The Junior division of the US Open has a long history of launching stars, hence it's highly competitive nature. This year's pool of talent was packed, with rising stars like Jake Marshall, Ethan Ewing and Griffin Colapinto. Not surprisingly, the caliber of surfing was incredible. But what was surprising was the ultimate winner, Luis Diaz, an unknown 18-year-old from the Canary Islands. Diaz shocked everyone - including his newest shaper - with his impressive win.
The Canary Islands are a small archipelago southwest of Morocco under Spanish sovereignty, so technically that makes Diaz the newest European threat. Chatting after his big coup in Huntington Beach, we asked the wide-eyed 18-year-old about his origins, and his success.
WSL: How do you describe the Canaries to people who've never been there? And what are the waves like?
Luis Diaz: They are beautiful, volcanic islands. There are a lot of good beachbreaks there - but slabby waves too. Its' best is in winter because all the swells are on. And for the slabs, it's very good then.
WSL: This was your first trip to Huntington. Was it easy to adapt?
LD: Yeah. Because actually in the Canaries there are a few beachbreaks and I try to mix it up, surf all the different breaks to prepare for competitions. I have been doing a lot of work in them with my coach at home.
WSL: You've had some people who mentored you from an early age as your career developed. Who were a few of them?
LD: I started at a surf school with a teacher, he taught me the basic stuff. After that, Jonathan Gonzalez, a pro surfer from the Canaries, helped me a lot. I surfed with him, took trips with him, he's a legend.
WSL: When did you know you wanted to go pro?
LD: As soon as I stood up. I liked it so much. I wanted to keep surfing for the rest of my life. And if I can live from it, that's sick. I have to say thanks a lot to my parents, they've been spending so much time supporting me. They don't travel with me -- I mostly travel by myself or the team.
WSL: What is the most challenging part of climbing your way up from the juniors to the QS, and beyond?
LD: To be consistent. And your mind has to be alright, don't let the nerves affect you. If you work that out and your surfing is [good], it's about that.
WSL: How did you learn to do that? You're very young to be traveling the world and surfing professionally.
LD: Actually, I haven't been traveling that much, just the last two years I started surfing other countries. I'm still learning a lot. It's my first time here in Huntington Beach. I'm just taking notes of the guys who were before me, the European guys that did well on the QS and CT. Like [French surfer] Patrick Beven, [Spanish surfer] Aritz Aranburu, Jeremy Flores. All those guys, they built the way for us.
WSL: What was the biggest surprise for you about Huntington Beach?
LD: The event is massive. So many people, it's crazy. Plus, it's surprising to win.
WSL: What was the secret to your success here?
LD: To be relaxed. Not get nervous, just do my own thing. Not thinking about the results. Just thinking about surfing, and that was it.
WSL: How do you get into that mindset?
LD: I've been losing many times, because I was nervous or put pressure on myself. The way to keep that away is to be relaxed. I just listen to music and concentrate on my surfing. Not thinking much about the result. I still get nervous -- less, but it's a long run. I'm still young. I still have to work a lot, and more results will come.