Conner Coffin, 20, found his feet on the ASP Qualifying Series (QS) last season, landing his first major final in Europe, capping off the year ranked No. 44.
Following a holiday break with family and friends, Coffin has been putting time in on the North Shore and scoring perfect waves at home in preparation for the upcoming Volcom Pipe Pro, where he finished third last season. The ASP caught up with Coffin to reflect on his successful 2013 campaign and the upcoming event at Pipe.
You had a breakthrough season in 2013 with a final in Portugal and some other big results. Can you reflect on your season?
"Europe was awesome for me,â€ Coffin said. â€œIt took me awhile to get used to surfing in the Primes against guys that are super experienced like C.J. Hobgood. Then, I got that 9th in the Azores and I feel like I started to gain some momentum. Then I went to Portugal and I had gotten to the round where I'd get 9th again, and then I advanced to the Quarters, and Semis and I was in the Final."
How was the learning curve competing against some of the veterans in Prime events and how tough is the transition out of the Pro Juniors?
â€œI learned so much last year and I remember getting smoked by Freddy (Patacchia) and Tanner (Gudauskas) in El Salvador. They took me to school and made me realize that I've got to battle harder. You definitely have no friends in a heat and I'm not really used to it. I realized how important wave selection is in heats and that you've got to capitalize and be on the best waves."
The successful European campaign must have been a huge confidence builder for the end of your season. Did those results change your mindset?
"Last year my goal was to get good results in the 4, 5 and 6 stars and get in to the Primes. To accomplish that and then have a shot at qualifying at the end of the year, I wasn't expecting that. I really didn't put too much pressure on myself entering Hawaii and I wasn't too nervous. The heats in Europe really went my way and the ones at Haleiwa and Sunset just didn't, but I feel like I'm in a good place for next year.
"Getting those results helped so much because once you reach a certain point you know that you can do it. Before, I had surfed in a few Primes and I'd get knocked out first round, first round, maybe make a heat and then lose first round again. Getting a ninth and then a final, it really helped my mindset.â€
Mid- season last year you scored perfect Jeffreys Bay in between events with Taylor Knox. How was that trip?
â€œThe trip I had to JBay was amazing. We had planned the trip way in advance and ended up scoring. I was with my brother (Parker Coffin), Tanner Gudauskas and Taylor Knox. I had been to J Bay once before for a 6-Star and it is my favorite place to surf. Taylor (Knox) is someone I really look up to and to get J Bay perfect with him is something I'll never forget. The whole trip ended up being amazing.â€
You had a good run at the Volcom Pipe Pro last season and spend a lot of time there. Can you talk about spending time on the North Shore?
"I spend a lot of time in Hawaii in the late season. My family has a house there and last year I spent about a month between January and February. I did the same the year before. I've been trying to put in time at Pipeline and then I got the third at the Volcom Pipe Pro last year so I'm stoked to start my season off with that and hopefully I can start the year off with a good result."
The waves in California have been pumping, where have you been surfing leading up to the event?
"Some of the recent days at Rincon have been the best few days I've seen in a few years. It was pumping, so rippable and Monday was non-stop with waves. I'm going over to Hawaii tonight, but the wind looks weird for the first few days of the event. I figured it'd be better to get in the groove and get used to big powerful waves. I was there for a couple weeks earlier this month and got a couple Pipe waves. Hopefully we get some good waves during the window.
"I know a lot of people are taking a longer break before they go for the comp and might bail, but I love being over there and I want to get as much practice in Hawaii as I can and you get to surf Pipe with three guys out. We scored firing Pipeline last year and I'm psyching. I've been looking forward to this event all year."
Now that you've secured a spot in the Prime events does it allow you to focus on trying to qualify for the WCT next year?
"The Primes are definitely where the points are at. If you perform and get on a nice roll in a few events that's where you can get a good jump and get in to the Top 10. I'm going to focus on those and having surfed some of those events now I have some experience under my belt."
The rankings have gone back to the two-tier system with the WCT and QS, what are your thoughts on that?
"I think it's awesome that it's back to two rankings. I understood the world rankings and it could have been cool, but it was confusing and hard to understand, especially with the CT surfers being able to keep points from some events, but only if they got a certain result. It was really hard to explain to people that weren't surfers and the two rankings are really clear. You know what you have to do and you'll know who is on the bubble going into the last events of the season. There are fewer variables. It's good for the sport and good for everyone. I think it pushes guys on CT to do well."