After a fruitful career as a professional surfer, Huntington Beach's Brett Simpson has been named head coach of the USA Surfing Elite Junior National Team. A two-time winner of the US Open of Surfing, CT competitor from 2010 to 2015 and an inductee into the Huntington Surf & Sport Surfers' Hall of Fame, Simpson brings a wealth of experience and talent to the position. He will join USA Surfing Olympic head coach Chris Gallagher Stone as America's national program continues to pick up momentum into the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
"For the three years I was off the tour I was trying to find what works, what I enjoy doing. And when I was on tour I never would have thought I'd go down the coaching route. But the more I started to learn and have that time, it's just been feeling a lot more natural," explained Simpson. "I got this opportunity through Greg Cruse and USA Surfing. With Joey Buran stepping down, I thought it was a great opportunity to bring a little more flavor to the kids. I know a lot of them, which is a cool part. I think I will have a little bit of a different eye."
Simpson made a name for himself early in his career through his explosive, progressive approach in the water. Always keen to blow the fins out or launch off an air section, he is looking forward to sharing what he has learned with the next generation of American surf talent.
"These are our best juniors coming up, so I want it to be fun. I want them to learn and I want them to develop some knowledge," he said of his overall goals. "This is not only preparation for the Juniors, but also the QS and then eventually, hopefully, the CT. So this is where the foundation needs to be laid. I guess that is the fun part for me, trying to find balance in all of this. As a team, we will go on the road once a year to the ISA Championships, but there are other domestic contests the kids compete in and we will also be doing training camps. My goal is to build that team while keeping it fun and interesting for the kids. I'm excited about the opportunity."
Success at the Olympic level is defined by one thing: how many medals you win. Naturally, that carries a certain amount of pressure, but Simpson is able to take it in stride. When it comes to working with up-and-coming talent, he sees the bigger picture.
"Obviously, making heats, doing well and winning medals is very big, and that is high on my list. But I think technically and strategically there are a lot of things that can be done and worked on. When you are young, that's really when you want to work on your game. That's when you want to prepare yourself," he explained. "It may not show right then and there, but down the line in a couple years is where you will see it. When you are part of the big show on tour, that's when you want to be fully confident. I was on tour for six years and I was never fully, 100-percent confident in my surfing at times. I think that's where we have to prepare these athletes. The process is really long."
Knowing the ins and outs of working with a coach and trying to push his performance to the next level, Simpson is aware of certain sensitivities. There are a lot of talented kids out there and how they utilize a resource like Simpson is up to them.
"You have to be willing to accept instruction and coaching. I feel like most of the kids I've worked with so far are open and willing to take some constructive criticism. You have to be open to that and willing to really pick it apart and identify your weaknesses if you are going to improve," said Simpson. "You have your strengths and you don't ever take that away. But you still have to really round out all aspects of your surfing, little stuff that makes a big difference. There are so many good kids right now, if we can do some developmental stuff, the future is looking really bright for American surfing."
Simpson will get his first taste of the Olympic life this weekend when he heads out to Colorado Springs for training with a group from the US Olympic Committee. Unfortunately, it coincides with the Super Bowl.
Simpson's father played professional football for the Los Angeles Rams, the team that will be facing off against the New England Patriots on Super Bowl Sunday. One would expect that Simpson would be throwing a massive Super Bowl party. But in true pro surfer fashion, he will be at the airport. Of course, that won't affect his passion for the big game.
"I'm 100-percent in on the Rams. If I have to go out on a limb, I'm going to say 31 to 24, Rams," he said. "To be honest, I am a little skeptical playing Tom Brady. The Patriots are the true benchmark of a team. Everyone is on the same page, they never give up and they are always prepared. If it's a blow out, I think we get blown out. But if it's close, I have a feeling we can do it. I wanted to stay home and watch, but we are actually leaving Sunday morning for Colorado Springs training for the Olympics. We'll have to find somewhere to watch when we land. I'll have my gear on. Hopefully the Broncos fans in Denver don't beat me up, but it's all good. We're good!"