"I've got this result mentality. I was thinking I need to get a result, because this is so much fun and I want to be here again so I lost focus," Conner Coffin explained in Year One, the film that documented his rookie year. "The chatter got to me and looking back it was at Fiji where I started to learn a lot about myself."
Going into the Outerknown Pro Fiji, Coffin is determined not to repeat last year's mistakes. He knows that 2017 has already mirrored 2016, with strong performances at Snapper and Bells being undermined by successive Round Two losses in Margaret River and Brazil. Unlike last year, though, when that slump continued for another five events, Coffin believes Fiji offers a unique opportunity to change course.
That is mainly because he has been coming to Fiji for over a decade and has surfed the wave in every size, shape and mood. He is friends with everyone on Tavarua, from the lifeguards to the cooks and has his own designated bure, or hut, where he stays each visit. Tellingly, it is one of only two on the island that allows you to check Cloudbreak from the pillow.
Yet despite this experience, it was a classic rookie mistake that handed him a Round Three loss last year. While holding a commanding heat lead with minutes to go, he gifted the win to his opponent Wiggolly Dantas.
"It was a total rookie thing, I never even contemplated getting an interference and when it happened, it happened so fast," he said afterward. "Everything was going so well. I had the heat in the bag, the forecast looked great, I was having the time of my life. When they called the interference, I thought I was going to puke."
The thing about being a rookie, though, is that it doesn't last. Last year that single mistake fed into an extended mid-season crisis of confidence. He couldn't find a way to reset after each poor result, and it took a Final in Portugal -- the second-to-last event of the season -- to save his year.
Now, unlike last year, he can lean on those life lessons earned through that extended tough period. It is those lessons that should allow him to press the reset button in Fiji. With his competitive experience accumulating, he can rely more on his intimate knowledge of the wave to come into play.
"I've been fortunate enough to spend a bit time here since I was little kid and it's one of my favorite places in the world," he said. "I'm always grateful to spend time here and live in paradise."