While surfers and surf fans alike constantly profess the sport as a “selfish” solo pursuit, the actual community within the most elite competitive levels is really anything but. Sure, when jerseys are on and the horn blasts on the book ends of a heat, it’s competitor versus competitor trading off waves and scores. Only one person is left standing at the end of each contest. And yeah, there are certainly some loners in the heat draw. But stand in a crowd anywhere in the world, whether it’s Finals Day at a CT event or the eleventh hour of a qualifying grind on the Challenger Series, and you can’t miss that the biggest fans are actually the competitors themselves. They’re all rooting for their travel mates, the friends they’ve been competing against and surfing with (in and out of jerseys) since they were kids. They’re rooting for their fellow countrymen and women, and even their brothers.
We got to see a great example of that on display when Griffin Colapinto became the honorary hometown hero at this year’s Rip Curl WSL Finals. Perhaps the loudest and proudest member of Griff’s very large fan club at Trestles was little brother Crosby, who was joined by a handful of guys he was competing against himself on the Challenger Series. Just a few weeks later they were all in Portugal and now Griff was traveling around with his brother and the crew of CT hopefuls — guys like Kade Matson, Jett Schilling, Eli Hanneman, and the list goes on.
“To help the boys get prepared for the contest we would just find little beach breaks with no one around — and Portugal’s really good for that — and we would just run heat drills,” Griffin says. “I think Malik (Schilling) and I sat on the beach for three or four hours one day just judging these guys, just running them through multiple heats.”
After those heats he’d break down sessions, point out habits to break and how they could approach those practice heats differently. During the contest, he was on the beach leading the cheering squad while also giving pep talks and reminders of those x’s and o’s to apply in the water.
Watching “Coach G” in action is great when you consider he’s giving valuable insight to athletes he could very easily be surfing against come January. Do you think Kelly was giving Andy pointers when he came out of semi-retirement? Hell, I’d bet Andy never so much as told Bruce there was a wave out the back at Pinetrees. But at least for this generation of CS athletes it seems like getting to the Tour is an effort that takes a whole village. Stuff like this inevitably helps them all bond and while Crosby and Griffin will soon be the CT’s newest brother-brother duo, the entire group didn’t cross the finish line together. Cole Houshmand qualified back in July. Eli Hanneman and Kade Matson finished out the season ranked high enough to qualify for their rookie campaigns too. Schilling had a shot at qualifying in Portugal and Brazil but fell short.
Qualifying for the tour has plenty of ups and plenty of downs, it takes some close calls and some lucky days. And it definitely takes a village.