To be the best you have to beat the best. The confidence, the grit, the attitude, there's zero ground to give in the pursuit of greatness, as evidenced by Conner Coffin's remarkable run through Narrabeen and subsequent 2nd-place event result.
His backhand performance pushed the affable Californian up to No. 4 on the WSL Leaderboard, and with that Final appearance, and the Tour moving to Western Australia -- a place that should suit his powerful rail surfing -- Coffin now must be considered a contender to land in the Final Five at season's end and make the cut for the inaugural Rip Curl WSL Finals at Lower Trestles.
Given his poor start at the Billabong Pipe Masters presented by Hydro Flask to kick off the 2021 season, Coffin's rise up the rankings is more impressive. Despite being one of the most experienced and comfortable surfers on the North Shore, he suffered a shocker in a wave-starved Elimination Round heat .
He got back on the horse with a 5th-place event finish in Newcastle, and while most of the limelight and surf fan oxygen was taken with the aerial antics of Gabriel Medina and Italo Ferreira, plus the hometown heroics of Morgan Cibilic and Ryan Callinan, the Santa Barbara surfer simply kept his head down and played to his strengths -- clean, fast, radical surfing in its purest sense.
He surfed on rail, waited for the best waves, added flair when needed and executed his well-researched heat plans that he'd developed with coach Glenn "Micro" Hall.
"I'm so stoked to make it into another Final," Coffin said after the Final. "I got so smoked, but I had a good time. Gabby is such an incredible surfer, so it was always going to be tough, but his performance just then was so incredible so it was actually just cool to be a part of that. I've had an amazing time so far in Australia and have managed to put up back-to-back results so I'm really happy."
Known as one of the more approachable and articulate surfers on the CT, this has perhaps led to him being underrated as a competitor. However, underneath the bearded, guitar-strumming, nice-guy persona, as seen in the recent Rip Curl edit "In The Band," there is an insanely driven and confident athlete.
The surfing talent helps, as does a style groomed on the Santa Barbara points, but it is his work ethic that bolsters his sense of self-belief.
He is known as one of the fittest and most health-conscious surfers on Tour. A new relationship with shaper JS has also added some spark to his equipment. Plus, traveling with his partner Sierra has seen him happy out of the water as in. The complete package means he doesn't have to compromise is own personal style of surfing for anything and can bring the heat against any surfer on Tour.
At Narrabeen, his backside power hack was enough of a weapon to dispatch Wade Carmichael, Italo Ferreira -- all be it controversially -- Kanoa Igarashi and Griffin Colapinto. Now, sure, in the Final, Medina's above-the-lip firepower overwhelmed him, but as always he stuck to his guns.
"This week was all about focusing on competing well, flying under the radar, willing waves to come in the dying moments of heats, and having a damn blast while doing it," he posted afterward neatly summarizing his modus operandi.
Now three events don't make a season, but he can take confidence from 2018 when his consistency led him to finish as the World No. 8. And the Boost Mobile Margaret River Pro presented by Corona should provide the type of waves ideally suited to building on his impressive East Coast results.
This was, after all, a surfer that qualified for the CT after a winning performance at Sunset. That forehand rail game should come to the front on the Main Break right-handers, especially with the forecast promising solid surf.
And if the competition moves to The Box, his barrel riding is world-class. If he can get close (and possibly beat) Italo and Gabriel in punchy beachbreaks, he'll back himself 100-percent in serious right-hand slabs, where aerials are (mostly) taken out of the equation.
Either way, through dedication and talent, and balancing having fun with results, he's put himself right at the center of the conversation. It's a space he's carved out through talent and attitude. And one that is richly deserved.