After a few years in the World Tour big leagues, no one was too surprised to see Coco Ho dominate her heats at the Oakley World Pro Juniors in Bali.
Coco really just came for the waves... the champagne shower and oversized check is all gravy.
"I suck at this," Coco Ho claims from the victory stand. She gives her victory champagne a girlish jiggle and twists the top like a bottle of shampoo.
The cork hits a photographer point blank in the head. The bubbly pours on her sandy feet. Coco giggles then glug-glug-glugs half of the bottle onto second place finisher Dimity Stoyle's head.
Ten or eight people stand around taking photos of this climactic moment of women's pro surfing. It's lunchtime.
Coco has just won the Oakley World Pro Juniors, stolen the World Junior Ratings lead, pocketed $5,000 and claimed the prestigious Beng Beng Award. With her young/veteran competitive career still gaining momentum, it's about time she learned how to properly pop a champagne cork.
Quick how to, ladies:
1) shake bottle vigorously
2) apply firm thumb pressure to underside of cork to blast skyward
3) partially obstruct bottle mouth with thumb and shake bottle again to spray vanquished Aussies and sweaty photographers
4) smash bottle on nearest camera and stab smiling interview dude vigorously with jagged neck (*optional)
Luckily, the remains of today's noontime bubbly is recovered by veteran corksmen like Pro Junior announcer Tommy Whittaker and Oakley mischief-master Ronny Nelson. By that time Coco was already taking a boring old water shower in the parking lot with her surfboard-shaped trophies and over-sized checks. Torn between trailing the diminishing bottle or the rising star, I let some journalistical obligation get the best of me and beg Coco for a timeless "taking it one heat at a time" interview.
Incidentally, I'd just finished interviewing her brother Mason for an upcoming issue of SURFING Magazine, so I also thought I'd follow up with a few questions about... wait a second, what the hell is a Beng Beng Award?
SURFING: You won the Beng Beng Award?
COCO HO: Um, I guess so. That's what they said.
And what exactly is that?
I think it's for linking maneuvers together, like bang bang bang. I don't know. Tom Whittaker just said that. Those guys are on another level sometimes.
You sure it's nothing to do with the those Indonesian candy bars [called Beng Beng]?
Oh, maybe. I probably would have won that thing for eating too many. I love those things.
Who's your all-time surfing hero?
My brother, Mason. He's the reason I came as far as I have. And nowadays I love watching Steph Gilmore and all the kids coming up now, Zeke and Keano and Kolohe.
Mason said your hero was Chris Ward.
My brother used to play ...Lost movies all day, so I was like, "I like Chris Ward." And they were like "Now you're getting it." ButBut I've kinda always just gone with the flavors.
Were your dad and Mason tough on you when you started surfing?
Definitely, being the only girl in the family put emphasis on always trying to surf like a guy. But I've find my place and kept my own style. I try to be a girl on the beach and channel my inner Mason in the water. They haven't disowned me yet, at least.
Did your dad want you to be a surfer?
He was so mellow. I didn't even know he was a pro surfer 'til I was like eight and heard the announcers talking about it on the beach at Sunset. In Hawaii, after school you go to the beach. So, I started on a boogie board and would watch my brother surfing. Once we decided we wanted to be surfing we had to beg my dad to get in there and help us. But once I made tour he jumped in and said, "Alright, you really want this? I'm going to put it on you." Now he's a bit harsh, but I guess I asked for it.
What does winning this event mean to you?
Winning this event was really special. I don't travel on the junior series, but I'm still of age and I wanted to do it as my last event because we have a huge break from the world tour right now. To be able to come and travel with the boys I grew up with felt like the beginning again. It's different from doing the world tour, but it was so fun.
Was it too easy for you?
I actually felt the opposite. I watched the other girls get high scores and was like, "shoot, I better do something." It definitely didn't feel like a cakewalk. These girls are ripping.
How does it compare to the WCT?
Well, we had a tough year on the tour this year. Not many good waves. So to come here to Bali and have a few good heats felt really good.
Why aren't there any women's events in the Hawaii this year?
I think something to do with the sponsorships. Then they got sponsors back, but it was too late or something.
Is that a bummer for you?
Yeah, it's sad. I look forward to waking up in your home and having an event. Other surfers like Steph and Parko get to do it at Snapper. But at least I can still wake up and watch my brother and all the boys surf, so it's still good.
Hawaii's a proving ground, too. You think the top women should need to be able to surf Hawaii?
Yeah. And every winter, having events there has made my year so much better. So going into Hawaii and not having any events...it's kinda like, uh-oh, the women are going to get forgotten.
What's your main goal in surfing these days?
Well, I've had a few years on tour already, so this year I hope to just fine tune my surfing and start to push every turn. I hope I can stay on tour for a while try to get a...um, [mumbling, quietly] a world title.
Well, yeah. Don't be shy about saying that if you want to win one. Doesn't happen on accident.
I'm still young. There's time.
Mason told me his goal was for you and him to have brother/sister world titles together.
Nice! That would be a dream come true. I want Mason to be on tour so bad, and he's so capable. He'll get four results in a row and then just have the gnarliest bad luck. It's so sad because he's the nicest human ever. I travel with the guys all the time and I see my brother and how he acts and he's just such a good guy. Like, how can he have such bad luck? It's not fair.
Well, nice work today.
Thank you so much.
For the record, the girls were all surfing really well out there. Watch photos and heat highlights here. The whole champagne cork popping thing... that'll come with time. Surely Coco's going to be opening a lot more in the future.