Stab Magazine | The Brazilian Storm is Downgraded, California's Coming in Hot!

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The Brazilian Storm is Downgraded, California’s Coming in Hot!

Ex CT vets from the Bear Flag state, Taylor Knox and Pat O’Connell discuss. 

news // Apr 15, 2016
Words by Jake Howard
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Florida’s faltering, the Aussies are in disarray (save Wilko) and the Brazilian storm’s been downgraded.

Amidst the chaos that is the 2016 WSL Championship Tour, the rag-tag cast of Californians are staging a quiet Bear Flag revolt. Pending the outcome of Margaret River, four of the Golden State’s own sit in the Top 20, and three are in the Top 10.

“It’s so fun to watch the Americans on tour this year,” marvels forever-young Taylor Knox.

“It’s exciting, for sure,” confirms Pat O’Connell, who spent 10 years on tour with Taylor. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had so many guys from the West Coast at the top of the ratings like this.”

https://www.youtube.com/embed/qTFGcMbYP3Y

In his rookie debut, Conner Coffin’s provided savvy reminiscent of a man who’s been through the tour a few times over. Going into Margaret River he was sitting second in the world. His time under the tutelage of Brad Gerlach has served him well. Growing up at Rincon, surfing the Ranch regularly, spending ample time at the family house fronting Pipe, and working as a boat driver at Tavarua hasn’t hurt his growing skill set.

“You can see the spring in his step, you can tell he’s really excited to be there,” says Pat. “He knows how hard he worked to get to where he’s at and he’s enjoying every minute of it.”

In theory, good things come to good people, and Conner’s one of the good guys. Quiet, polite and diligent, and behind the mellow demeanour is the power hack of a savage.

America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, badass speed. – Eleanor Roosevelt, 1936

“He’s close to the same age as Kolohe, but they were just on different paths and now look at how they’re doing,” continues Pat.

This year, Kolohe, after the debacle that was last season, hit reset and has comeback a stronger, albeit slightly wounded, man. He made his second-ever CT final at Snapper to start the season before faltering in round two at Bells. Undaunted, he’s hoisted the manoeuvre of the contest at Margs thus far (a lofty, wind-assisted oop!). Like his facial hair, he’s starting to get winning figured out.

“Unfortunately I’ve been nursing two injuries, so I don’t really get to freesurf that much,” said Kolohe after acing his round three heat at Margies and looking more like a NASCAR driver than WSL contender. “Coming out of a freesurf before a heat pain-free is a win for me at this point,” Brother said. “It makes me appreciate that I’m here.”

If he can shake a nagging turf toe injury he’ll be well positioned for the upcoming stops at J-Bay and Lowers.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/sKrSWyTOzzA

“My dad expects me to win a world title every day… but that’s impossible,” smirks Kolohe.

Kolohe’s bestie, Nat Young, is right on his heels. Sitting in 10th right now, Nat’s still rolling at Margs, so expect him to climb. With a round three win over local fav and recent retiree Taj Burrow, the Santa Cruz kid has momentum on his side. In fact, the rise of the Californians might be somewhat attributable to the fact that Taj, Mick and Kelly all seem to finally be ageing out of the game — or at least losing interest in it.

“It’s the same thing that happened when Taylor and I got on tour, there was a generational shift happening,” says Pat.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/MjVV-Dq-4X4

Speaking of a generational shift, Kanoa Igarashi may be the youngest surfer on tour, but the boy’s quickly becoming a man. Minus a wild, pre-event shark scare, he’s started the year better than expected. A ninth at Snapper and 13th at Bells has him ranked well ahead of guys like Kelly, Gabriel Medina and Julian Wilson. Who would’ve predicted him outflanking Jack Freestone so dramatically? Heady stuff for a teenager.

“I personally love how good they are on rail, while also mixing it up in the air,” says Taylor. “It’s the best crop in a long time.”

Historically, Californians have a way of not sealing the deal at the end of the year. The last world title to come to the state was in 1990 with Tom Curren. Shane Beschen got close. Rob Machado was a high-five away. But given that anything seems to go on tour right now, wouldn’t it be something if the year ended gold plated?

https://player.vimeo.com/video/140631216

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