Lessons – Focus On Your Game

It sure felt good to get on a roll here in Narrabeen and come away with a second place finish! Instead of giving a play by play of the event last week (It’s way more fun if you watch the action on the WSL website HERE), I thought I would share a lesson that became a theme for me through the Newcastle and Narrabeen events. What I find so cool about surfing, and competition surfing in particular, are the lessons that I learn in the water that are applicable to other parts of life.

In these last two events, I really tried to focus on my own game and give little to no thought or energy to the person I was surfing against. There are obviously time’s in a heat where strategy comes into play and I’m trying to play the game with the other surfer, hold them off of a wave, or get the inside at the start of the heat, but I mean measuring myself against my competitor. Instead of putting thoughts and energy towards how the other surfer will perform and what it might take to beat them, I always try to focus on my own strategy and strengths and trust that doing the things I can control to the best of my ability is all that I can do. 

Conner Coffin and Coach Glenn Hall watching the waves at the Narrabeen Classic

Watching the Waves with my coach Glenn Hall (micro surf academy). I've learned so much from Glenn and I love his approach and strategy.

For me, I am constantly coming up against the best surfers in the world and they all surf incredibly. When I show up to an event, each freesurf is filled with mind blowing surfing that looks like a highlight reel on someone’s Instagram feed. It can be tempting to get sucked into the thought train of wow, am I not surfing on a high enough level? that person is doing maneuvers that I can’t, and damn, what if I draw that person in my heat? 

I’ve learned over the years, that these free surfs are almost irrelevant and so is who I draw in my heats. Surely there are a handful of guys on tour that consistently win heats, have won world titles, and consistently put together solid heat scores, but in a thirty minute heat of surfing in the ocean, quite literally, anything can happen. 

Conner Coffin doing a turn on his surfboard riding at wave during the narrabeen classic.

Focusing on my game. Picking good waves, going fast, and doing big turns.

I’ve had a couple of cool examples of this in these events. First was Newcastle where I came up against Peterson Chrisanto in a tricky, small, junky right hander. He is an incredible surfer in beach break type waves and surfs with tons of speed, progression, and consistently sticks big airs. I was able to put together two decent scores while Peterson struggled to find the waves that would allow him to get good scores, and I won the heat. What was especially interesting about this heat win, was that Peterson beat me in the prior event at pipeline which is a wave that I know really well and feel really confident in my ability to surf. To the contrary, Peterson hasn’t spent as much time in the lineup as me and doesn’t know the break as well. The waves were really tricky that day at pipe and while I competed poorly, Peterson was able to get on the best wave of the heat and take the win.

Conner Coffin kissing his Girlfriend on the beach.

It's been so fun to have my girlfriend Sierra on the road with me. Her support and positive vibe has been epic!

The second example was surfing against Italo at Narrabeen. I doubt there were many people in the world who thought that I could beat Italo at an onshore beach break with big air sections left and right. To be honest, I knew it was going to be a tall order, but I made a point of using my new mindset to override the “old me.” The old me would have made a way bigger deal of how gnarly my competitor was and not backed my strengths and strategy to the extent that I needed to. My plan was the same, pick the two best waves that allowed me to do my brand of surfing and post my solid scores. Obviously, if Italo did what he is capable of and dropped 2 9’s for massive airs, he would most likely beat me. My hope was that if I put the pressure on with some good scores early on, maybe, just maybe, it would be harder for him to land those airs. Sure enough, and also luckily, he came really close to landing two massive airs but just didn’t ride out of them. My belief in myself came through big when I needed a score at the end of the heat and paddled into a wave with 7 seconds to go. I stuck to my guns and did two solid turns and got the score to win the heat. 

People have been asking me what my goals are for this year, and one of my biggest goals is to really embrace this mindset of focusing on my strategy and strengths no matter what the situation is. I’ve been making a big point of it in these first two events and I’ve been feeling great.

In sport, in work, and just day to day life, and more than ever with people constantly posting about their accomplishments on social media, it can be easy to compare yourself, your goals, accomplishments, career, looks, etc. to others. I think it’s so important to be aware of this so that you can avoid those thought paths. Instead, focus on your path and what you’re grateful for in your life. Keep taking the time to look inward to set and accomplish the goals that fulfill you. 

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