It's a sunny, swell-filled, January afternoon in Santa Cruz when Nat Young pulls up on a scooter in the lighthouse parking lot at The Lane. He's home from the WCT, checking the surf on his regular rounds, and it seems not much has changed at the breaks since Nat left for the Gold Coast last March. Only now, there's a top-10 'CT Rookie of the Year lurking around the lineups, and Nat has undisputed rights to any wave in town. --Mike Misselwitz
SURFING: Nice wheels.
They're my mom’s. She got the scooter for Christmas. It's a good way to cruise around town.
You surf today?
No. I just had surgery so I gotta take it easy.
You had your ears drilled, right?
Yeah. I have surfer's ear and my ears were both more than 95 percent closed. I figured it's time to get that taken care of now that it's the off-season. I can't go in the water for a couple weeks so I'm getting my wisdom teeth taken out next week, too. I wanna get it all done at once.
How does it feel coming into your first 'CT off-season with the Rookie of the Year title and a No. 8 ranking?
It feels good. My main goal was to get Rookie of the Year, and Top-10 was kind of the next step. My goal now is to continue to progress each year. I finished 8th this year so I want to finish higher than 8th next one.
Have you been working with any coaches?
I've been working with a trainer here in Santa Cruz since I was 17. I work with him about four times a week. It's not cross fit, but a lot of strength training, balance and rotational stuff. It's designed for me as a surfer.
We heard you're a baller. How does basketball play into your training?
I was just playing in the park yesterday. I'm really competitive so I try not to get too into it during the tour because I don't want to get hurt. It's just for fun, a hobby of mine, like golf.
You golf too?
I love golf. But I had to cut back on golfing because it was cutting into my surf time. [laughs]
Any travel plans for the off-season?
I think I'm just going to hang and surf here. The waves get really good here in the winter. I took a couple trips up to San Francisco before I got my ears drilled, and those are different waves than I get to surf around Santa Cruz. Those are some of the best waves in California for bigger, barreling waves, and it's close so I can surf there any day I want. But here in town we have all kinds of waves, too.
Santa Cruz is known for its rights, but where do you go in town to practice lefts?
There are so many lefts here. Santa Cruz is renowned for its rights because they're long point breaks, but I surf lefts probably more than I surf rights, even in town.
Hitting any concerts, parties, acid-Kool-Aid full-moon festivals?
I had a party last Saturday to celebrate Rookie-of-the-Year. The owner of the only club in Santa Cruz made the whole place private for the night, so it was all people I knew. It was a good time.
Any perks around town now that you're an international icon?
I got free pizza from Pizza-My-Heart yesterday.
Revisiting any hometown girls?
I don't have a girlfriend, but there are definitely some good-looking girls around town.
Do you expect this to be a long or a short two months?
These next couple weeks will probably feel long since I can't surf because of my ear, but Snapper is right around the corner. Once I'm healed up, surfing and training all the time, it will probably go by quickly. It's nice to have this little break, though.
Off Season is a series on surfingmagazine.com detailing how five of your favorite surfers are bridging the gap between the 2013 and 2014 WCT.