For Seth Moniz, born of Hawaiian royalty, qualifying for the Championship Tour was never a matter of if but when.
Last summer, everything clicked competitively for the 21-year-old. Over the course of six weeks, Moniz racked up keeper results in back-to-back-to-back events in Japan, South Africa and California, which saw him take the QS lead.
Heading into Hawaii, anything can (and usually does) happen, so Moniz knew he needed a big result at Haleiwa to solidify his spot, and by surfing through to the Semifinals, that's exactly what he did.
The World Surf League: You clinched your spot with a Semifinal finish at Haleiwa, but you did most of the damage to the QS in a few events in a row last summer. Talk us through that.
Seth Moniz: I got a second in Japan, then I went to South Africa and I got a third there, and then I finished fifth at the US Open. After the US Open, I had a lot of people coming up to me congratulating me, telling me I'd basically done enough to qualify, because I already had the same points that eighth place [on the QS] had last year, with those three results.
At that point it was hard not to think about it, especially since there were less events this year, but at the same time, when you look through the rankings, and look at the surfers behind you, you have to remember it can all flip. Five or six other guys can do what I did in one month, but do it in Hawaii, and just pass me up. So I definitely didn't feel comfortable.
It was nerve-racking. I was never really happy or satisfied until I heard the WSL say I qualified. And that moment was crazy. I had lost, and I was coming up the beach all bummed because I really wanted to make that final [at Haleiwa], especially since I was the last Hawaiian left in the contest, and all my friends and family and uncles were down there, but then when they announced it, I can't even describe the feeling. I almost teared up when I was doing my interview. The last few years I've been losing a lot, but this year it just all finally clicked in, and I started surfing the way I wanted to in contests.
You mention something clicked for you competitively this year. Can you pinpoint what that was?
It was a mix of a lot of things. But mainly, the last couple years on the QS, I wasn't ready. I would go into heats thinking about how hard they were. I'd always focus on who I was surfing against and let it trip me out. Now, I've kinda accepted that I have a presence on the QS, and that maybe I'm the hard guy to beat in a heat. Knowing that really helps. Everyone on the QS is so good. So that confidence is really important.
I know you had a couple things break your way this year as well. That last minute backside air at US Open comes to mind.
I've had a couple huge heats this year that I came back in with clutch waves. In Ballito this year, in Round 2, there were 30 seconds left and I needed a 7, and I did a backhand air and got the score. If I would have lost in that heat, I might still be needing another result right now, and I thought a lot about that wave in other heats this year. It kinda gave me the confidence that it's never over.
The QS is like that. In the end, it comes down to a few crucial waves, really.
Yeah, and those crucial waves came my way this year. Obviously you have to perform, but there's definitely some luck involved.
Who will you travel with on Tour?
Griffin [Colapinto] and I will definitely do a couple of events together. Not every event, because he has his own program, and I have mine, but we'll do a couple. I'm definitely bringing Rainos [Hayes], but we haven't really talked about which events he's coming to. I'll bring my parents, I know they'll want to be there to watch me in my first event ever. And I also want to bring some friends. I just want to feel at home and comfortable. Obviously it's serious, but I don't want to take it too serious. I'm not going for the world title my first year. I'm going in with the goal to stay on tour - maybe crack the Top 10. I just want to figure out my first year and see where that takes me.
Have you thought about how crazy it is that you'll get to surf at least one full year on tour with Slater? He was winning world titles before you were even born.
I was just thinking about that actually. To do it [the CT] for that long, that's crazy. But I can't wait. I never expected him to still be on tour the day that I made it. That's really cool. I am bummed that I just missed out on getting to surf against Joel [Parkinson] and Taj [Burrow]. But I guess it's cool how it's kinda like me and Griffin just getting on Tour, and those guys retiring. It's perfect timing for Billabong and their whole program. It's the new generation stepping up.
Watch the first event of the Championship Tour season April 3-13 at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast on Worldsurfleague.com and Facebook.