While Curren’s influence on Conner’s style is often mentioned, he and his family share more in common with—and drew much influence from—another prolific surfing family from the area: the Malloys. “In Hawaii, Chris used to always tell my brother and me, ‘Just go out there and pull into the biggest closeout you can find! ’” Conner says. “Chris has such a good sense of humor. Super dry, and so witty.
In the decade since, the top of the Tour has been taken over slowly by surfers more concerned with acrobatics than any semblance of style. “He’s gotta be a breath of fresh air to people,” says Chris Malloy, who’s known the Coffin family for nearly a decade. “Not knocking the guys that are doing multiple airs on one wave with these wide stances, but people must see Conner and go, ‘Oh, shit.
His parents moved up from Pasadena when Conner and his brother, Parker, were 3 and 1, respectively, hoping to give their boys a better quality of life, with more space to frolic. “It was my parent’s lifelong dream to buy a chunk of land, split it up, build homes, and have their family close by,” Conner’s father, Rich, says. “It was really a special thing when the boys were young.
Knox joined the Coffin brothers on a strike mission to Jeffreys Bay in 2014 for the brothers’ short film Highline, in which Conner channeled fellow Santa Barbara stylist Tom Curren’s iconic J-Bay lines, even going so far as riding a modernized take on Curren’s famous Black Beauty. “These days, any 12-year-old can go down the line and do a full rotation,” Knox says. “But there’s more to Conner.
The result was a technically perfect carve, and a SURFER cover shot. “I saw Conner going through so much of what I went through at his age,” Gerlach says. “The Tour is so much work, and I was so hungry for information, just asking anyone I could, ‘What do I do? What do I do? ’ Conner had such a great foundation, and he’s so intelligent.
Rich and Krista left their kids, at a very young age, with guys like Davey Smith, Al Merrick, and Dave Letinsky, among others, for surf missions up and down the coast. “The people whom we’ve entrusted with the boys have taken a real special interest in them, and at this point it’s like an extended family,” says Rich. “They’ve been exposed to a lot of truly great people.
At the time, the resort was still running family specials, so young kids could accompany parents at a discount. “My mom called them and said, ‘Listen, my kids both eat more than any grown adult, and they’re going to be on every single boat going out for a surf,’” Conner says.
Then, in 2014, things went off the rail. “So much of being a young pro surfer is learning to lose,” Conner says. “I don’t think I made a heat that entire year.
And last year, finally, he got to go down twice and do boatman stints for three weeks at a time. “The people there, the waves, everything—I think that’s my favorite place to travel to in the whole world,” Conner says. “It’s a great place to practice for heavy waves.
It was like 6-, 8- foot, and he was just going for it. And he’s tiny. He’s 8 years old! He was like a baby! “I’d catch waves and they’d basically have to come in and pull me off the reef and drag me back because I couldn’t get back out,” Conner says. “From that trip on, all I wanted to do was be a Tavarua boatman.
Read more here: Surfer Mag