Santa Cruz's Nat Young, 22, shocked the world in 2013, attacking competition on the Samsung Galaxy ASP World Championship Tour with a vengeance.
The quiet goofy-footer would immediately turn heads during his rookie year, logging a runner-up finish at Bells Beach. Young would carry that momentum throughout the season, making an additional final in Portugal while finishing at World No. 8 following Pipeline.
With a few months of down time following the culmination of his rookie year, Young has been training with devout focus to prepare for the 2014 season. With one year of experience in the big leagues and a coveted ASP Rookie of the Year title under his belt, the Californian has big plans to climb the rankings further this season.
You entered your rookie year as a darkhorse, but you dominated, making two finals and finishing No. 8 overall. Following such a successful rookie year, what kind of pressure are you facing in 2014?
I don't feel any extra pressure. I've been at home after Hawaii doing things that need to be done. I had ear surgery because that was something that was really bothering me the past year. I have been training five days a week and ever since I could get back in the water I've been surfing a lot. I feel like when you work hard and do everything you can in order to prepare yourself, it relieves pressure.
"If you look at Nat Young, his whole life is about staying in the Top 10. Everything he does is focused on that. He's driven by it." Peter Mel - Santa Cruz Icon
Following a Top 10 finish, how important is it to cement yourself as a Top 10 surfer and World Title threat this year?
Finishing eighth was an awesome accomplishment for me, but I also believe I didn't finish there by accident. With the knowledge I gained this past year it is a goal of mine to finish top 10 again and even better than I did last year.
What were the highs and lows of 2013? Were there any defining moments that you learned from the most?
The highs of 2013 would have to be making the finals at Bells and Peniche, but also going to Tavarua for the first time and surfing some of the best waves of my life would have to be a high, and then surfing a heat out at the Pipe Masters with only one other guy out is a dream. The lows would be my first round losses (Teahupoo and France). The losses are what I learn from the most. When I lose a heat I can usually pinpoint the mistakes I made and learn from those.
The Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast is just around the corner, how much more prepared are you in 2014 than last season? What changes going back to Snapper with a year of experience under your belt?
I feel way more prepared this year than last year. I would say the most important part being the experience I gained last year. Just knowledge of the waves and playing the priority game.
What are your goals and expectations for 2014?
My goals for 2014 are to win. Last year getting on the podium with two second place finishes was amazing, but I've felt that second place feeling twice now. It's bittersweet. I want to win my first event and do better than I did last year.
The Samsung Galaxy ASP World Championship Tour will begin March 1 with the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast.