Chris Zaffis Makes the Most of His Lunch Break in ‘Welcome Home’
Not bad for an electrician.
Unless you’re a close follower of the Qualifying Series or grew up in New South Wales’ Northern Rivers region, you’ve probably never heard of 23-year-old ripper Chris Zaffis. You might remember that he won the Mentawai Rip Curl Pro in some of the best contest waves ever, flawless six-foot Lance’s Right, and you’ve possibly seen his name in the draw at the business end of events on the WSL Asia series. That’s the tour that goes to the spots the Championship Tour wishes it could; Keramas, Cloud Nine, Krui, Nias etc. Beyond that, you probably aren’t too familiar with the stylish natural footer from Angourie, who grew up watching fellow stylish natural footers Laurie Towner and Bryce Young tear their local point to pieces.
I first met Chris Zaffis in 2012, on the Red Bull Future Surf Camp hosted by then two-time world champ Mick Fanning. It was a concept ahead of its time, with Mick hand-picking a squad of up-and-coming pre-teen Aussies to learn a thing or two about what it takes to become a professional surfer while road tripping from Sydney to the Gold Coast. From competitive weapons like Mikey Wright and Jacob Willcox to future free surfers like Louie Hynd and Kai Hing, Mick showed that he can identify talent as well as he can surf, and the squad packed their A-games in their custom-made swags as they got the all-day-wetty-wearing frenzy underway.
Red Bull coaches Andy King and Sean Hayes filmed and reviewed video after every session, and guys like commentator Ronnie Blakey and photographer Peter “Bosko” Boskovic swung by for cameos, dropping surf industry cheat codes on the wide-eyed pack. I went along to cover the action for Surfing Life magazine, and in a room full of boisterous alpha groms, the lanky, shy, 13-year-old Zaffis all but blended into the wallpaper.
These days Chris is six-foot tall and all grown up and, as seen in this edit, Welcome Home, his surfing more than speaks for itself. While life threw curveballs aplenty at the world in 2020, somehow things fell into place for Zaffis, despite how he first feared things might play out.
“I finally finished my electrical apprenticeship in 2020,” says Chris, “right as shit was hitting the fan. I come from New South Wales but my girlfriend is in Queensland, and I was really worried about the state borders closing, so had to figure out where I was going to base myself. In the end I chose Queensland, even though she lived in Surfer Paradise of all places. For a kid from Angourie that took a while to get used to, on top of already stressing about being unemployed and events being cancelled.
“As fate would have it, I met a legend in the surf one day who heard my story and offered me a job on the spot. His name’s Ahmed El Safty and he’s the CEO of a company called Zero Emissions Developments, who work in the renewable energy sector. I started work as an electrician with them the next day, and since then he’s also given me all the time off I need to compete and chase swells. It was a dream come true, and I still can’t believe it!
“This clip was all filmed on the Gold Coast over the past 12-months, and edited by my best mate Nick Colclough. After so long on the road it was cool to settle down in one place for a while, and it didn’t hurt that the Gold Coast pumped, with endless back-to-back swells. I was having the time of my life chasing waves with mates, working a bit learning new skills in my trade, and enjoying living with my partner.
“The north end of the Goldie is quieter than you might think, plus South Straddie is right here and obviously insane, so I’d definitely say this place is starting to feel like home. Things don’t always go as you might hope, but I honestly can’t believe how lucky and stoked I am to be working and surfing, stuck here with pumping waves. To top things off I got engaged to my girl Charlotte, at the end of the year… life’s good!”
Onya Chris, couldn’t happen to a better bloke. For the rest of us, could there be a better example of why you should be friendly and talk to people in the line-up? Nah, didn’t think so. Go hoot a stranger today.
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