Less than a week ago on the Gold Coast of Australia, WSL Championship Tour (CT) rookie Griffin Colapinto took the surf world by storm, making the Semifinals at the Quiksilver Pro, his first-ever event at that level. As a rookie, he wasn't alone: New Brazilian Tour addition Tomas Hermes made the Semis as well -- and both of them made a big dent in the year's opening ranks.
One of Colapinto's distinctions, though, is his age. At just 19, he's among the youngest of those who qualified for the 2018 CT. Another is his poise, and it's that which caught the eye of Mark "MR" Richards, the four-time World Champion from Newcastle, Australia. Moments after Colapinto scored his 10-point ride during the Quarterfinals Thursday at Kirra, Richards -- who was on hand to watch it all from the promenade -- shared some salient thoughts about what makes the California rookie stand out.
World Surf League: As a highly seasoned pro (not to mention, four-time WSL Champ), what's your take on Griffin?
Mark Richards: I've been really impressed with his surfing, he surfed in the Newcastle event and he didn't win it, but I know he's been coached by Jake Paterson. And I said to Jake, ‘I know that kid is going to wreak havoc on the WSL CT.'
Watching Griffin surf, what do you see that maybe other people don't?
Obviously, he's incredibly talented as a surfer, but he seems to have really great composure in a heat where, even if he's behind, he doesn't panic. He knows what he needs to do. A lot of the time, in competitive situations, people panic, or take off on waves they shouldn't. He just seems to measure his performance really well in proportion to what's going on in the ocean, what waves are available, and also, he seems to be able to measure the performance against whomever he's competing with, which is really important.
And the other important thing is that he doesn't look in the slightest over-awed to come up against more established CT campaigners. That's been a problem with many of the young guys who have qualified in past years. It's like they battle through the Qualifying Series (QS), they make the Tour, and I think there's a sense of ‘mission accomplished, I'm on the CT now.' But once you make the CT, that's where it gets even harder. I think, again going back a few years, the younger qualifying guys sometimes felt over-awed if they came up against someone like Kelly [Slater] or Mick Fanning or Joel Parkinson.
Now, I kind of feel like they're qualifying and coming on the Tour with the self-belief that they've done the hard yards on the QS, they've qualified for the Tour, and I think they're coming on with a whole different mindset than people who qualified going back a few years.
Why do you think that's changed for rookies more recently?
I'm not sure, I think probably the coaches have a lot to do with it. Because we're now seeing the era where it's very rare for a surfer not to have a coach, whether he's a young guy or girl who's qualified for Tour, everyone seems to have a coach. And most of the coaches have an ASP or WSL background, or competitive pedigree, where they've been there done that, and know what it's actually like. So, I think the coaches are drilling into them, ‘You're here. You're good enough to be here. But don't for one minute think that you can't beat any of these guys you're coming up against.'
I think it's a combination of things.
How does all of this compare to when you were on Tour?
It's sort of completely different. It's so well organized now, just like a million differences in comparison. The only way I can compare it is to the Stubbies event, which was sort of a comparable event to this [the Quik Pro Gold Coast], which ran through the '70s and ‘80s up at Burleigh Heads. There was no such thing as the competitors' area. There was no such thing as coaches. You basically sat in the crowd and watched it. If this was the Stubbies in those days, all the competitors would have been sitting amongst the crowd, waiting. And the official area was just a couple of little banners and squares kind of [designated in the sand]. And the judging tower was a double-decker bus. And they used the top level of the bus, with the windows broke for the judges to see.
And then the bottom level of the bus was where all the administration of everything was. There was no web forecasting, no surf forecast. It was a completely different world - it was like a boardriding club contest in comparison to what's going on now.