Unlocked: Parker Coffin Combats Seven Years Worth Of Mind Demons In SEOTY Entry ‘Sendo’
Sometimes, the only way out is through the belly of a Pipe bomb.
The concept of self-improvement can be approached at many different angles.
Some folks consult books. Others — some of them world champions, perhaps — opt for ayahuasca. A few people go in/near the Himalayas to sit on a cushion and not speak for an extended period of time.
For Parker Coffin, self-improvement meant practicing takeoffs on dry land and waiting (and waiting) out the back at Pipeline before confronting a fear that he’d kept buried for seven years.
At a glance, the 27-year-old’s new Sendo edit might seem like the standard Hawaii highlight reel. But the clip marks the first time since 2015 that Parker has felt like himself in heavy surf. This stems back to a near-death experience at Kandui seven years ago when he hit his head on the reef, blacked out underwater, and came up bleeding out of multiple parts of his body.
“I couldn’t stop crying and couldn’t believe that I was still alive. I was just sitting in a chair gushing blood all over the deck of the restaurant thinking about my life and my family and how miraculous it was that I woke up on the surface,” he said shortly after the incident.
Understandably, it left Parker with serious anxiety in bigger waves — but he’s not afraid to put the work in. You don’t make a Stab In The Dark winning CI model by sitting on your couch. You also can’t conquer a fear without facing it, and Parker took the scenic route when re-constructing his relationship with heavy water.
Read on for a conversation with Parker to learn about how he took the scenic route when re-constructing his relationship with heavy water, and how he created this Pipe-heavy Stab Edit Of The Year entry for your viewing pleasure (and potentially our Bitcoin).
Stab: To start, why did you decide to make a North Shore edit?
Parker: I’ve been lucky to spend a lot of time in Hawaii since I was a young kid. I feel like I grew up at a time when your performance in Hawaii meant everything. The North Shore taught me all that I know about surfing, how lineups work, and how to be respectful to locals. It’s been such an important place for the formation of my surfing and for myself as a person. Last year, I was lucky enough to participate in the Da Hui Backdoor Shootout on the Snap4 team. I ended up having my first major sessions at Pipeline after a couple years of trying to get back into the mindset of being in that lineup. Even though my accident was a while ago, it left me terrified of bigger waves. Pipeline was the one wave where I would be on the beach getting ready and my body would go into this really weird, scared state. It’s a fucking scary wave.
I think the real reason why I wanted to make Sendo is personal. I want to be able to look back at this chapter of my life where I was combating what scared me the most — big waves. There’s a personal fulfillment side of it. I’m by no means the best Pipeline surfer in the world, but I’m trying my best out there and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone.
Was it the Kandui accident that took you out of that headspace?
Yes, Kandui in 2015. We were filming for Psychic Migrations. It was huge and really good. And honestly, I was going on waves that I knew I wasn’t gonna make just to prove the point that I would go. I was being stupid [laughs]. Then I hit my head, shoulder and foot on the reef really hard all at once and got knocked out. I woke up underwater. My mouth was open and I was sucking in water.
I don’t know why I woke up. I thought about that for a long time — how did I get so lucky that I even woke up? There were a lot of people that watched me go through the process of getting saved and getting stitched up. Koa Smith, Billy Kemper, Eli Olson, and Koa Rothman were all there at the time and they knew how freaked out I was.
I definitely think I didn’t handle the trauma in the best way possible. I buried it and tried not to think about it, but it would come up later in my life.
There were different scenarios. In Hawaii, even years later, I’d still feel this crazy fear. It was a really long drawn-out process for me to try to get over it. It’s taken me years and years, but last year being in the lineup with Mason (Ho) and Benji (Brand) during the Da Hui Backdoor Shootout, I finally felt really comfortable again. It was the biggest hurdle I’ve ever had to overcome in my surf career. I used to love surfing bigger waves but after the accident, my body and my mind would get into this fight or flight mode and it was hard for me to start pushing it again.
And how did you get back on the horse?
The main reason I got hurt was because I hit my head, so I got a helmet right away. At first, I had weird insecurities that I looked dorky or whatever, because people have talked shit about helmets in the past. But then I would paddle out and just sit there and not go for waves. I’d just feel the energy of the lineup.
I did that for a whole season. I honestly think I only got one or two waves out there for the whole year. The next season, I did the same thing and just sat there. The year after, there was a bigger second reef day with no one out. I paddled out so I could see how I felt without the crowd. I paddled into a wave and ate shit, but came up and it was as if I got the best wave of my life. I fucking screamed at the top of my lungs out of pure excitement. I was just so happy that I survived.
It felt like I had jumped over a major hurdle. I got a good wave later in the season, which was a confidence booster. I was also lucky that a lot of my friends knew what I was kind of going through. Like the Moniz brothers — they were always there for me. It was a slow building of confidence over the years. No matter what, you can’t be too comfortable at Pipe. You always gotta have your head on a swivel and be ready for anything.
Funny how wipeouts tend to stick with you, for better or for worse.
If you’re gonna push yourself, you’re gonna wipe out. And things can happen, but you can’t fixate on the times when everything went bad. Most of the time it’s okay.
To me, the meaning of Sendo is a mindset that I have to put myself into now. At a wave like Pipe, you have to be able to read the ocean and be really calculated. But then you also need to have this inner psycho that makes you actually want to catch one of those things.
Do you now feel like you’re back in the mix out there?
When I paddle out, I want to be super respectful and wait my turn and let the locals get their waves. There’s a fine line between going on crazy waves and being calculated and smart. There’s a middle ground, and it seems like the best guys out there are really smart at reading the ocean, but then they also know when and where to push themselves. That’s why the boys are the boys out at Pipe. They’re running the show. I’ve learned that there’s so much for me to learn at Pipeline.
Did Brad Gerlach’s Wave Ki help you?
Yeah, Wave Ki is insane because you can visualize things in your mind while you’re doing physical movements. I practiced the takeoff so much, going through the motions of paddling into a steep one over and over again while thinking about what it would feel like. I might only get two or three opportunities on a real wave at Pipe each year. Creating that scenario in your mind and going through the process on land makes you feel like you’ve done it more than you actually have.
It looks like you’ve opted for bigger equipment out there recently.
Last year was the first season that I ever really tried to ride a bigger board. It’s a different approach. You’re probably not gonna get as deep and critical as the people sitting under the ledge on tiny boards. But I felt like it opened up the lineup more and made me feel more comfortable getting momentum coming into the ledge.
Mason Ho knew where I was with my headspace and encouraged me to try something bigger that might help me position myself better. I believe I was on a 7’3″ shrunken down Maverick’s gun.
Any other places you’d like to ride a board like that?
It’d be pretty cool to have one at Cloudbreak. It’s a massive playing field when it’s huge and there are different waves coming in at different places along the reef. But I’ve never surfed a wave like Pipeline. It’s the most intense ride I’ve ever experienced on a surfboard.
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