Stab Magazine | Griffin Colapinto Will "Rip Somebody’s Heart Out And Eat It For Breakfast”

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Griffin Colapinto Will “Rip Somebody’s Heart Out And Eat It For Breakfast”

Says Jake ‘Snake’ Patterson in this profile of California’s sweet, well-mannered and grounded hope. 

style // Oct 5, 2018
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Griffin Colapinto’s not trying to be anybody but himself. And, in the social media era, that’s delightful.

“With all the money, fame and fortune that’s come his way lately, he’s still so level-headed. He hasn’t changed one little bit,” Jake ‘Snake’ Patterson–who has been coaching Griffin for the better part of the past two years–told Stab.

“He still says ‘thank you’ for every compliment he gets. He’s not taking anything for granted,” continued Snake. “But he’s unique. He’s not always going to give you that straight answer after a heat. That’s what I love about him. He can throw something at you out of left field. It’s really refreshing.”

Twenty years old and in the midst of a strong rookie debut on the WSL Championship Tour, Colapinto announced his arrival early on in the 2018 season with a demonstrative performance at pumping Kirra.

“I didn’t really come into this year with any expectations, I think that’s always a good mindset to have,” Griffin told Stab. “The year’s kind of gone how I thought it would go, where I got a couple of good results and have a couple of events that were harder to figure out. I’m not expecting to be going for a world title this year, so yeah, all’s good.”

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“He should be going for the title next year or the year after,” countered Patterson. “He’s got no weaknesses. He’s great in big barrels. He’s got incredible style when it’s small. Everyone knows he’s incredible in the air. He can get himself out of a sticky situation, which all the top guys seem to be able to do.”

Colapinto didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. Raised in San Clemente, he grew up on the NSSA and Pro Junior circuit, dreaming of someday following the same path as town elders like Kolohe Andino, Ian Crane, the Gudauskas brothers, Nate Yeomans and a slew of other talented Clementites. He enjoyed three distinct advantages growing up. One, he was exposed to a crazy amount of talent from a young age. Two, constant access to Lower Trestles. Three, support from the surf industry.

“When he was little, and I’m not joking, he would spend eight or nine hours at Lowers. His mom would bring him meals down there. It was gnarly,” explained Jacob Vanderwork, Colapinto’s friend since he was four years old and filmer. “That’s why he’s so good.”

But most sports’ clichés allude to talent only getting one so far. It’s all the work nobody sees that makes greats great.

“We call him ‘The Sponge’ because he soaks in everything. Even when I’m coaching the other guys he takes it all in and he loves it,” described Patterson. “It’s work ethic. He’s not off on the side fucking around. He’s studying. He’s particular. He analyzes. He knows what he wants. He doesn’t just watch a clip and go out and try something. He’s slowing it down, understanding where the drive comes through on a turn or something like that. He’s articulate.”

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Oh, how Griff truly is California’s new hope.

And not just a freak when it comes to his progressive repertoire, Griff is a student of surfing. Before his sessions he watches footage of Joel Parkinson and Andy Irons. He’s identified their stylistic approaches as something he’d like to not only emulate but take to the next level.

“The night I got third at Snapper I went over to Parko’s house and we kind of partied and had fun,” told Griffin. “It was really cool. Right there was kind of an introduction to being friends and really getting to hang out with those guys. At all the other events I saw him at I felt like we were closer because of that. And then we stayed together in Tahiti and were hanging out a bunch. I could just talk to him as if I was talking to one of my friends at home that was the same age as me. I didn’t feel scared to say anything weird, you know?”

And while Colapinto and Parko have struck up a friendly relationship during Parko’s last lap around the world tour—Colapinto may, in fact, be the heir to Parko’s abode on the point at Teahupoo next year.

“He’ll get in this mode where he won’t even talk because he’s so focused. He’s always working on something. We’ll sit and watch footage and he’ll be like, ‘See my arm, I was working on putting my arm there.’ He’ll watch Joel Parkinson and Andy Irons every time before he surfs. Every single time,” said Vanderwork. “He studies those guys, and how they read waves, and where they put their arms. He always studies.”

Much like the early days of Parko, Colapinto’s well on his way to establishing a strong presence on the CT. But more than that, he’s helping to usher in the next generational movement on tour. As veterans on tour like Parko age out and retire, Colapinto and a handful of other 20-somethings are eagerly waiting in the wings.

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“Right now, I would say it’s Kanoa [Igarashi], Ethan [Ewing], Seth [Moniz], Leo [Fioravanti] and I that are probably the four of that new generation,” explained Colapinto. “I’d say I feel like I’m part of that.”

“You have to think about it, Parko’s retiring, Kelly’s got one more year, Mick’s just retired. Taj retired the year before. So, who are those guys that are going to replace them?” posed Patterson. “There are only a handful of those talented guys. It’s not a run-of-the-mill kind of guy. They’re special. Kids like Kanoa, Griffin, Seth, they’ve got a crazy amount of talent, but you have to have that fucking crazy competitiveness that those kids have. Talent comes and goes.”

As the 2018 season has progressed this trend has become more evident. Igarashi has been on a tear, winning two QS 10,000s, including the U.S. Open where he beat Colapinto in the final.

“We feed off each other,” said Igarashi after the U.S. Open. “When Griffin qualified he must have looked at me and my rookie year. I made the finals of the Pipe Masters the first year I was on tour, and I’m sure he felt like, ‘Oh sick, if he can do it, I can do it.’ It’s a confidence thing. And now, hopefully, Seth can get on tour”

Seth is knocking on the door of qualifying for the 2019 CT, he’s an addition the Colapinto camp would much like to see.

“Griffin and Seth are really, really close,” explained Vanderwork. “Griffin has been going to Hawaii his whole life, pretty much, and he puts in so much time there and he always surfs with Seth. Seth is one of his best friends over there. And if he’s on tour next year, that’s going to be really cool.”

“[Griffin and Seth] We’ve been surfing together for a long time and we really push each other,” said Moniz during the U.S. Open. “It would be a lot of fun to be on tour together someday. I don’t know if that will happen next year or what, but it would be really cool to push each other in that kind of environment and at that level.”

None of the success this year appear to be going to Colapinto’s head. He’s the same good-natured, sly-witted kid he’s always been. A lot of the credit for that goes to his family, who keep him honest. His father, Mitch, is a school teacher in San Clemente and runs a surf camp. He’s done an incredible job of keeping Griffin and younger brother Crosby grounded.

“My dad’s always looking at the bright side and he’s always good to travel with. If anything goes wrong, or bad, or whatever, it’s nice to have him there because he’s just a solid backup,” explained Colapinto. “He’s put in so much work into me over the years just to get me to the point where I could do the professional surfing thing. He was down at the beach filming me for just a countless amount of hours. He probably feels pretty good about all this too, like an accomplishment for him, so it’s pretty cool.”

That being said, Colapinto is still a competitive savage that gives zero fucks about destroying dreams to achieve his own.

“His parents have done an amazing job with how nice and polite he is, but he’ll rip somebody’s heart out and eat it for breakfast because he’s that competitive. That’s just the way he is, he’s competitive,” said Patterson with a chuckle.

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