Caio Ibelli doesn't like to sit idle. If he's not moving, he's not happy, which explains how he put 2,000 miles on his new Jeep Grand Charokee in under two weeks during his last stint at home. "I've been going down to Mex, up to Santa Barbara - everywhere," Ibelli explains. "Our old car got horrible mileage, so we never really drove it out of Orange County. Now I'm going crazy. I'm finally exploring the coast."
One of Ibelli's trips took him to Ventura, where he's working with the design team at Varial Surf on his equipment. The 2016 Rookie of the Year has been the premier pilot for the company making high-end stringerless blanks out of new foam technology gleaned directly from space programs. His longtime shaper, Xanadu, is a willing accomplice in experimenting with the ultra lightweight yet durable material. Xanadu's fashioned two models, the X21 and Viper, out of the Varial foam. The relationship seems to be working, too, as Ibelli is now sitting No. 9 on the Jeep Leaderboard as the Tour heads to Fiji.
We chased Caio from his home in Laguna Niguel to the Varial factory in Ventura to find out more about his equipment, his goals for the year, and life on the Championship Tour without his girlfriend Alessa Quizon, who fell off the CT at the end of 2016.
How's the equipment feeling this year?
The boards are working really well. I really like the flex pattern of the Varial foam, because my equipment feels really responsive. They're also good because when you get a magic one they last. They're really strong.
You're surfing with a lot of speed, how much of that is you vs. the board? Haha. Thanks. It's always both, right? But it has to start with the board. If your rocker isn't right for each spot you're in trouble. If it's good then it's all about just getting as much out of your board as you can, and that's where things like flex and outline make a huge difference, especially when it comes to keeping your speed through turns.
You had a great 2016 winning Rookie of the Year. Any big goals for 2017?
I'm really working on a Top 10 finish this year. It's a great opportunity that I finished second at Bells. I feel like I kicked into a new gear. I learned a lot last year - equipment, boards and what to do at each place. Going to Fiji for example, it's an open ocean where the wave breaks and the lineup. Once you go for a second time you feel more familiar. When you are more comfortable, there's a higher chance you'll do better. I'm really looking forward to those places like Fiji, J-Bay and those places that I really liked the vibe.
But at the same time, I'm not in any hurry to get in the Top 5 or go for a Title, because my first goal is to build a foundation that will keep me around for a while. I want to last. I think that's a better way to approach everything.
What kind of work are you doing behind the scenes?
I do a lot of physical training. In California, I go to CrossFit in Carlsbad. It's one hour from my house and I drive there everyday, at least 5 days a week when I'm home. That is when I try to get the most time in the gym because when I'm traveling I don't get the opportunity. I do that and then I basically surf as much as I can. California has a big coastline and there's waves all around and there's a lot of places to go. It's good for the Tour. You can find all sorts of conditions close to our house.
It's pretty much just preventing injuries and getting the core really tight. I think once the core is tight you don't have as many injuries, like the back problems and the shoulders. We need to be compact and fast. And that's the kind of training I look for. It's fast actions and knees training.
So the other big change this year, unfortunately, is that your girlfriend is no longer on Tour with you. How are you two managing that?
It's sad not to have her around as much. But on her end, she has a little more time for herself. She was doing both the Tour and the Qualifying Series (QS) for three years straight. When you are doing the Tour and the QS, trying to requalify, it's just a crazy nightmare.
Now, unfortunately, she injured her knee in Barbados a few weeks ago. She's getting back. In the next couple weeks she'll probably be back in the water. I think things can happen for a reason and she's a lot more mellow now and happy. Just going back on the QS, starting from the bottom, she could really see that she wasn't where she wanted to be. She's working really hard. It's that little fresh feeling of wanting to get back on Tour. That's motivating for her. And she'll get to go on some surf trips.
A lot of people, when they fall off Tour, they come back a lot stronger because they had to go through this mental process that was huge. After you get over that mental stage, you have a fresh outlook and you can move forward, stronger. The process isn't easy.
Ibelli heads to Fiji next, where he'll compete at the Outerknown Fiji Pro. Watch live daily June 4 - 16.