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Conner Coffin's Lessons Learned

Conner Coffin almost gave up on his Championship Tour dreams. In early 2015 the Santa Barbara-bred star was consumed by self doubt while taking his licks on the Qualifying Series. With options on the table, he pondered walking away from his dream. After all, life as a free-surfing pro looked pretty darn appealing.

Year One
The Californian takes us on his roller coaster ride in "Year One."

At some point, every competitor has to face the end of the line. It's a deeply personal decision that can turn into an emotional tug of war. Fulfillment and achievement have a very strained relationship. But after taking a step back and realizing how much he'd already emotionally invested into his dream, Coffin put his head back down and kept pushing.

That self doubt he was enduring was the proverbial darkness before the dawn. Conner qualified for the 2016 Championship Tour during the Hawaiian leg.

Conner Coffin of the USA will resurf his Round Five heat of the Coronoa Open J-Bay against Jordy Smith of South Africa.  Coffin rode a long deep barrel which was only scored as a 6.90 point ride due to insufficient footage at the time.  After reviewing fu Coffin's established a solid relationship with several Championship Tour venues over the years, and J-Bay is one of his strongest connections. WSL / Kelly Cestari

As he crossed the threshold in 2016 Coffin and his good friend Ryan Perry decided to chronicle his journey in the big leagues. The result is a candid look at what Conner went through during his rookie season. From his successful start in Australia, where he took down some of his childhood heroes, to the punch-in-the-gut moments like Fiji, where he was eliminated with an interference, and his first Championship Tour Final in Portugal.

Of course there's plenty of Conner outside the jersey too, including epic sessions at Rincon and a reunion with his little brother, Parker, on the North Shore of Oahu. It's during those down moments where he's reflecting on his lessons learned. We asked about some of them, and here's what Conner had to say.

Conner Coffin of the USA finished equal 25th in the Outerknown Fiji Pro after placing second to rookie Joan Duru of France in Heat 6 of Round Two in excellent overhead conditions at Cloudbreak. When it comes to motivation, sharing the Cloudbreak lineup with one other guy ranks pretty high on the list. WSL / Kelly Cestari

What's the best piece of advice you've got since joining the Tour?  I would say the best advice that I've been given is to just focus on doing you. I live by that for the most part, but once you get on tour there are sooooo many talented individuals and everyone has a different approach so it becomes easy to want to try what someone else is doing, or switch up your surfing a bit to try to fit the criteria when you're a rookie. Towards the end of the year I really just tried to focus on what worked best for me to have a really good time at every event and I felt like that started to translate into my surfing. 

What aspects of your surfing are you trying to refine at this stage?  Right now I've been focusing on just simplifying how I ride waves -- taking some small maneuvers out and really trying to string together big turns but keeping it flowing. I love when a wave is put together beautifully from start to finish with everything linking together.

Conner Coffin during Round 4. Coffin came out of the gates firing in 2016 with a fifth-place finish at Bells. WSL / Ed Sloane

Any big changes this year that are impacting you mentally or physically?    Well this year I'm with Rip Curl so that has brought a lot of positive change. I've been spending tons of time with Wilko, Mick, Owen, Micro, and Fletch on the road so that has been rad. They're great people to be around and amazing surfers so I love learning from them. More so they are all great humans and make me laugh. I've really been enjoying the time on the road this year. Ryan's been coming with me a lot too and we've just been trying to make every trip as fun as possible. Equipment-wise, I've been working a lot on boards with Channel Islands and have some great boards right now. I'm always trying to learn more and become more mentally tough. I feel like I have a much better sense of how to handle the ups and downs of a year on tour and a lot more confidence this year, which is nice. 

What's your most effective way to keep yourself motivated throughout the season at times when it counts?  That's a good question. The season is long and sometimes I find myself more focused than other times. But surrounding myself with fun people on the road and always having a great time at event gets me fired up. When I see everyone ripping super hard it's always inspiring as well. Surfing is so fun and it's never-ending. I love trying to get better every day in all sorts of different conditions on different boards.

Conner Coffin congratulated by his folks after winning his Round 4 heat. The best fuel for rookies and veterans is the support of friends and family. WSL / Kirstin Scholtz
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