It’s mid-March, winter is in the rear-view mirror, and Griffin Colapinto is still on the North Shore for a three-month stay. He’s training, surfing, and stacking clips for an upcoming film project called Bloodlines. He’s surrounded by a cast of other Hot 100 phenoms, including brothers Seth [Men’s No. 13] and Josh Moniz [Men’s No. 18], and is set on that grind to get better. The waves aren’t so good, but the crowd is gone, and he’s psyched for the Pipe Pro Junior. His goal, clear as day, is to improve his surfing, to get results, and to climb the ranks. And at the ripe age of 16, coming in hot at the 25th spot in the Men’s list, we’d say his commitment has been paying off. —Garrett James
Run down your year in 2014 for us. What were the defining moments for you?
It was a crazy year, I stacked in a bunch of really sick surf trips and focused on getting a lot of good clips out from that traveling. Then back near home, I won the NSSA Nationals at Huntington Beach in the Juniors division, which was one of my biggest results yet. I was super stoked about that, I feel like I ended the year really well.
What gives you a better buzz, scoring in some tropical lineup or getting that W in a singlet?
It feels so good to do well in a contest, for sure, but that’s not really my main focus right now. To score really good waves on a surf trip is next level. It’s a different kind of payoff. This coming year, the rest of 2015, I’m not going to be hitting the ‘QS too hard, so I’ll just be doing a few events and trying to get on as many epic surf trips as I can.
You’re young, just 16, with plenty of road ahead of you in your surf career. That said, give us some of your short-term goals.
I mean, I just want to get a lot better at surfing. Is that a cop-out? [Laughs.] I need to work on a few things, technique and style-wise, and I definitely have to get stronger too. As far as contests go, I want to make it into the top 200 by the end of the year. That puts me into QS6000s in 2016, which would be huge.
We’ve seen your clips, you’re pretty damn well-rounded for a 16 year old. What parts of your surfing are you trying to work on?
There are a bunch of airs I would like to learn, that list is always going to be long. But other than that, I just want to get better all-around, to be well-rounded in all types of waves. I see guys like John John Florence, doing those crazy airs, and I want to be able to do all those. And then he goes and gets barreled like he does, and I want to be able to do that too. Next up is alley-oops though. I can do ‘em, but I can’t do those crazy ones yet. I want to be able to do those crazy ones.
Speaking of guys like John John, who’s your biggest inspiration in surfing?
Well, my favorite surfer is Julian Wilson, for sure. I try to copy his style a lot. But the person that inspires me most is Kolohe Andino [Men’s No. 1]. Best case scenario, I’d like to base my surfing off of Julian, and then base my competitive drive and work ethic off what I see Kolohe doing. I watch Kolohe, the way he goes out to every session always really focused and working on something. That’s what I want to be doing.
Sticking with the San Clemente guy, I see. What’s it like growing up in that town, Southern California’s pro surfing hub?
It’s been really good. I feel like San Clemente is the spot for surfers get noticed. There are so many good waves, and such a variety of ’em too. Then there’s plenty of surf industry there too, so there are so many sponsorship opportunities. It’s been huge for my surfing to get to be a part of that scene.
Looking at the 2015 Hot 100 list, after Kolohe you’re the next highest-rated surfer from San Clemente. Brother will graduate next year, how’s it feel to be the one carrying the flag for the next crop of S.C. supergroms?
It feels incredible, I’m excited for that. Coming in at No. 25 is awesome, I’m so psyched. I think it’d be so sick to make the Tour someday and have Brother and I traveling together. We’d be making a lot of people at home in San Clemente really proud.