile with the Brazilians, and Gabriel in particular, it’s like he’s always on. No matter where he’s surfing or who he’s surfing against, there’s no part of his mind that thinks he’s going to lose, and he rarely does.
On California’s “comfort” conundrum:
Basically what I'm saying is that the Californian surfers are brought up fucking soft and pampered. I mean, look at Kelly by comparison. After watching the movie he was in, I realized he was brought up in a gnarly situation. So was Andy. Mick too. Look at almost any sport, and you'll see that people who came from tough backgrounds tend to have the most drive to succeed.
That being said, I don’t want to put myself in the silver spoon conversation. Don't get me wrong, I've been fortunate in a lot of ways, but I also think I’ve earned a lot through hard work. My dad pushed me so hard when I was young, so maybe that's why I have that “fucking... fuck that” kind of attitude. But a lot of the surfers that have grown up in California don't feel the same way. They're pampered, I think, too much. And they're built up to be stars too young when they haven't done anything.
On winning his first CT event:
I’m backing myself to win one this year. Hopefully I do it early in the season so I can win two [laughs]. I mean there’s 11 events, why not?
*Lakey, Courtney, and Sage: you gals keep killing it!
**In pursuit of both physical and mental strength coming into the 2019 season, Kolohe has risen before 4 am for 45 straight days. Gym, surf, sleep, repeat.