Interview by Ashton Goggans
Tommy Coleman’s your classic Florida grom: A featherweight goofyfoot with a bright blonde puff of hair and Southern Charm to burn. As conversationally polite as he is competitively prolific, Coleman’s the most recent in a long line of Sebastian Inlet groms, a World Tour dream who has the talent to make it a reality. And under the watchful eye of guys like Matt Kechele, CT Taylor, and Scott Bouchard, it should be no surprise to anyone that Coleman’s talents have grown well beyond his years. We caught up with Coleman to see how life’s treating him in The Sunshine State.
What’s a regular day look like for a 14-year-old home-schooled Floridian?
Usually I’ll wake up, do some school, then if there are waves, I’ll go surf. Or if it’s flat, I’ll fish. I live, like, twenty minutes from Sebastian Inlet. Right now it’s totally flat, so I’ve been fishing a bunch and getting a lot of schoolwork done.
There was a time when Sebastian Inlet was a serious pressure cooker for young talent. How’s the scene there nowadays?
I surf Sebastian Inlet all the time. I surf with Chauncey Robinson and Blake Speir. Both of them are incredible. But yeah, there’s not a lot of younger kids surfing. Honestly, there’s not a lot of people surfing there ever. Among those my age, there aren’t many of us. It’s weird.
Were you surfing before they did the repairs to the jetty and ruined First Peak?
I don’t think I was even alive yet!
God, that makes me feel so old. But I guess you don’t know what you’re missing.
[Laughs] Yeah, I never got to surf it. I’m so bummed. But it’s still really fun now, and I surf there all the time. I spend a lot of time up in New Smyrna during the summer, and if there’s a good swell, we’ll head down to South Florida. There was a day down there this winter that was the best surf I’ve ever seen in Florida. It was all-time. I couldn’t even believe it was Florida. It was so perfect. And warm!
You’ve collected some serious scalps for a young gun: Two national titles, a bunch of East Coast championship wins, etc. Have you always had that competitive fire?
Yeah, it’s always been there. I really love surfing contests. I love seeing all the kids my age ripping. I surf so much better when I’m around kids surfing well. There are so many young kids my age ripping so, so hard.
Are there any advantages to growing up hungry and frothing in Florida?
Yeah, I mean, when we go to California, we’re frothing even with just average waves, because we’d think it was pumping if we were in Florida. I’ll have the best sessions in, like, waist-high waves. I mean, right now it’s like shin-high here and not breaking. I’m over it!
Have you gotten to travel a lot these last few years?
Yeah! I’ve went to Puerto Rico, El Salvador, and I’ve been to Hawaii a few times. Hawaii is so crazy. Coming from Florida, there’s just so much more power. I love it out there.
Did you surf Pipe?
Yeah, I did! This last trip I went, it wasn’t that good. But I love that wave so much, the way it just sucks up and throws.
Not to rub salt in the wound, but a lot of the veteran East Coast guys used to say that Sebastian Inlet was the best wave to train in for Hawaii. Where’d you cut your teeth in hollow waves?
I surf a lot of shorebreak. There’s a wave near my house in Vero that is a really good shorepound wave. But Hawaii’s so different. Here, it sort of sucks up and barrels, but in Hawaii it just throws so wide. It’s crazy.
So what’s the kink in your armor? Where are you putting your focus?
I definitely feel like I need to work on my power. That’s what I’ve been working on — training, getting stronger, and eating better. I’ve been working with a coach, Michelle Flores. We do some beach training, but mostly we just go out and surf. I might not see something that I’m doing wrong, and he’ll catch my mistake. We can work on it in the water, and talk about – try and fix it instantly. I don’t, like, lift weights or anything.
You aren’t up at dawn doing deadlifts?
[Laughs] Not at all. But I mean, I’m 14 and only 85 lbs! I definitely need to get more meat on my bones, so I can push more water around.