Chris Ward has been in the public eye for well over a decade now. The San Clemente whiz kid first appeared on our radar screens as a toddler peering out from behind the long shadows being cast by local icons Matt Archbold, Dino Andino, Christian Fletcher and Shane Beschen. As expected, Wardo evolved from super grom into teenage sensation, and Californians eagerly awaited his inevitable leap onto the global stage. But today, at the age of 25, Wardo has yet to fulfill his role as the Golden State’s next big hero. In fact, now more than ever, surf fans around the world are asking the very familiar question, “Where’s Wardo?” In an effort to uncover the mystery surrounding this elusive character we tracked him down. In the end, Wardo’s honest answers to our probing questions provided many of the missing pieces we’ve been looking for. Voila! Here’s Wardo. –Chris Mauro
SURFER: You missed out on the WCT again in 2004 by such a slim margin, and it’s happened like that two years in a row. How are you holding up?
CHRIS WARD: Better than I thought I would, really. I’ve missed the cut for two years in a row, but those are really the only two years I’ve actually gone out and really made an effort to qualify for the tour, so I don’t feel a huge, y’know, sense of urgency…not yet anyway. I think a lot of people are under the impression that I’ve been out there trying to do it for the past six or seven years, but that’s not the case. When I first turned pro I spent a lot more time traveling and doing trips than I did competing.
SURFER: So you’re confident about getting the job done eventually?
CHRIS WARD: Yeah, I mean, I’m about as motivated as I’ve ever been right now. I don’t feel like it’s a matter of if, just when.
SURFER: Most of your peers say it’s not your surfing that’s holding you back, but your mental approach, would you agree?
CHRIS WARD: Yeah. I think that’s something that’s been proven over the last two years. In some ways I wasn’t ready for the WCT mentally or physically. Most people know I’m not the master of strategy in heats, but I’m getting better. The key is to keep focused. When you’re dealing with the ocean you never stop making mistakes, but the key is just to be able to learn from them instead of bashing your head against the wall. I also need to stay in better shape on a regular basis. When I’m in good shape I can feel a huge difference with my confidence level. You go out there feeling like you deserve to win.
SURFER: You were one of those kids appearing in magazines by the age of 12, and the consensus then was that you had World Champion potential. Do you still feel that way?
CHRIS WARD: Well, I think I can surf as good as anyone on certain days, but there’re a lot of 12-year-old kids with world champion potential. It’s what they do with that potential that counts. I’ve been taking my time meeting mine I guess…you know, growing up in San Clemente, I don’t know, meeting your potential isn’t something that’s drilled into your brain (laughs). I wish it were.
SURFER: But at the same time you were exposed to some of the best talent in California at the time, weren’t you?
CHRIS WARD: Oh yeah. This seemed like the epicenter of California when I was growing up. Archy [Matt Archbold], Dino [Andino], Christian [Fletcher], and Shane Beschen were all blowing up. There was so much energy in the lineup every day, it’s something I figured would always be around, but now I realize how special that era was. Y’know, the aerial movement may not have started here, but it definitely got most of its momentum from this crew, and gained some legitimacy.
SURFER: Were you born into the San Clemente Mafia?