It’s a hot, sunny, summer Saturday, the second weekend in July. The sand is packed with beach umbrellas, boogie boards, teen flings and salty, sunburned kids. It’s business as usual in San Clemente.
With an unmistakable florescent green board underarm, garbed in considerably more subdued board shorts, Kolohe Andino stands ankle-deep in the water. The familiar currents wash over his feet. The water’s a refreshing 67 degrees. He slowly sinks into the sand, and for a minute, as a light westerly wind blows through his recently-trimmed hair, he’s just like any other surfer dotting the Pacific.
But he’s not. As one balding, sun-spotted, mid-40s local points out to his equally aging buddy, “What you’re seeing right now is the rise of Kolohe.”
To be sure, Kolohe is on the move. In April he won his first ASP event -- doubling down, he took both the main event and pro junior at the Vans Pier Classic. May brought a solid showing at the Nike 6.0 Lowers Pro, as he finished in the quarterfinals. Then in June he took out the U.S. Championships.
That success alone would be enough to warrant a summer vacation, but somehow between all of that he’s been able to spend two weeks in Indo on a Red Bull boat trip, then venture down to South Africa to try his hand in another ASP Prime event -- where he’d score a perfect 10 for one wave, but ultimately lose out in an early-round heat. On top of that, he just landed the latest cover of “Transworld Surf,” and production work is underway on his first signature film.
Out in the water it takes Kolohe four waves to establish his authority in the lineup. Two air reverses and a backside 360 spin and he seems content to sit out the back and wait for the bigger, long-period lines.
“Shouldn’t you be on a boat trip right now?” asks a friend, referring to a Nike trip that was dangled in front of Kolohe earlier in the summer.
“Too much traveling,” he says. “I need to be home for a while.”
Kolohe sees a wave, paddles 25 yards down the beach, and swings right into the perfect spot. He looks back and, finishing his thought, he says, “The U.S. Open is coming up.”
Then he takes off, flies down the line, punts a huge frontside air, rides out of it and takes the wave to the beach. A handful of his friends are waiting for him on the sand.
In three weeks time the U.S. Open will get underway and Kolohe will set foot on the biggest stage in surfing, and to date, the biggest stage of his young career. He knows all eyes will be on him, and at 17 years old he already knows what the pressure is like. For now he’s unfazed. For now, it’s summer as usual on the beach in San Clemente.
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