There is no formal draft day in the world of pro surfing. Unlike football, basketball or baseball, surfers simply turn pro when they think they're ready, and find out how right or wrong they were once they set out to compete on the world stage. That said, the Surfing Industrial Complex always demands new stars. Companies seeking a boost in market share will pay top dollar for the next big thing, whether they're ready for it or not. Fred Patacchia understands this better than anyone.
The former NSSA Nationals Champion was surfing's version of the number-one draft pick five years ago. He was rewarded with a big contract, heaps of media hype, and the expectations of great things to come. But reality quickly set in for Fred and his followers. As good as he was, he was still just a kid who needed some time to grow up and find his way. As he toiled on the World Qualifying Series for the better part of three years, Fred slowly faded into the background, nearly out of view.
Then, just when many were about to give up on him, Patacchia got it together, graduated into the big leagues and came out firing with a banner rookie season, finishing a very respectable 14th in the ratings in 2005, and taking Rookie of the Year honors. The young man from Oahu's North Shore has been taking it to the ASP's older guard this year too, still silently chipping away toward his ultimate goal. While it might have taken a while, clearly Patacchia has arrived. We caught up with Fred to see how he's handled the pressure of his journey from local to limelight, to obscurity, back into the spotlight again.
You must be riding pretty high these days based on where you're sitting on the world tour rankings.
Yeah, that's for sure. It's always nice to get off the 'QS. Being where I'm at right now is pretty much a lifelong dream. It's just one step closer to becoming a world champ, which is every surfer's dream. In order to be world champ you've got to be on this tour, so I guess I wouldn't call it like the first step. I'd call it probably like the third step.
Kelly and Andy got most of the attention last year because of the title race, so it seems your impressive Rookie of the Year season was a bit overlooked.
Yeah, you know, it was, but I think the Rookie of the Year thing only started being really big in the past few years—to me, anyway. Ever since Bruce Irons got it. But I think there are lot more rookies actually coming up that are causing problems on the 'CT.