The Stab Interview: Seth Moniz
A candid conversation with Hawaii’s bright and rising World Tour star.
Buoyant, bright-eyed and seemingly chiseled from solid Hawaiian stone, 21-year-old Seth Moniz is one of the most exciting new faces to join the world tour in years.
Seth, along with his best friend Griffin Colapinto, remain the tip of the polished, progressive spear, and if their knees and ligaments can continue to withstand their abusive aerial antics, as well as their steely-nerved approach in waves of consequence, the two will remain the tour’s disruptive Young Turks for years to come.
Currently, Seth sits at 14th in the world, after spending the first six months of his breakout season collecting a handful of very heavy scalps at crucial moments. Betting men that we are here at Stab, we’d put good money down on Seth keeping the momentum and comfortably walking away with a top-10 finish and the Rookie of the Year.
After a big week at the US Open, and on the eve of Seth’s new five-minute blitz, “Fruition,” Stab caught up with Seth about his first year on tour, his relationship with his universally well-liked family, as well as the aftermath of his Waco-unveiling Flip Heard ‘Round The World.
Seth Moniz, one handsome Hawaiian rooster.
Stab: How good does it feel to be home, brother? Recovering nicely from Griffin’s birthday blowout?
Seth: Yo, what up! Yeah, huge weekend over there. So good. But I missed [Griffin’s] birthday party, I had to come home on Friday. I couldn’t do it. I kind of sent it at The Bungalow a couple of nights and I was just so gassed.
We went out Saturday night for a little bit and Sunday we called it. We would have died. So let’s get into it. Welcome to your first proper Stab Interview. So how’s it feel so far being on tour? You’re leading the Rookie of the Year race, how’s the first four months in the big leagues?
It’s been a slight roller coaster, some really good moments, feeling super confident, and then just complete shockers, really feeling really down on myself.
But I’ve been enjoying it. I do feel like I have a place on tour now and that’s a good feeling as a rookie, getting those results early in the year and just getting that confidence heading into the end of the year. Getting that quarterfinal at Snapper was huge for my confidence. I’m pretty stoked on where I am right now sitting on the 14th yeah.
On the QS, there are so many great guys, but then you’ll, you know, you have those, not easy heats, these totally makeable heats where you’re like, “Come on, I’m better than these guys…” I can just sort of psych and make a heat. But on tour, it’s psycho how everyone surfs so well, you can’t make a mistake.
I do feel like the best surfing nowadays is happening on tour. Do you feel like you’re doing your best surfing in heats these days?
I kind of do. I think your best surfing comes out when there’s just that little bit of extra pressure, or when you know all these eyes are on you in a CT contest.
It’s exciting to have that pressure on myself and to be performing my best.
There are few royal Hawaiian families as universally adored and respected than the Moniz Family, and Seth carries the name proudly.
So there’s only really a handful of family lineages that carry weight in surfing, and your family is definitely one of them. What does it feel like to be a Moniz on tour? You know, with who your pops and mom are, and with your sister being a World Champ, and your brothers being standouts in Hawaii since they were tiny. Do you feel like that adds pressure or does it just feel like sort of a badge of honor?
I think it’s a badge of honor, really. I’m just so stoked that I got to make the Tour, for my family.
But growing up, my dad never put any pressure on us, like to make the tour. He has never a crazy Surf Dad that was going: “You gotta surf six hours a day, you gotta surf all day, or you’re not going to be successful.’ He kind of just let us have fun. And I think that worked out the best for me.
A lot of people ask me like, ”Oh, is there pressure?” But I’m just really comfortable having them there at these events and it kind of makes life easier traveling, too. Having my mom or dad come with me, cooking dinner, having home-cooked meals on the road—it’s nice to have them.
You’re also in the fortunate situation where your parents are kind of like surrogate parents to a lot of people on tour. You know what I mean? Your parents are like so tight with everybody.
Yeah. Especially my mom; everyone loves my mom. She’s got Instagram, like, fans. It’s pretty funny, some of the guys on tour telling, “Oh, I follow your mom—she’s the best!” And I’m like, “Oh, that’s cool. Do you follow me?” [Laugh]
I mean, when my dad was in his heyday surfing, you know, she was in the scene, so she kind of knows a bit—she’s a pretty educated surf mom I guess.
My mom’s so funny, being on tour with me and the whole scene.
I feel like people have such conflicted relationships with their pops when they’re on tour sometimes. What is your relationship like with your dad? You guys seem to have a pretty lighthearted, open relationship.
Yeah, it’s solid. He’s not pushy at all, he lets me and Rainos [Hayes, Seth’s coach] do our thing, he’s not trying to butt in there and like coach me. I feel like some dads kind of do that: even if the kid has their own coach though like put in their say and they say too much. But they’re tight, and I trust them a lot—and if dad has to say something, you know it’s good, just from him being a competitor and a surfer that has a lot of knowledge on kind of everything.
It also doesn’t hurt how long your dad and Rainos have been friends.
I think Rainos was like 16 when my dad first met him, when he was judging a contest in Hawaii, and there’s a story where Rainos came in and my dad went up to him and was like, Man, you can really surf well. And I think that he just stoked out Rainos, and ever since they’ve known each other they’ve been tight.
Rainos is a pretty special dude.
Rainos, he’s a lover. He has no bad vibes and that’s what works the best.
I’ve never seen him be negative or seem upset or anything, just psyched every day—first thing in the morning, just dawn to dusk, he’s the same.
Yeah. He’s smiling all day. He’s only maybe mad when I do something dumb in a heat or something, I’ll come in and he’s definitely not afraid to tell me if I did something wrong.
But he’s almost like a second dad to me, but we have that coach relationship where he can kinda tell me anything and I’ll trust him. I think that’s the biggest thing with coaching and surfers: if you’re gonna have a coach, you gotta trust them. Having full trust in what he tells me, otherwise there’s no point.
I think it’s really valuable to find someone who’s smarter than you are at certain things. You know what I mean? If you can’t find those people, you’re missing out on the whole point of having a coach. It also doesn’t hurt that, fuck, how good does Rainos surf! I was watching him at Jeffrey’s just like destroying shit.
Yeah. He rips. I think a coach needs to know how to surf at that level to know what I’m thinking out there and what I’m going through in a heat to be a good coach.
Seth spinning with altitude and velocity at home in Hawaii.
Mason’s talked about how you watching you surf is like watching like a young Dane K. or Johnny Boy or Sunny. What does it mean for you to be a proper full-blooded Hawaiian on tour these days?
Yeah, it’s pretty cool. I get to carry on the Hawaiian legacy on tour. There hasn’t been many full-blooded Hawaiians, so it’s cool I get to carry that on my back, and hopefully I can make those guys proud.
Do you feel different in Hawaii now that you’re that guy on tour? Do you feel like you’re sort of like someone that Hawaiians look to as their guy?
Yeah, I get so much support every time I paddle out to any of my local spots, the spots I know the elders or the uncles out there, and they’re all this so stoked on me: Ah, I only watched the contests now because you’re on it, and I’ll watch every one! That’s pretty cool.
I know it’s sort of a tough subject with Sunny still being in such a critical situation, what does Sunny Garcia’s legacy mean to your generation and what was he like for you guys growing up, looking up to him.
He’s the guy that set the pace for everyone. He was just straight raw on tour, and he just kind of didn’t give a fuck. He definitely set the standard for us and the generations he came up against was crazy. From Kelly to Martin Potter, all those guys were gnarly, and way more ruthless back then, you know?
I forgot to even mention Andy, but Andy was in his prime, too—Kelly and Andy, just straight animals.
You come off like a lighthearted lovable kid, but I do feel like you’ve got that fury in you, that Andy and Sunny fire.
Yeah, we need it—just the extra fire, for sure. I mean, I think you have to just be nice on land. We all do whatever we have to in the water, but on the beach we’re all pretty much friends.
One cool thing about being on tour for me is, when I qualified I didn’t know how everyone would be on tour—if they would be cool to me, or not. And it’s been such a cool experience just surfing with guys like Jordy and Kelly, and everyone’s actually been really nice and cool and it’s been pretty mellow.
“Yeah, we need it—just the extra fire, for sure. I mean, I think you have to just be nice on land. We all do whatever we have to in the water, but on the beach we’re all pretty much friends.”
So what are you thinking about Rookie of the Year? Who are you up against?
Soli Bailey. Peterson Crisanto. Deivid Silva. Mikey Wright, but he’s hurt.
You’re sitting above all of them right now?
Yeah, I’m 14th, and I think the closest one to me is 19th or 20th
And you got three good events or four good events for you coming up?
Yeah, I’m pretty excited actually because I knew the first half would be a battle—it’d be tougher for me, you know? It was kind of all right points, and I didn’t grow up surfing waves like that, I grew up surfing barreling waves or waves like Haleiwa, just punchy, two-turn waves. I was never a point break guy, so I was stoked to get like a few solid results in the beginning of this half.
Now, the next half is kind of waves that suit me. Chopes, France, Portugal, Pipe…
Have you surfed Chopes much?
Yeah, I’ve spent some time there, been there four or five times, but I never really got it big yet. I’ve never had it, like, 10 feet. It’s always been like six foot, nothing too dangerous or scary. But I’ll be excited to surf it.
Chopes and Pipe are like the two spots that like there’s such outliers— there’s so many people who could do so well in all the other events, and just absolutely bomb those places.
Yeah, there’s certain guys you don’t want to draw at Snapper or J-Bay, but you’d be psyched to draw at Chopes or Pipe.
What’s been the highlight of your year so far on tour?
Probably the first event, getting to the quarters at Snapper. I had like seven of my best friends and my mom and dad and my uncle and sister and it was this pretty cool moment, having them all there. It’s good to share a moment like that.
What about that Box session?
That Box session! Before the event, everyone was practicing at Margies, and Box was firing. I was just like, “Oh, I’m just going to surf Box.” Like, you never know, we could run there, maybe, and luckily we did because that wave is one you need to have practice at. My first few sessions, I was having a shocker, but then I got to kind of know it and then I had a pretty good heat out there. But my next heat was against Jack [Robinson] and I was like, “oh please, please don’t run at the box.
If they’d ran the whole thing at Box, Jack would have won that contest.
So how’s your relationship with Griffin and what it’s like being on tour with that kid?
Yeah, Griffin… [Laughs]. We’ve both been sponsored by Billabong for over 10 years, so we grew up together. Funny story, Rainos sponsored our entire family, as like a unit, with Billabong—we had my sister who longboarded, and then my older brothers are really good surfers.
Griffin got sponsored at around 12, and ever since then he’s been coming to Hawaii and staying with me. He’s my best friend, you know? We grew up staying at the Billabong house, and now we’re on tour, it’s pretty cool.
Here’s a story: We were actually in the Mentawais one day and we’re going back to the dock, leaving on the last day of the trip, and we’re like both sitting in the front of the boat. He’s like, “Holy crap, Seth. Like, if we don’t make this tour, what else are we going to do? We’re not skilled at anything else. We’re not that smart. We can’t do anything else.”
We were probably 18— it wasn’t too long ago! [Laughs]
Hawaii’s World Tour future is bright in the hands of young Seth.
Too good. So was how does Josh [Moniz] feel about you qualifying before him?
I mean, it’s not like he like told me his feelings [laughs]. But I know it made him want to be there so much more. And of course I want him with me, he’d be sick to travel with, and I hope I gave him that extra push. He doesn’t have any results right now, like big ones yet, but there’s still four more primes I think. So there’s still plenty of time and I think he’ll get it to get it done. Yeah.
So what’s the rest of the year look like for you, any trips planned or anything else going on?
I mean, this is the most I’ve traveled, ever. Like, every time I come home it’s probably four or five days at the most. It’s hard to plan any trips in advance, but I think I’ll be able to slip in a little strike mission here or there.
This new edit is probably the most radical clip you’ve dropped since the Flip Heard ‘Round The World when Waco got unveiled. Sam Mcintosh and all of us were sitting at Kelly’s Wave when you dropped that flip clip from Waco, and we literally walked into the office the next day and were like, we have to throw a contest. What was it like sort of being such a massive part of the coming out party for that pool and what’s it been like seeing the aerial progression since that clip came out?
Yeah, going on that trip, I was really suspect. My friend Rob Kelly invited me, he had connections with them and asked me, “Hey, want to come and surf this pool?” And I was like, “can I see a clip of it?” And he’s like, “I don’t have any clips.” I thought it was going to be the wave pool in Austin, Texas [N’Land]. That kind of shit.
So I just went and yeah, Jamie [O’Brien] was there before me, and on the way there he was like “the air section is so perfect for a flip.” The next day I got to surf it and I did that flip. But I was there with these little girls like Samantha Sibley, and this kid Cruise, and I saw their progression throughout the two days—It was crazy. I think Cruise is like, 10, and he started, he learned how to do airs in that pool and so did she—pulling little straight airs—and I was like, “Well this, this is going to be crazy for the next generation.”
The stuff that you can learn getting that constant same intersection…
I mean after I did that backflip, I got like two full days, like eight hour days in the pool with four people out. I felt so confident on my airs after that. I went to Japan and I got a 10 for doing an air there and I’d never gotten a 10 before. I was landing everything; I literally wasn’t falling that whole year, and I’m pretty sure that pool is the reason. I mean, I had that US Open Air…
That backside air! That thing was fucked up. I watched that from the sand and it was like the whole beach took one big breath when you punted that thing and then lost it.
[Laughs] Yeah, the crowd went crazy and I just did the biggest claim ever, because I knew right then that I had just fucking qualified. I knew that would give me enough points to qualify. So it was a lot of emotion coming out of there.
Well, we’re psyched you’re bringing that to the big boys now, the tour is properly shaken I think watching some of your heats. Can’t wait to see what you do in Tahiti, brother.
Yeah, it’s going to be so fun.
Seth Moniz at home in Hawaii, and happy about it.
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