Everyone’s new favourite surfer is having a lot of fun.
“I don’t get nervous because I know I’m just going to have to do my best and if I don’t I’m not going to have a chance,” said an elated Conner Coffin after defeating Mick Fanning and Jordy Smith in round 4. “It kind of eliminates all of the bullshit and keeps it simple.”
Coffin’s laidback approach is starkly different to Mick and Jordy but he has been soaking up every bit of advice his idols have passed on since jumping onto the main stage. The heavy-footed Californian giant slayer blew up on the Bells bowl this morning, dropping a 16.86 round four heat total that included the highest single wave score in round 4.
Connor was competing against two surfers he draws inspiration from and seems to have found a way to feed off his competitors’ energy.
“They are two of my favourite surfers and guys I look up to on tour. They are two guys I’ve looked up to my whole life. I have a lot of respect for both of them because they’ve been really welcoming and super nice and hopefully they don’t stop being nice now that I’ve beat them.” [Laughs].”
“It’s rad when you look up to guys like that and they’re good guys back. It makes them that much cooler. When people are like, ‘Mick surfs competitively’ I think Mick’s the best guy, why would you hate on that? To have a chance to surf against the best guys is so cool and I knew it would be a good heat.”
Connor also reiterated the point made by Kelly Slater earlier in the week that the Rookies have realised they can surf from a place where they have nothing to lose and that gives them an edge.
“When I go out surfing against those guys I know there’s no chance unless I surf my best. So it makes it really simple; I’ve got to go out and catch good waves and surf the best I can. At the same time I’m not going to do something I can’t do and focus on my strengths.”
Coffin’s lethal layback snap has been one of those strengths. After growing up on a diet of Californian points, at Bells he’s able to do display his full repertoire of rail work that has a hint of Taylor Knox, Curren and Dane Reynolds. More telling however is how unnerved he has been by the weight of expectation associated with being the new kid on the block.
“Oh man I’m having the best time ever. It’s outdoing any expectations I had and I think a lot of that is having guys like that [Mick and Jordy] being so welcoming,” said Coffin. Mick’s been open to giving advice, maybe because he’s taking a year off, but that’s so rad.”
Coffin will only be competing in a couple of QS events in 2016. Rather than sure up a back-door requalification, he plans to put all of his eggs in one basket and go full tilt at the CT. If his round 5 finish at Snapper and this result at Bells is any indication of his form, the Californian looks here’s here to stay.
“I was sitting out there when there was five minutes to go and I was in first and just thinking, ‘Man I hope I win this heat so I can stay on the CT and not go back to the QS because this place is such a dream come true’. It’s been such a long road to get here and I just want to stay here because I’m having a lot of fun.”