Fifteen-year-old Griffin Colapinto doesn’t do well when confined to a classroom. The San Clemente native hasn’t sat through a lecture in years. He’s what teachers call a tactile student — one who learns best through doing rather than listening. There are no Scantrons or standardized tests in Grif’s life. He has a hall pass to Lowers anytime he needs to use it and takes field trips to Tahiti to attend barrel-riding tutorials with Jack Robinson. For Griffin, learning is performing, and it’s obvious he’s growing wiser by the wave. –Mike Misselwitz
I’m home-schooled, so I don’t have to be in a classroom six hours a day. Most of my time at school was spent listening to a teacher talk. I can’t listen to someone like that; I’d always start daydreaming and then afterward be like, “What just happened?” I don’t know about other kids, but home schooling works better for me. It helps to have someone working with me one-on-one. And it gives me time to surf as much as possible.
I first stood up on a surfboard when I was 2, and by about 8 years old I knew I wanted to surf every day. My dad runs a surf camp at Poche Beach in San Clemente, and that’s how I got started. I spent every day at the beach and when I was 10 I decided to do my first NSSA contest. I made the final, I was psyched and ever since then I’ve been hooked on contests.
I make a lot of friends through competitive surfing. A lot of the kids who compete also home-school, so we’re all in it together. Guys like Josh and Seth Moniz, Nolan Rapoza, Kei Kobayashi and Colt Ward are some of my best friends. And we all really push each other to surf better. Especially, like, surfing barreling waves with Josh and Seth. They are so gnarly.
When I was 14, I went with Kanoa Igarashi, Seth Moniz, Jake Marshall and Josh Burke on the first SURFING Grom Games trip to Nicaragua. Everyone was pushing each other and the waves were really good. It helped take my surfing to another level. Trips like that — surfing with kids who are really good in good waves — teach you so much and really improve your surfing. I think it’s amazing that a magazine supports kids at that age.
I’m always trying to push myself in bigger waves. I’ve been really focused on building confidence in my drops, and it’s made me charge a little harder. If you learn the drop, that’s all that matters, because if you fall in the barrel it’s not that bad. But if you fall on the drop on a big wave, you’re kinda screwed.
I love contests, but I don’t think you need to be super serious about them. Surfing is different because it’s about more than just winning. I want to show people that you can do well without being psycho about results. I think, especially for kids, it’s important to have fun. A lot of people are taking surfing so seriously these days. I’m more into keeping it fun and enjoying myself. I like to sit back and make bets on my friends’ heats at contests [laughs]. It keeps the mood light.
I’d like to be on tour within the next five years. If I’m not on the WCT by 20, I want to be doing well in the Primes. I’m 15 now, so I think that’s a pretty good goal. I also want to continue pushing my surfing and going on as many trips as possible. Really, I just want to keep surfing and learning. Luckily there’s no reason why I’d ever need to stop doing either of those things.