Griffin Colapinto. Photo: Carey
Griffin Colapinto. Photo: Carey

In The Hot Seat: Griffin Colapinto

Catching up with California’s newest Championship Tour member

Three years ago, during a Surfing Magazine trip to Barbados, I sat down to conduct a roundtable interview with a bright group of teenage hopefuls: Griffin Colapinto, Jake Marshall, Nic Hdez, Stevie Pittman, Josh Burke, and Parker Coffin. While the conversation was playful and the group spent most of their time poking fun at one another, something Griffin said really stood out to me. When I asked him where he wanted to be in three years time, he said, with total confidence: "On the ‘CT." He was 16.

The rest of the group gave his answer a laugh and quickly resumed bagging on one another. It's not that his peers didn't believe Griffin could do it. It was more that actually qualifying within three years when he wasn't even ranked on the Qualifying Series at the time sounded like a lofty goal. A Pipe Dream, really.

But not to Griffin.

He quickly went to work. Refining his raw talent into contest results. Packing bombs at Pipe. And then, last week—three years (almost to the day) after making his goal of qualifying by age 19 known in an interview amongst his peers—Griffin finished runner-up at Haleiwa, catapulting him into second on the Qualifying Series.

Dream, meet reality.

Congrats Griff!

Thanks. I'm really happy.

I know you set lofty goals for yourself. I remember when we did that roundtable interview in Barbados three years ago, you told me you wanted to qualify by 19. And now, here you are. How'd you do it?

Hard work. I feel like if I put as much effort as I can into everything, than afterwards, I feel deserving of completing my goals, and that's what gives me confidence. A lot of it has to do with your mind and your mental game. So I think the confidence part is mostly why I work so hard. I feel like things should go my way when I've been doing everything right, you know?

For sure. How much of a help has Snake [coach Jake Paterson] been in translating your raw talent into competitive strategy and ‘QS results?

Oh, so much. I'd say at least 70 percent. A lot of the stuff he says is really simple, but no one really thinks of it. He's simplified everything for me, and that makes surfing heats a lot easier.

Along with Snake, how much help was it traveling the ‘QS with guys like Zeke [Lau], Kanoa [Igarashi] and Leo [Fioravanti]? That competitive energy must've helped out tons this year.

For sure. We're always running little heats, and we're competitive with each other about everything, always trying to one-up the other guy. It's a good environment to be around.

You've got a legitimate shot at winning both the ‘QS with a good result at Sunset, and then the Triple Crown at Pipe, especially if you get a main event wildcard. Did you know that nobody from California has ever won the Triple Crown?

Oh, really? Is that right?

It is. In fact, the last mainland American to win was Slater, way back in 1998.

Holy shit. That's gnarly.

Sooooo, is winning the Triple Crown now an immediate goal? If so, I'll go ahead and pencil you in. You seem to knock off your goals no problem.

[Laughs] Yeah, it's always been a goal at some point. I didn't think it'd be a goal by this time in my career. But yeah, now that I've got that second at Haleiwa, I guess I'll make it a goal. But we'll see what happens. There's no pressure to qualify now, so Sunset should be fun.

You were ranked seventh going into Haleiwa. Had you lost your first heat there and then had a bad result at Sunset, chances are someone would have passed you in the ‘QS rankings. Did that make you nervous?

Yeah, I get nervous sometimes. When it happens, I always tell Snake that I'm getting nervous so that we can figure out a way so that it doesn't affect my surfing. He's really good with that.

You've been paddling out at Pipe and packing anything you can get into for a few years now. You're one of the only rookies in recent memory where people aren't saying, "Yeah, but what's going to happen out at Pipe and Chopes…" Because we all know you're going to go.

[Laughs] Yeah, It took me about four years to get kind of comfortable out there. I still have a lot to learn, as far as technical parts of the takeoff and the barrel, like what Jamie [O'Brien] and those guys can do. But I feel pretty good out there.

Will the family be joining you for a few ‘CT events?

Yeah, for sure. My parents want to go to Bells because my brother [Crosby] will be able to do the trials, since it's a Rip Curl event. So that'll be a family ordeal.

Is there any wave on Tour you've never surfed at all?

I actually haven't surfed Bells. And I haven't been to the Surf Ranch yet. I think I'm the only one [Laughs].

You went from the junior series to the ‘CT in three short years. If you had to answer, where will you be in three more years?

Hmmm. Let's see. In three years, I'll be 22. [Long pause] I want to say winning a World Title…but it's hard to claim that right now. All of this is still a lot to comprehend [Laughs]. So I'll just say Top 5. For now.