"I can't lie, and I don't have a filter, and that comes a lot from being on my deathbed 15 years ago," Andy King tells the WSL.
"That informs the way I coach, be it with Gabriel Medina or anyone else. I don't want to waste time with bullshit, or with people interfering in what should be a simple process."
King, a former professional surfer, lost his hearing in 2003 after a brutal sucker punch outside a pub in Cronulla. The attack left him in a coma with a fractured skull. Doctors told him he would never surf again. Yet despite having no internal balance, and being deaf, less than two years later he made the Quarterfinals of the Volcom Pipe Pro, held in ten-foot surf.
Not long after, King received a cochlear implant, which allowed him to hear, at least on land. He's since worked with Cochlear (the company that invented the original technology) to make devices that can be worn in water.
He transitioned into coaching, initially with Red Bull, before becoming Surfing Australia's Head Coach. After he left that post he has coached Mick Fanning and Julian Wilson and was recently drafted into Medina's corner for the Australian leg.
"Mick told me Gabe was looking for a coach, but we had been in opposing camps for a decade, so I thought it was a million to one shot," said King. "However, MF created the trust when he vouched for the both of us. So we had a really solid platform to work from. And Mick was right. Gabriel is loyal and fun. We got along like a house on fire."
The results have been outstanding, with the two-time World Champion making three Finals in Australia, winning at Newcastle and Rottnest. The combination of electricity and consistency seems him holding a lead of more than 8,000 points on the WSL Leaderboard.
King however isn't taking the credit for the run. As brutally honest with himself, as he is with other people, he has a firm handle on what a coach does and doesn't do.
"Look even the term surf coach is ridiculous. With NFL or soccer coaches they use their players as chess pieces in a well thought out strategy," says King. "In surfing, once the athlete leaves the shore, they are on their own, and if he or she isn't adaptable they are finished. The surfer makes all the calls. If anyone says you can teach or coach a surfer like Gabriel to actually surf, you have to run for the hills."
He describes himself more as a blocker for someone who has loads of talent. His job is to barge people out of the way and remove obstacles so the athlete has the freedom to do what they want to do.
"With independence comes power. Once the surfers realize they are capable of doing it themselves, they own their performances more," says King.
Yet he isn't one to sit back if a surfer's buttons need to be pushed. His philosophy is that high performance comes with comfort, yet when elite athletes are edged out of their comfort zone, that can provide growth. It's a balancing act and one that Medina seems particularly attuned to.
"Medina is unusual in that he learns so quickly from his mistakes and that he is growing and improving constantly," says King. "That comes with experience, but I haven't seen a surfer on such a constant, upward trajectory. It's a privilege to watch it at close quarters."