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The ASM Interview: Conner Coffin Talks Power Surfing, Salty Crew, & His "Pirate" Boat

After 7 years on the World Surf League's (WSL) Championship Tour (CT) — years of traveling, of competing, of trying to get the score — Conner Coffin fell off Tour. While this can devastating for any CT mainstay or hopeful, Conner was at peace, and, as he entered 2023, almost excited about the change.

This led to a change in sponsors (enter Salty Crew), a change in his surfing ("twisting more, pushing less, making it all more effortless"), and a change in his overall body ("my body feels better; my mind feels better").

We talked with Conner about freesurfing, riding for Salty Crew, and the backstory behind his "pirate" boat named "The Double Edge". Most of all, we wanted to hear more about how he's "just scratching the surface" of his surfing life. — Cash Lambert

Photo: Perry Gershkow

ASM: Let’s first talk about you riding for Salty Crew. How did the connection happen?

Conner Coffin: I was at a point in my life where I’d been on the World Surf League Championship Tour for 7 years and on the WSL Qualifying Series (QS) 16 years, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to commit to doing the tour again. I was ready for a new chapter of exploring the other parts of surfing that are rad and why we all love to do it.

It’s also great to be a part of a small brand again where you can know everyone involved. I like going to the trade shows and meeting people.

"It feels like old-school surfing and why we all started doing it in the first place."

It’s rad to be involved with them and instantly felt like a good fit.

Salty Crew’s mission is “Inspired by, obsessed with, and drawn to the sea.” How do you embody it?

Whatever I end up doing for the next 5 years — whether it’s competing or freesurfing — the reason I got into this was because I loved being in the ocean so much. It sounds funny to say, but as a kid, the ocean changed my life. It was an escape, a feeling of freedom, and a connection with nature. That’s what turned me onto surfing in the first place, and I wanted and want to make a way to keep doing it for my life and in my career.

"As I’m getting older, I’m learning to embrace other aspects of the ocean I love — fishing, diving, traveling, learning more about other cultures … all the rad stuff that goes along with surfing. I want to really embrace that for the next 5 or 10 years. "

Competing was epic ... Doing the World Tour was super fun and super challenging. I learned so much, and had so many good times. But it got to the point where the level is so high that it requires a one-track mind, and I started to get thirsty for some other activities around the ocean.

When I would home from a contest, I would want to go surf with my dad and my brother. I think there’s so much to surfing, and competing is just scratching the surface. I’m excited to go down this new path and get involved with the other aspects of surfing I haven’t been able to do before.

Since you're out on a boat often — something we'll talk about in a bit — do you have any favorite Salty gear that you take with you?

They make killer stuff for when I go out on the boat. Their gear is good whether you're surfing, adventuring, or just being out in the elements, especially if you're getting wet or cold.

Photo: Perry Gershkow

What have you been working on with your surfing lately? Anything you’re refining?

I’m always trying to get better at surfing. I never get bored trying to get better at rail surfing. Lately, I’ve been taking a different approach, different angle, working on better, faster, and smoother carves. Trying to make more critical sections, twisting more, pushing less, making it all more effortless … surfing is always so fun and there’s so much to be done.

I’ve been riding different boards too, playing around with different rockers, too.

Plus, I’ve been doing trips I otherwise wouldn't have been able to do. My brother and I feed off each other. We recently went to Baja and surfed all day for 3 days — I can’t remember the last time he and I went on a surf trip! We both nerd out on surfing.

Overall, my surfing has felt different lately. I’ve felt super free and good. My body feels better, my mind feels better. It’s a much more welcoming pace now. It feels good to have so much fun surfing.

What’s the state of power surfing in today’s aerial age?

I still think it pretty much ends up being the bread and butter of surfing that goes on.

"When it really comes down to it, comps end up being in decent surf, and power surfing ends up prevailing."

I think if you want to win a world title, you have to do it all, including power surfing.

I’m stoked to have made it to 4th in the world just doing power surfing! You can't be on the tour or a relevant surfer if you don't have an element of power surfing today.

Photo: Jason Baffa

Talk to us more about your fishing boat — what's the backstory?

When I was a kid, I used to fish all the time — I think I was 4 years old when I first fished. But once I got into surfing, I hung it up because I never had the time. But now that I have more time, I’ve been getting more into it.

I’ve always wanted a boat — there are so many guys here who were and are good surfers and good fishermen, especially great urchin divers.

"It’s very much a salt of the earth culture."

A friend was selling his boat that used to dive for urchin dove for urchin on, and another friend and I decided to go in on it. The first time I walked on the boat, I got goosebumps. It had this aura to it.

It’s called the Double Edge, and it looks like a pirate ship — it has old, smoky diesel engines in it. There was a steep learning curve with it, learning how to do the maintenance, but we got it figured out. We've been fishing and diving from it ... and who knows? Maybe I'll try and get an urchin permit on my own some day.

Photo: Jason Baffa

What’s your favorite thing about surfing in Santa Barbara?

There’s something about getting good waves at home, and I’d say a huge part is the community. To be out in the lineup with familiar faces, people you get to surf with all the time when the waves are going off … I had a memorable day recently with Bobby (Martinez), we jumped on Ski and went to a beach break at Ventura — just the two of us. It was such a random day, but we were at the right place at the right time, right by home, getting stand-up tubes. Down at Rincon, it feels great to paddle out and see my friends.

"That sense of community is really special about scoring at home."

Photo: Jason Baffa

What’s your advice for the younger generation?

You always have to keep checking yourself. In anything, I’ve found that you want to do better, you want to get better, you want to win more … and you end up always wanting more. It’s human nature, I want to achieve this, I want to achieve that …

At the end of the day, it’s important to stay super present. Along with that, maintain a level of gratitude for the position you’re in. You have to remember why you’re doing what you're doing, and do it for the right reasons. If you're not doing something for the right reasons, you should find something else — and dive in.

Even when you're on Tour, finishing in the Top 10 or even the Top 5 can be frustrating, because you didn't achieve your goal of winning it all.

But my mindset on tour was hey, this was my dream when I was a kid — just to be on the tour. That put me in a better headspace. Competing and living from a place of gratitude is better than living from a place of wanting more and more and more.

I find that an interesting yin and yang because it’s sad to think you can accomplish so much, but you’re not happy about any of it because you want more. You have to step back and smell the roses.

"Keep listening to your heart and your passion, and, in the long run, it will get you somewhere — if you put the work into it."


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