We have a great final ‘notes from the line-up’ interview this year, with Meo Pro finalist, Santa Barbara native, rail surfing connoisseur, 2016 ROTY hopeful and Jordy Smith's new best friend, Conner Coffin.
Conner has taken time out of his Hawaiian winter to talk tour life and fantasy surfing over the past few weeks. Some parts were done prior to the Sunset event, while others were done today - hence the qualification comments at the end and the two-stage reference to his season at Pipe thus far.
Surf-Stats: So, how’s the Hawaiian season been so far? Where have you been surfing?
Conner Coffin: Well the season as a whole has been amazing! It’s gone by incredibly fast…. I can’t believe we’re already in Hawaii surfing in the last couple events of the year! It’s been a really cool experience competing on the World Tour. I feel like I’ve learned a lot.
So far Hawaii has been great. The waves were really fun the first week I was here; I surfed a lot of Rockies, Haleiwa, and a little backdoor. Pipe/backdoor hasn’t been on too much though. Hoping for some more before the contest rolls around!
SS: Growing up in quality Californian right-hand points, it would be easy to assume that you’d be coming on tour as a Cooly/Bells/Jbay specialist. But you said in interviews at the start of the season that Fiji and Pipe were two events that you were most excited about. What is it about these places?
CC: Yeah, I’ve definitely grown up surfing point breaks so I guess that’s where most of my experience lays, but I’ve been fortunate to travel from a young age and have always been in love with tubing waves.
I’ve spent some time as a boatman at Tavarua, and that wave is just magical - as well as the place as a whole. It’s been a bit of a second home to me and I have really good friends there so I was really looking forward to that event! Chopes is similar, but I haven’t spent as much time there. I love both of those waves but there’s just something amazing about those places, the energy, the beauty and the people.
SS: We recommended you at Fiji because we spoke to boatman/photographer Stu Johnson and he gave you a good wrap. Are Fiji/Tahiti/Pipe going to be your most anticipated events for 2017, or has that changed? Surely Portugal is a favourite now?
Thanks, haha! Shoot, I’ll be really excited for all of them!!! Each spot is unique and I feel like I have a decent feel for them all now. Obviously those are three waves where you can score incredible surf so I think that always makes them very appealing events.
I always love the Europe leg and Portugal has been a favourite of mine since first competing on the WQS there.
SS: What is it about Pipe specifically? Is it good seasons in the past that make it a favourite? Or is it just the appeal of another barrelling reef that gets you psyched?
CC: I love Pipe! I’ll never forget the first session I had out there when I was 12; I was so scared! Haha. I’ve put a lot of time in over the years out there, but I typically find myself sneaking rights under the pack; I haven’t had tons of pipe bombs. For some reason I’ve always found it easier to sneak backdoor waves under the pack than to score pipe waves.
I’ve had the opportunity to compete in the Pipe pro the last three years and have had a blast in that event. It’s so amazing to surf Pipe with only a few people out and have a chance at some really good waves with only a few guys out!
SS: How much time have you spent at Pipe so far this season, and how prepared do you feel for the Masters? Has John given you a few bombs after your Portugal favours?
CC: AHHHH! I honestly haven’t even gotten a Pipe wave yet this season! Haha. I got to surf fun backdoor a bit, and had one super fun sneaky evening session out there, but like I said we haven’t seen much pipe action yet. I missed one fun morning because I had a heat at Haleiwa, but I’m hoping we get a few days out there before the comp. I feel great and definitely ready and fired up for the Masters. My body feels good and I’ve been having a really nice time thus far in Hawaii.
(asked today) SS: Any updates? Have you had a few days there now?
CC: Since we last spoke I have had a couple more sessions out there; one morning was really sick, but really crowded. It’s been a pretty darn fun week for waves. Unfortunately, the forecast for the event isn’t looking epic right now, but hopefully a few things will shift around and we’ll get some waves. It looks like there’s some swell, just not ideal winds. However, it is Hawaii and things change really fast so we’ll see what happens!
SS: Were there any tour locations that you’d never surfed before this year?
CC: Yeah I hadn’t surfed Brazil, Bells, France, or Portugal. It’s funny; two spots I hadn’t surfed until this year ended up being my best results, so that was kind of trippy. I think it helped that I didn’t have any expectations at those events.
SS: With your first season nearly done and dusted, you’ve tasted most of the highs and lows that a season can bring. What have you learned and, if possible, what advice would you have given yourself 12 months ago?
CC: I guess I always knew that the key was to focus on my program and keep investing in it, but it’s taken a year on tour to figure it out first hand. I noticed times where I took losses hard and was hard on myself. Not because of the result necessarily but just because of the way I’d surfed, or a small mistake that I’d made. After one or two of those I think I started second guessing myself a little bit. But I really found out that I just needed to stay confident in myself, focus on my program, the process of getting better, and learning. More than anything I wanted to enjoy my time on tour and the experience of being there. I found that when I got caught up in other shit - results, or rookie of the year, or all that shit - I wasn’t as present and I wasn’t doing as well. So just really enjoying every moment and having a good time with good people.
SS: It seems like a healthy approach. Could you describe what you mean by ‘program’? Is it just the balance of training, travel, surfing etc, or is it more formalized or structured than that?
CC: I think “program” is totally different for everyone and that’s what makes it so important. For me, It’s just being able to find what works best for you at each event. The people you’re staying with, the place you’re staying, the food you’re eating, boards, mental space, pre-heat routine. All of these little pieces that add up to your overall experience at an event, but I feel that they also play a big role in how you’re surfing once a heat starts.
SS: Slater said a few weeks ago that he’s actually quite open to giving advice or feedback to young guys on the tour, but nobody ever seems to approach him. Since he’s indicated that next year is possibly his last on the grind, will you take the opportunity to pick his magnificent surfing brain? What would you most likely ask?
CC: That’s funny! I’ve kinda approached Kelly a few times actually, asked him for little bits of advice but I haven’t really gotten him to give anything away yet! Haha. I mean, look, he’s been doing it for so long that I would imagine a lot of the stuff just comes second nature to him; maybe things I would find super valuable are things he just kind of overlooks as intuition. I don’t know. But Kelly is definitely such a wealth of knowledge and has an immense understanding of our sport that I would love to pick his brain.
SS: The Slater enigma… What things have you asked him? Were you more general or specific? I get the feeling that you’d have to be super-specific in order to pin him down for an answer.
CC: I think specificity is key for sure. I asked him some questions about priority and where you place yourself in heats under certain situations. He had some rad answers, but he was also able to tell me – almost in the same breath – about multiple situations where he did different things and they worked out well regardless. He’s just that damn good! Haha.
SS: Speaking of Kelly, have you been to the Ranch? When will you get your golden ticket?
CC: I haven’t been to the surf ranch yet! I don’t know, I’m still eating candy bars trying to find the darn golden wrapper!!!!
SS: Your reputation has been for stylish, on-rail surfing; when did that become your focus? Was it a conscious decision? Are you secretly working on your 540s in the off-season?
CC: I actually pulled a 540 yesterday…. NOT! Haha. It never really became a focus. It was just what I grew up doing. It was what was around me, what I was seeing, and I suppose what I was drawn to. I’ve actually always dug doing airs, especially because they didn’t come naturally so it was a challenge for me. Growing up surfing Rincon I wasn’t watching anyone do airs, so I just gravitated towards rail surfing. Tom, Taylor, Andy, Dane, they were my favourites. Tom really was the first surfer I was obsessed with, well, still am. But I just loved everything he did on a board. All of the small movements between manoeuvres. It’s stuff I’m still trying to find in my surfing today. Once I kind of took toward rail surfing I definitely wanted to try to develop that part of my surfing as that was what I was passionate about and felt good to me. Just trying to bury a rail on a steep section has always felt so right.
SS: The Hurley Surf Club: Bourez hacks, Kolohe oops, Rob weaves and Carissa carves. What’s manoeuvres are left for Conner and when’s yours going to drop?
CC: Well… that’s a good question and I don’t know the answer! Maybe the frontside wedgie.
SS: Online clips have become massive over the past few years, with JJF’s 12 series and Dane’s Chapter 11 being the most notable. Are you filming much while on tour? Are there any new edits that you have in the works?
CC: I’ve always loved working on short film projects and I’ve definitely found that, with this year on tour, there hasn’t been much time for me to put towards those types of projects lately. In the past my brother and I would do almost one short film a year; Electric Wilderness, Highline, and Wildfire were such fun projects and we really love doing that. I’ve filmed a bit this year and have some footage saved up but not really sure on exactly what we are going to do with it.
Dane’s Chapter 11 is so sick. Him and Tom have been the two guys I’ve looked up to the most in surfing. Dane’s raw and radical approach is so amazing. I can watch him surf all day.
SS: You’re quite active online and in social media. Some pros seem to have a support network posting or managing online content for them, yet you are still very much DIY, including your own YoungWiseTails site. Is controlling your own ‘brand’ important to you?
CC: Yeah. I used to be much more active with youngwisetails than I am now, but it’s still alive and we still want to do video projects through there. Social media has become so full-on it’s wild. It’s great to have photogs like Ryan miller feeding us photos to use for it. There’s times where social media freaks me out and I wish I just didn’t have to have any of it, but at the same time it’s cool; to be able to follow along and see what people I look up to are doing and get an insight into what they’re all about is rad. I like to use it as a platform to share things that I’m into, believe in, and a place to show parts of a really fun journey that I’ve been fortunate enough to be on!
SS: You had a fun clip published by WSL of a session at Rockies a few days back; how does something like that work? Do they approach you, or do you even talk to them at all?
CC: That was a piece that we filmed and edited with our buddy Ryan. We just kind of handed it over to them. They seemed stoked be running content of the crew on tour so they pushed it out via their media. Anything we can send their way we do.
SS: Do you have any post-competition plans?
CC: I wouldn’t say I’m PLANNING for that yet, but I definitely like to imagine ways to have a surf career outside of competing when that time may come. Right now I’m definitely focused on the tour and plan to for the next x amount of years hopefully. I definitely have interests outside of that and hope to be able to continue to incorporate them into my life on tour and then see where to go when I’m not on tour!
SS: Anything specific?
CC: Well my dad is a contractor and builds houses so that has always been interesting to me and something that I could see myself getting into. But, that being said, I love to surf so much that I really see myself trying to make that my living for a solid while yet.
Once my competitive career is over I would love to be in a position to travel to different locations and do more projects to help people who are in need around the world. I’ve had the chance to do some waves for water trips and I love doing those sorts of things.
Right now I’m starting a towel company called Leus with some people from California. The thought of having a brand, or starting something from scratch that you can really make your own and use to share your vision has really intrigued me. I’m excited to get involved with this and hopefully more projects like it down the road. I would love to be able to inspire kids to find their loves and passions and be able to go for them.
I guess those are three very different things and I’m sort of rambling, but you asked for areas and I guess those would be three. Haha.
SS: It looks like you’ve got a pretty sweet deal with Fender. How did it come about and what does it involve? Which pros have the best chops when it comes to playing guitar?
CC: Well… I met my buddy at fender through my really good friend who used to work for Hurley. I love to play guitar and when I was 18 I started to get really into it. Nate helped get me set up with a strat around that time and then we just always kept in touch and had a cool synergy going. I love music and playing music and I feel like it compliments surfing in such a nice way. Fender is a really awesome company and it’s been fun to get to be involved with them in the small way that I have. Traveling and surfing we have lots of down time so I always bring an acoustic to every stop. I can’t do a trip without one. I played in a little band at home for a while, but once I qualified I haven’t been able to keep that going. We actually all got busy but we’re hoping to get something together again. I just love to play and jam with other people so I’m always game to play. Besides my family that is probably the thing I miss the most about home!
As for pro’s abilities, I think Kelly plays really well! And I know Steph does too but I haven’t had a chance to play with them!
SS: As a fantasy stats site, we are always looking at numbers and teams. Do you play any fantasy sports? Are you willing to share your Pipe team with our readers?
CC: I honestly haven’t played at all this year! I don’t play in any other sports either. I played fantasy surfer for so many years, including the last couple. We had a big clubhouse with our friends and I would always do SO bad.
SS: Forget tiers, or prices or whatever; can you name 8 must-have surfers for Pipe if you were making a fantasy team?
CC: John, Kelly, Gabby, Parko, Julian, Jamie O, Bruce and Seabass.
SS: Solid! How do you feel about the idea of selecting yourself on your fantasy team?
CC: Haha. I wouldn’t mind putting myself on my team. I think I’ve played vicariously through my dad this year. He had me on the whole year, haha. I definitely cost him at some events!!!!!
SS: Sell yourself to the fantasy players: We should have Conner Coffin on our Pipe team because…
CC: I’m my worst salesman! I’m fired up for pipeline though 🙂
SS: With so much qualification buzz at this time of year, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of which new faces will be joining the 2017 tour. Who are you most looking forward to seeing on tour and why?
CC: There’s definitely a lot to be decided at sunset. But, Leo has been on a tear so that will be rad to see him make it. Ian Gouveia is a legend and a really awesome guy so I’m very happy for him! Conner O’leary is a super good dude too. Joan as well. I feel like it’s a super nice bunch of guys right there in the mix at the top of the QS and it’s hard to root for one because I know them all! But Evan Geiselman and Tanner are longtime friends so I’d love to see them there. Zeke too; he’s a beast.
(Since the interview took place, we have seen the QS places finalized, with Frederico and Freestone moving up the rankings and Zeke missing out by the narrowest of margins)
SS: Well, thanks for your generosity and of course your time. Good luck at Pipe.
CC: Thanks! Any time.
What an open and genuine guy! We can't help but wish him a great event here at Pipe. Will he make your team?