For the first time ever, at next week's Surf Ranch Pro, Championship Tour points will be awarded at a perfect wave in an artificial environment. (Not counting the 1985 World Professional Inland Surfing Championships, held in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in piddly 1-to-2 foot surf at Dorney Park's Wildwater Kingdom.)
Over the last few months, the Men and Women of the CT have been scheduling time in Lemoore, CA - 100 miles from the nearest ocean - to sort through the intricacies of the wave, and wrap their heads around what it will take to compete for the first time in a pre-determined time slot, on an even playing field, where priority and paddle-battles are meaningless, and performing under pressure will be magnified like never before.
We caught up with rookie, Griffin Colapinto, to get his thoughts on the upcoming Surf Ranch Pro, and what he thinks it'll take to win.
World Surf League: What was going through your mind before your first wave at The Ranch? And was it a steep learning curve?
Griffin Colapinto:My first time I was definitely tripping out. I was so nervous. It took a while to figure out how many turns I could fit in before it started barreling. It was kinda like, ‘OK, should I try to hit it four times before it throws out? Or is it better to go for three really nice turns?' I had to work that section of the wave out first.
After that, the first barrel section is pretty simple - you just try to get as deep as possible without falling. Then, when you come out, you have to figure out how many turns you can do before it starts barreling again, and also what to do on that last section. I think the best bet is to get a half-barrel on the second bit and then try a big air on the end section. It's a lot to think about, though [laughs].
I can only imagine. Your entire life you've been reacting to waves, and now you get to plan them. Is that a hard concept to wrap your head around?
That part is definitely a little trippy. But once you have it all planned in your head and then you nail it, it's the best feeling. You still get that same joy you would get nailing something in the ocean.
You've put together a few of the most creative clips we've seen out of The Ranch, like your fin-ditch to 180 to barrel entry. Was that a pre-planned combo?
That was a bit more of a reaction, actually. I didn't have that in mind on that wave. I was actually going for a reverse and I got stuck in that backwards position, but I felt like I had so much control that right when I saw it was about to start barreling I was able to spin it around and pull straight in.
But after the last few days surfing it, I have a full-blown plan for each wave. Especially on the right. The right is easier to plan. The left is actually a lot more unpredictable.
Each wave on the left is different. There's some that will break really close to the fence, and those are the best ones, because they move slower and allow for blow-tails. But the ones that pull back, and don't crumble near the fence, they end up racing off, so you have to surf them really down the line, and kind of do check turns. You can still make them work, but that's gonna be interesting.
When you stand up on your first right in Round 1 next week, do you already know exactly how you'll approach each section?
Yes. 100 percent.
Do you plan to save a little something for the judges assuming you make the final round?
That part is tricky. It's one round, 36 surfers, and then they take the top 8 and make a final. So it's hard to say what it'll take to make the top 8, because maybe you'll need to go as hard as you can to make the cut, you know?
In that sense I guess it would be nice to see what guys have done before you.
Yeah, exactly. I'm stoked because I'm 13th on the ratings, so I'm a higher seed, and I'll get to see what some of the guys have done first, and then adjust from there.
The wave isn't easy. I just surfed up there for two days and had a shocker on the first day. Day two I figured a lot of stuff out, but I had to really calm myself down and try not to get frustrated.
Do you feel good about where you're at right now?
Yeah, I do. And I still get two waves per day for three days before the event, to kind of fine tune things and feel it all out.
At this event - with limited opportunities, an even playing field, and a stadium atmosphere - the pressure will be on full display. Are you ready for that?
It's gonna be the most pressure everyone on tour is gonna feel. You only get three waves on each side, so you know you can't fall, plus there's gonna be all those people talking and screaming. I think whoever can handle the pressure the best is gonna win. That's what it'll come down to.
Being a rookie, competing for CT points in an artificial environment isn't as much of a shock as it might be for, say, Joel Parkinson or Stephanie Gilmore, with decades of CT experience but all of it in an ocean. Do you see that as any sort of advantage?
Everything that's been thrown at me this year has been new. So, I guess when you look at it that way, it's not like this is some curveball that I have to adjust to. I'm just psyched to be here. I've approached every event the same this year, like: let's do this [laughs].
With four CT events left on the schedule, what are your goals for the rest of this year?
My goal going into the season was Rookie of the Year, which I think I can still get. Other than that, I want to finish Top 5. I know it's a big goal, but there's no reason I can't go for it.