Santa Cruz is a pretty tight-knit community. Pretty much all of the guys in town who surf know each other, even though everyone is spread out through the Westside, the Eastside, and Midtown. When I was riding for O’Neill, Kieran Horn was the team manager and he was probably my biggest influence growing up. We traveled a lot together and he kind of showed me the ropes. It was awesome growing up around here because my mom was friends with some of the best local surfers, so I’ve known a lot of them since before I even got in the water. That made getting into surfing really easy. I can tell that it’s not like that for everyone, because it can be difficult to just paddle out to a spot in Santa Cruz and get good waves if you don’t know any of the guys in the lineup. Over the years I’ve probably put in most of my time at the Lane. It’s basically our go-to spot on the Westside because it’s such a great wave and its pretty much breaking everyday. More than any other wave, the Lane has probably really shaped my surfing over the years.
I’m really excited about getting started on the World Tour. I’m still not sure what to expect—it almost doesn’t even seem real. I’m sure it will finally sink in once I get to Snapper. People talk about regular footers having an advantage on the Tour, but as a goofyfooter who has surfed rights my whole life, I don’t think it’s a disadvantage at all. I feel really comfortable on my backhand. There are so many good rights around Santa Cruz that if I had been a regular footer, I probably would have never gone left in my life. It feels good to be representing Santa Cruz at that level of competition. There used to be a lot more California surfers on Tour, and I think now there are only four of us. I don’t really feel like there’s any more pressure coming from that specifically, but I definitely think its normal to feel a lot of pressure coming into your rookie year. I just really want to come out swinging and prove myself against the best surfers in the world. I’m not feeling a lot of pressure at the moment, but I’m sure it will be on my mind more as Snapper gets closer.
I think shooting for Rookie of the Year is a realistic goal. I know I can pull it off if I surf my best in my heats, and more importantly, if I can surf at that level consistently. Everyone on Tour surfs incredibly well—it’s no accident that those guys made it to where they are. If you don’t bring that consistency into every heat, you’re going to lose, no doubt about it. And the bar is always being raised, so you have to make sure that you keep progressing and incorporating that into competition. In a contest, you are usually only going to try what feels the most comfortable, and you end up relying on the maneuvers that you know you can make 100 percent of the time. If you constantly push yourself out of your comfort zone while freesurfing, then you can get build consistency and start landing those maneuvers in contests as well. You aren’t going to go for a rodeo in a contest if you only land one in ten when you’re freesurfing. The more emphasis you put on progressing outside of contests, the more that translates into your contest surfing and keeps it fresh and interesting. You can really tell from guys like John John that bringing a big repertoire to competition really pays off.