Two events deep into his maiden season on the World Tour, Santa Cruz’s Nat Young has already cemented himself a reputation for being a formidable competitor and a tough draw. After a respectable showing at Snapper followed by a runner-up finish at Bells, Nat’s surfing more like a hardened vet than a rookie. Recently, we rang up Nat to get his thoughts on transitioning to the Tour, his narrow loss at Bells, and why his favorite travel partner turns out to be his mom.
Now that you’re a couple events deep into your rookie year, would you say that it’s everything you thought it would be?
There are definitely some things that are different, and there are definitely a lot of things that are in line with what I expected. But at the end of the day, it’s still a surf contest, and I’ve been doing those for about as long as I can remember. Overall though, the World Tour feels a lot more intimate than the ’QS. People seem to be a lot closer at that level and we’re treated a lot better.
A lot of rookies will come into their first season feeling anxious, and you can see their nerves get the better of them. How was your confidence going into Snapper and Bells?
To be honest, I was unbelievably nervous before Snapper. I was trying really hard not to be, but I was definitely feeling it the night before my first heat. I didn’t want to go out and lose my first heat on the World Tour. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. But after that Round 1 loss, I felt better and was able to focus more. I think by getting that out of the way, I was able to move on. By the time Bells came around, I was confident and ready to compete.
Let’s talk about Bells. You were looking sharp out there, what was it that seemed to be working for you so well?
The wave itself is pretty similar to a lot of the waves where I grew up in Santa Cruz and I felt pretty confident on my backside out there. I know a lot of people have this idea that Bells isn’t the best wave for goofyfooters—unless you’re Occy or someone like that—but it seems like if you line up the wave right, you can get more vertical on your turns out there in your backhand. I think you’re at a disadvantage when it comes to backside cutbacks though, so maybe it evens out.
In your final against Adriano, there was some controversy. You had Taylor Knox and Occy in the commentary booth saying that you were underscored.
First, I just want to say that to make a final on my rookie year is huge for me. So I’m stoked to have done that. That being said, both Adriano and I are both really competitive and we both really wanted to win, so there was some battling out there between us for sure. With that said, I do think he deserved to win. I think he was in a better rhythm out there than I was and he had better waves. That’s it.
What was the vibe like in the water in the final? Did you guys talk at all?
No, not at all. Like I said, we both really wanted to win, we weren’t there to hangout. I don’t normally talk to other competitors in the water, unless it’s someone I’m really close to. But if I’m surfing against Adriano in the Final at Bells, I’m there to compete, not to talk.
I noticed that you brought your mom with you on the Australian leg.
Yeah, my family is super important to me and I wanted to have them with me on the first leg, so I brought my mom and godmother with me. I think it really helped mellow me out to know that I had them there. Having something to remind me of being home was really important, I was there about a month and a half and that was the longest I’ve ever been on the road.
I’d imagine it wouldn’t be too easy talking to girls with your mom and godmother with you.
Nah, not easy at all. That was the only downside.
You’ve got Brazil coming up next. How do you prepare for an event like that?
I think Brazil is going to be one of the more difficult events to compete because you never really know what you’re going to get. I think when it comes to waves like in Rio, you have to put your time in at your local beachbreak and hope for the best.