Editor’s Note: My Greatest Mentors is an original series where talented folks in our global surfing community discuss the people who have made a significant impact in their approach to life – within and beyond surfing. Coco Ho is the second to participate in the series. Read Kassia Meador‘s first piece here.
My dad is definitely my greatest mentor. And it’s simple why. There’s this quote I read that goes, “My father didn’t tell me how to live. He lived and let me watch him do it.” That’s exactly what my dad has done. We grew up on the North Shore, and we immediately started going to the beach. It’s the only option. But he never forced surfing on us. At the beginning, my brother and I would have to basically beg him to go surfing or for boards and gear. Nothing just came to us. He never forced us. It wasn’t until I qualified for the World Tour that he got so involved and so passionate about surfing in my life. I’m so thankful for that, and I feel like being on Tour has made him young again. He’s traveling to these places all over again almost with more froth. It’s amazing. My dad is definitely my first and greatest mentor – all by not forcing anything upon me and not expecting anything out of me. And once I was on the World Tour, he was the most illuminant, happy man.
Another one of my mentors would have to be one of my tutors from school. She was my teacher for math for seventh and eighth grade, Lily Berens. In school, I needed to do well on every test. I had to have everything perfect or I’d have a lot of anxiety. She just made everything easy. She made me appreciate math, and when I went to home school, I didn’t exactly have the structure. She actually quit teaching school when I got home-schooled and became my tutor. She became my everything. She kind of just helped me through life. At first it was just school, then our relationship grew. Everything flowed and made sense. And that’s kind of what I needed, because I was always very self-critical in trying to do my best. She gave me a sense of support outside my family, and she was the first person to do that outside of my family.
My third greatest mentor is definitely my Tutu, which is Hawaiian for grandma. She’s my guardian angel. My support. She is the one that would come to parent-teacher conferences when I was little. She’s the one I would call when my parents were fighting. She was that safety net. She’s everything a grandma is supposed to be times a thousand. She still is to this day. It’s just comforting knowing I can always get the most loving, real advice from her.
I feel like she’s always glowing when I see her. And it makes me glow, and makes me want to make other people feel like that. And she doesn’t try. It’s just comfort. Making people feel comfortable around you is an absolutely amazing quality, and she projects that light and optimism and fun. That’s always been her.
Once I thought I lost her. Two years ago, when I was in Newcastle for the WQS, she went into surgery and no one told me how serious of an operation it actually was. I didn’t come to light until later that the operation was to remove a cancerous kidney, and she ended up being in the ICU for 21 days. I didn’t find out until the third or fourth day she was in the ICU. We had just started the WQS in Newcastle, and every day I kept saying that I wanted to go home, but the girls kept reassuring me that she would want me to stay.
I ended up winning the event, and it was the first one I had won for a while, and I remember going straight home to the ICU. I didn’t even get to her room yet, and I remember one of the nurses telling me I couldn’t go into her room. They said that when she saw me through the door her heart started going crazy. They kicked me out, and I was crying in the waiting room, and I couldn’t talk to her. A few hours later, I got to see her, and it was the first time she had been active in fifteen days. She couldn’t talk. She had pipes in her lungs, and she woke up and they were saying that this was the most illuminant and active she had been, so I couldn’t stay long because it was wearing on her. Everyone said that she came back to life in that moment. The next day I came in and showed her pictures from the contest, and she was mouthing, “I love you,” but she could hardly talk. Now she’s totally healthy. She’s back. It’s like reincarnation. I thought I lost her.