Although Kolohe Andino has taken a while to break out among surfing's elite, many forget he was just 18 years old when he first qualified for the Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour (CT). The young phenom had been touted as the next big thing ever since he was a grom sweeping the field at Trestles during the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) Nationals. So when he cracked the CT in 2012, people were expecting immediate fireworks from the wunderkind. That pressure was palpable from his first heat on Tour -- and only worsened when the results didn't come.
As one of the most technically sound surfers on the CT, Kolohe's surfing talent was always there. But during his first few years on Tour, his inability to perform under the microscope made every mistake feel like a kick in the teeth. This year, though, Kolohe learned to let all of that go. His secret? Learning how to lose.
I started watching these guys that are really successful on Tour and when they would lose, they wouldn't live or die by every result.
Fast forward five CT seasons, a number of heart wrenching losses, a handful of big results, and suddenly, you have a serious World Title threat for 2017. Riding the momentum of three-straight Semifinal appearances, he finished his season ranked No. 4 overall -- an astounding 21-spot jump from his No. 25 finish in 2015.
Coming off a mid-season slump following the Australian leg, Andino's roll really started at the Billabong Pro Tahiti. Here, his tactical approach and flawless backhand tube riding at Teahupo'o earned a Quarterfinal result. Then it was home to San Clemente for the Hurley Pro Trestles -- an event where, incredibly, he'd never made it past the third round. This year, he dodged some serious wildcard upsets and finally posted a solid 9th-place result at his home break. With that monkey off his back, he took Europe by storm.
Immediately, Kolohe's refined style and his tack-sharp surfing stood out in the shifty European beachbreaks. At the Quiksilver Pro France he finessed his way to the Semifinals, where he went toe-to-toe with eventual runner-up Gabriel Medina. Then he carried that form straight into thumping surf at the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal. His solid campaign there was halted once again in the Semis by the newly crowned 2016 World Champ John John Florence. But no one could deny Kolohe was on a roll.
Still, there's no better way to cap off a CT season than with a big result at Pipe. And Kolohe did just that when he put on a clinic at Backdoor during the Billabong Pipe Masters. Still recovering from a torn ligament in his knee, he strapped on a brace and threaded a handful of roping tubes on his way to yet another Semifinal berth.
This year, with his coach Mike Parsons by his side and an ex-Navy SEAL as his advisor, Andino is no longer worried about what his competitors are doing. After such an incredible year, the now happily engaged 22-year-old has plenty to celebrate. But make no mistake, he'll be coming in hot at Snapper -- and after his runner-up finish last year, his first CT win may be closer than he thinks.