by Dickie O’Reilly
Menehunes, Groms, Boys, Juniors, Mens, Pro-Junior, Pro-Am, WQS, WCT — that’s the progression to professional surfing. It starts with Menehunes (under 10) and culminates with the WCT (World Championship Tour) for the 32 best surfers on the planet.
Mira Costa High student Noah Collins, 16, is approaching the Pro-Junior level. He’s been successful at every level to this point and has to be regarded as the best hope to next represent the South Bay in the professional ranks. We sat down with Noah right after school on a Friday afternoon, before his second surf session of the day.
DO: So let’s jump right into the heavy stuff. You’re 16 now. Where do you see yourself in three to four years?
NC: In a perfect world, I’ll just be finishing a final strong Pro Junior season and getting focused on the WQS. I’d like to be kind of like Gabriel Medina. He’s very aggressive and knows what he wants to do. I have lots of respect for guys like him. They come from nothing and see surfing as their only chance.
DO: And what are the short-term goals?
NC: Focus on each contest as they come. I’ve got WSA and NSSA contests almost every weekend. I have the NSSA High School State Championships – representing Mira Costa. Then in June, I have the U.S. Championships at Lower Trestles. Doing well at the U.S. Championships is how you make the National Team and I’d love to get that opportunity.
DO: How’s the season been so far?
NC: I’m currently Number 1 in the WSA Southwest under 18 division and Number 6 in the NSSA, and that’s having missed a contest. I’ve made every final of every contest I’ve been in except one this season. I took second place at Camp Hobgood back in September at the Outer Banks in North Carolina to start the season.
DO: Who are the kids you’re typically coming up against in those finals?
NC: Kanoa Igarishi (recently featured in Quiksilver’s King of the Groms at Snapper Rocks Australia), Colt Ward, Griffin Cola Pinto.
DO: Are there things you think you need to work on?
NC: Putting on sunscreen. I’m terrible about it. I’m always sunburned. My face is on fire right now. Airs too. I need to get better at airs but I still think a huge carve feels better than an air. I also don’t get to practice airs like the other kids do. I’m in school while everyone else is at Lowers all day.
DO: Do you see that as a disadvantage?
NC: Yes absolutely. I’m a full time student I don’t get the same amount of time to practice.
DO: You’re not just a full time student. You’re an honor roll student, correct?
NC: Yes. That was the deal with my parents. I had to prove I could get the grades. School has still come first for me.
DO: Do you have a coach who’s helping you?
NC: Matt Pagan works with me a little
DO: What about other South Bay guys that you look up to?
NC: Dane Zaun does the gnarliest airs, Alex Grey is so crazy, Greg Browning, Matt Mohagen, Matt Pagan and Chewy (Matt Chernega)
DO: And the top pros? Who are your idols there?
NC: Mick Fanning, Taj Burrows, CJ Hobgood, Julian Wilson. I really like Mick because he’s so consistent with just crazy carves and big airs.
DO: You’ve been able to travel a bit and with some of the big names in the sport. Where’s your favorite surf spot?
NC: Teahupoo Tahiti is my favorite spot I’ve been to so far. It was hairy. Surfline was calling it 5- to 7-foot. I was there with Jamie O’Brien, Cheyne Magnusson and Anthony Walsh for 10 days. You first get there and you’re in the boat and the wave just looks impossible from the water. I didn’t make the drop on my first wave and hit the bottom. My foot got all cut up. Photographer Brent Beilman held me down, squirted lime on the cuts and Anthony Walsh scrubbed them out. After that I ended up getting the best barrels of my life.
DO: That’s a pretty special experience for a 15 year old kid? How did the older guys treat you?
NC: They’re we’re very cool. A little bit of the typical Grom Torture – like sticking a plunger to my face. But otherwise it was amazing.
DO: If you could travel anywhere right now where would you go?
NC: I want to go to the Mentawaiias Islands (off Indonesia) someday, but I’m already lined up for El Salvador with the Costa Surf Team. I think I’ve got a family surf trip to Cabo in June and then if I’m eligible and it’s possible I’d love to go to Japan for the Pro-Junior there.
DO: That’s a pretty good schedule for the near future. Mom and dad are obviously very supportive?
NC: Yeah – I’m lucky. My dad was a Hermosa surf rat himself back in the ’70s. He hung with Chris Barella and Terry Stevens. He would rather be at the beach then sitting in a hockey rink in the middle of nowhere. And he spent a lot of time at the rink because I was on a travel hockey team until I was 12.
DO: Who are your sponsors who help make these trips and the contests possible?
NC: Body Glove, Sanuk, Spyder Surf Shops, Electric Sunglasses, Roberts Surfboards, Sector 9 skateboards, and Waxy Wax
DO: That’s a lot of stickers. What’s your quiver look like right now? And how big are you?
NC: I’m 5-foot-6, about 130lbs. I mostly have normal shortboards right now. I have two boards that are 5-foot-8” x 18 3/16 x 2 ¼. Then I have another 5-foot-8 that’s wider for flatter waves. I hate digging rails so I probably have a little more volume in my boards than other kids my size.
Where’s the first spot you check in the morning? And since you just turned 16 are you driving yourself to the beach yet?
NC: Rosecrans is my home beach. I started surfing there on boards my dad’s friends loaned me so that’s where I’m most comfortable still. If it’s big I can head down to the Jetty. I like pulling into scary barrels there – well maybe not too scary yet. I got my drivers license in April and my first stop was Lowers.
DO: What about big waves and all the craziness that’s going on these days with the paddle in sessions at Jaws and guys charging Mavericks and Waimea like never before?
NC: Those guys (like Alex Grey) are so crazy. It definitely puts me out of my comfort zone now. But then, I never thought I’d surf Teahupoo and now I want to go back when it’s bigger. I’ve grown a lot more comfortable in the past year already so who knows. I think I’d like to surf Sunset. There’s a Pro-Junior there I think I’d like to do.
DO: What and where’s the worst beating you’ve gotten in the water?
NC: It was in El Porto. The day before the last Big Wednesday we had a few years ago. There was only one other guy out and I was scratching to get out to where he was. I made it over the first wave of the set but the next one was a bomb and it broke right in front of me and just ragged dolled me, and pushed me way down. It was freight train and once I came up it just washed me in.
DO: Last question – What’s a dream day for you?
NC: The sun almost never goes down. I get to sleep in until about 8:30 a.m. Then I score perfect Jetty surf for hours. Then I go eat at Rice Things. Then I go for a second long surf at the Jetty. It’s still glassy and a couple feet overhead. Then I pick up my friend Kyle Brown and head to Back Home in Lahaina for dinner [Unfortunately closed since this interview was done. Then, we head to Skyzone for some trampoline time. Finally, I head home to watch video of me killing it earlier that day and fall asleep to just about any Will Ferrel movie. DZ