What Went Wrong?

Another Copper medal, another booby prize for the PacSun USA Surf Team. What was supposed to be our squad's breakthrough year ended up exactly where they left off in France. Right in the mix, but right out of the glory. As disappointing as it is for the teams and its fans across the continental US (remember: Hawaii finished second), there are lessons in defeat. And renewed hope that some day, some way, Surfing America will fulfill its destiny. Back home yesterday and fresh out of a surf at Rincon, Under 16 seventh-place finisher Conner Coffin sells us some of that hope.

SURFING MAGAZINE: What was the mood like when you guys realized you were getting the copper again?

CONNER COFFIN: Everyone was pretty bummed. We went in there pretty fired up and with high hopes. But then we had this shocker day where a bunch of people lost and it just kind of went downhill from there.

What happened on the shocker day?

Well, it started with Joey [coach Joey Buran] being sick. He was super sick, and even had to go to the hospital one day. So that left Sean [assistant coach Sean Mattison] doing it all. Sean's great, but it's a lot for one guy. There's two different sites, and when guys like Evan Geiselman and Ian Crane and our other guys are losing, it's tough to get a handle on it.

Do you feel like the team is a unit? Do you guys get along well?

We all get along well, for sure. Joey's a great motivator and he fires us up. But [pause]…I would say we're lacking that extra enthusiasm some of the other teams have. I mean, win or lose, you see all the Brazilians and Aussies down there screaming their heads off for their guys. No matter what. And we'll get into it, too, but when we go on a downer, like we did on that one day, it becomes contagious. The guys get all bummed and it rubs off on everyone. We were brought down instead of picked up.

Is it weird to you that Hawaii and the US Mainland are separate teams?

Yeah, it is weird, but it's just how it's always been so you don't really question it. Plus, it seems like the Hawaiians would never combine forces with the Mainland. They don't want to be a part of it. It's the full sovereignty movement. [laughs] It is a bummer, though. Because if we did combine, it would be game over for the rest of the world.

What's your assessment of the other teams this year?

I was blown away by the talent level at this event. The contest was already gnarly by the second round. So many good surfers from so many countries. This one kid from Peru, Carlos Zapata, was ripping. And the Brazilians were surfing really well. They're always notorious for having bad styles and just kind of being grinders. Not anymore. Jesse Mendes, Gabriel Medina and Miguel Pupo all had really good styles and were just ripping.

Didn't Kolohe Andino get into it in one heat with two Brazilians?

It was heavy. Three-man heat, and they did everything they could to not allow Brother to catch a wave. Not even a knee-high one. They would paddle him into the cliff, sit on him…so gnarly. But Brother somehow snuck by and made the heat on two low scores.

Conner Coffin; all smiles

The wave looked pretty tricky.

I actually didn't mind it. It was definitely tricky, but on the right tide, it was super fun. I like going backside in contests, too, so I was psyched on that. The diciest part was finding the wave that would actually line up and give you that wall. There was a huge luck factor in finding those. You could take off on a wave that seemed like a 10 and it would fizzle into no man's land. Then, down the line it would reform and turn into this heat-winner. You could either be completely in synch or completely out of it. In the heat I lost, I got nothing. Every wave just crumbled into the cliff.

The US team's had a history lately of being in it until the final day and then falling apart? What are we missing?

Geez, I don't know. The contest is so long, there's so many factors involved. Sometimes it seems like everything just goes against you and you can't catch a break. Well, for the past couple years, that's been us. We just can't catch a break. Scores, interference calls…whatever. We always seem to be on the wrong side of those. But I'm not making excuses. If there's one thing we're missing, I'd say we just need to do a better job of sticking together, win or lose, and supporting our team all the way to the end.

A good example of doing it right was Courtney. At the beginning of the event, she didn't really look that good. She was just doing what she needed to do to get by. But she was pacing herself. And when it got to the last couple of days, she was on fire. Just ripping so hard. I wish more of us had paced ourselves like that.

Anything else?

Well, the only other thing I'd say is that I'd love to see us prepare better and have more time together as a unit. We pick the 33 kids for the US Surf Team, but the actual team that competes in the World Juniors is only 12 surfers and it's done much later. I would love to see us 12 surfers working together longer instead of having the huge squad for so long.

Can the US win gold again? Does the team have it in them?

I really think we can. Everyone who's still of age is committed to this team. We want another shot at it. I know a lot of people say Americans are too into themselves and don't have enough heart and whatever. But it's not true with this crew. Everyone wants it bad. Sooner than later, things are going to go our way.

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