The path to surf stardom seems pretty simple: win a national title, get a few pro junior results, dabble with the QS, win the QS, win a World Title, make a billion dollars, live in luxury and reverence forever. But, shockingly, it’s a bit more complex than that (the complexities begin at that whole “win” part). Still, we’ve seen stars before and we’ll see stars again. In order to find out what separates future champions apart from the pack, we asked Chad Wells — Quiksilver’s team manager with thirteen years of experience — a handful of questions. —Jake Tellkamp
SURFING: What do you look for when sponsoring an up and comer?
CHAD WELLS: Obviously, talent is the biggest thing. You want them to have a basic fundamental skill set that can grow the right way. But beyond that, I look for kids that have a desire to succeed and the work ethic to make changes to their approach if things aren’t working.
What’s the biggest challenge for a young surfer?
Growth spurts are hard, but you can easily get around them if you have good support. If you think about a young Kolohe Andino — who had Matt Biolos pumping out new boards to suit the way his body was changing — puberty wasn’t so dramatic and scary for him. A lot of kids have problems with not getting their boards fast enough. They’ll order a 5’4″ and they’ll already be too tall for it by the time it’s done. Kids should know that foam is your friend and you have to embrace the fact that you’ll be riding bigger boards as you get older.
Why do you think some kids burn out?
They grow up with their parents basically looking over them at all times and then leave the nest to go travel and compete abroad. As much fun as it can be, some guys can’t nail their routine or stay away from all the temptation out there. Partying, chasing girls or not having the right support and supervision will get a lot of kids off track.
Do you have any advice for the parents of aspiring pro surfers?
I think parents should just focus on being there to emotionally support their kid and not worry too much about everything else. These days, a lot of parents will be on the beach yelling and whistling when waves are coming in and whatnot. I think the support and the participation is epic, but sometimes it sucks the fun out of it for the kid.