Statistically speaking, Snips ain't wrong. All photos: WSL
"John John Is Harder To Beat At Main Break Than He Is At Pipeline, The Box, Or Anywhere"
Mike 'Snips' Parsons offers insights from an exciting WA event in our latest installment of Coaches' Corner.
Welcome again to Coaches' Corner, where we dissect past and future CT events with the folks who are paid (sometimes handsomely) to share their surfing opinions.
This time we sat down with used the internet to chat across the globe with Mike 'Snips' Parson, WSL BWT Commissioner and coach to three of USA's hottest young upstarts: Kolohe Andino, Lakey Peterson, and Caroline Marks.
Despite the youth of this grouping (avg. age 22), Kolohe and Lakey are eight-year Tour vets while the 17-year-old Marks is in her second season and already sits at number two in the world. After two final finishes, Kolohe also finds himself as the world's second-ranked surfer, while a recent win at Margaret's event catapulted Lakey to number five.
All of these things considered, we figured it was time that we chat with the mastermind behind their success, Mr. Snips.
Stab: You have been with these three surfers for years, right?
Mike Parsons: Yeah. Caroline, only about three, maybe four years now. Then Lakey would be about eight years, and Kolohe since he was about five years old. His dad has been my best friend and I've been involved in his surfing from the very get-go.
Do you take a similar approach to coaching all of them? Or do you have to nurture each surfer in a different way?
It's completely different, because they all have different personalities, and different strengths and weaknesses. I think the best coaches learn to empower the people they work with and give them great information and learn their personalities, and what makes them tick and do well.
What do you do with Kolohe, for example?
With Kolohe, a lot of it is heat strategy. And also the mental side of it. I think in Kolohe's case, his talent level is so high and he has such a crazy strike rate, but I think the competitive side and being mentally strong is most important for him to compete well. I think he's come a long way recently in that department. This event was amazing for that. What he's getting really good at, in my opinion, is competing and putting himself in every heat.
There were times a few years ago when he would wind up in heats and come in with a pretty low total, or have everything just kind of go completely wrong. Whereas now, every heat he surfs, he's always in contention, always in the heat. I think that's super important at the highest level. If you watch Medina and John, they both are amazing at that. They're always within a chance at the very end, and Kolohe has gotten really good at that.
Kolohe just had his second final against John at Main Break, and we obviously know how the first one went. But to your point, I thought that this time around, Kolohe seemed like a new man. He's still not quite on the same level as John in those conditions, but he put up a fight at least.
I would argue that John is even tougher to beat out at Main Break than he is at Pipeline or The Box or anywhere. Because if you have just a tube riding event, it simplifies it, like, "Okay, who's deeper in the barrel?" And I think your odds actually go up.
But then again, every heat takes on its own personality. So Kolohe knew he could win. It's just everything had to go right for him. He had to be on the better waves and surf them to the best of his ability, and then hope that John didn’t do anything crazy. The idea was to put scores on the board, put some pressure on John, and see what happens.
And he did a good job of that. He got the lead early on and I was really stoked with his performance. I thought it was super strong. Kolohe only needed an 8.7 with under two minutes, which is pretty good against someone as good as John. He could have won it if he got that last wave, which John dropped a 9.5 on.
I would agree. And then from my perspective, it seems that Lakey has improved a lot on the hard skills. She’s always had a good competitive mind, but now her surfing has improved significantly. Would you agree with that?
Yes, I would. Lakey's been able to improve on her surfing in bigger waves, drawing her turns out, riding bigger boards, and surfing on reef breaks like Margaret’s and in Hawaii. That's why I feel like this was her best win ever, because it was not that long ago that she didn't even want to compete here.
She was like, "God, I hate this wave. It's so frustrating. I can't figure it out." And I was always telling her, I think this wave actually really suits your surfing, and you have the power and strength, and the type of turns that this place demands, and you can win. And she used to kind of laugh at me and so, it was really fun to see her kind of come full circle.
And also, she got to beat Steph for the first time, and then obviously had a really good heat against Carissa as well. That must've been exciting.
Yeah. The Stephanie thing was… Lakey was really fired up for that heat. She hadn't ever beat Steph. Seven times, Stephanie's beaten her. And with last year being in the Title race with Steph, that was, I think, the most fired up I've ever seen Lakey. Because let's face it, you don't really want to draw Steph in the quarters. And so, I think getting those big scores and surfing like that against her, just gave Lakey that confidence to take it all the way.
I thought that one turn Carissa did in the semi was so special that it deserved more separation from what Lakey was doing. Don’t get me wrong, Lakey was surfing great, but for me that one turn was more impactful than any three standard maneuvers. What are your thoughts on that?
I thought that was by far the best turn of the heat. Carissa just nailed that thing, perfect timing. Had she had gotten a finish on that wave, she would have won the heat. I thought the heat was really close. I think that Carissa had the chance to win on her last wave, and she kind of held back on that last turn.
To me, other than Carissa's best turn of the heat, I thought that Lakey put a little more aggression into her maneuvers, and that's what got the nod. It could have went either way, but I felt like they did a good job of separating the heat.
Fair enough. Now, I don't know if you know this, but prior to them paddling out in that heat, we got to see you having a quick chat with Lakey on the stairs, where you said, and I quote, "So on the first exchange, you either try to screw Carissa up a little bit or you get the first good wave." Were you aware that the cameras and were filming you right there?
No, but I remember saying something like that [laughs]. That's just kind of having a respect for how good Carissa is. When there's no priority, you definitely want to screw up their wave or wind up on a good one yourself. You can't just let Carissa Moore paddle into a perfect wave when it's inconsistent—you've got to win that first exchange. Because then you're halfway there. And if you can beat her on that, then it sets you up to have priority as well. So, it doesn't surprise me I said that.
And then, much to my amusement, Carissa ended up getting the first wave off of Lakey, even though Lakey was deeper on that peak. I was wondering how you felt about that.
Well, yeah, the first thing Lakey said to me when she came in was just, "I blew it, I can't believe I had her inside and let her go!"
I think she heard the score that Carrisa got—like a mid-seven—and it fired her up for the rest of the heat. But we both felt like that was a mistake and she dodged a bullet right there, because if Carrisa capitalized with, say, a nine, you're so on the back foot against someone that good. You just can't afford those little mistakes in heats that are that big. But in that case, even making that mistake, she was able to dig her way out of it.
I also wanna talk about Caroline Marks, who a lot of people believe is the most talented and well-rounded female to come up in a long time. She also seems to be completely unaffected by the competitive arena and fearless against the best women in the world. Tell me a little bit about coaching that type of talent.
You're right. Caroline is ridiculously confident, and she's super consistent. And I think that's one of her real strong points—she rarely falls. She's able to go toe-to-toe with any girl at any venue already. She's also the fastest improving female surfer out there. So yeah, it's really fun.
She has a shot at being in World Title contention this year and every year after. I try to remind her that she doesn't have to do it overnight. But she also realizes that she can win, and she’s super competitive, so she naturally wants to do it this year. So I feel like Caroline’s next 10 years are obviously going to be pretty exciting.
We’re four events into the year, and you have two surfers in second place and another surfer in fifth. So realistically, all three of them are in the title race. Did you expect that coming into 2019? Or are you happily surprised?
I'm not surprised that they're all in this situation. I feel like all three of them have a really good chance at gaining a Title. So yeah, I'm obviously stoked the fact that Caroline's got a win, Lakey's got a win and Kolohe has two seconds. If you had told me that in the first four events all that was going to happen, we'd be pretty psyched. So yeah, I'm not surprised, but I'm super stoked on how the year started off for all three of them.
Imagine that I have a gun to your head. Who, of your three surfers, is going to win a World Title first?
Oh, God. It's such a hard question. I think Lakey being in the title race last year and coming that close, and kind of feeling what it's like and making four finals last year, I think that she's the most poised right now to win it this year. I think Caroline is going to win multiple World Titles, but that could still take a couple of years, but I would put a lot of stock in that. And Kolohe, I think he is going to get one someday as well. And I think that could still take a couple more years. I think he's still improving really fast. Hopefully it happens this year for him. But he's going to have to win a couple of events. The way the points are structured, it's all about getting wins if you're going to be a World Champ.