Santa Cruz Native and Professional Surfer - Nat Young Q&A

By Charlotte Gibson on November 6, 2012

The city of Santa Cruz is a hub of college students, tourists, and families, but most importantly, it is the destination location for surfers from all points of the globe.  The birthplace of O’Neill Wetsuits and Santa Cruz Surfboards, Santa Cruz has 11-world class surf breaks, including point breaks near Steamer Lane and Pleasure Point, which create some of the most miraculous surfing waves in the world.

With a rich history of surf, Santa Cruz, CA was chosen as the host city for the 2012 O’Neill Coldwater Classic at Steamer Lane.  The best surfers in the world assemble in Santa Cruz for the professional surfing event, beginning on November 1st and ending on November 11th.  The The O’Neill Coldwater Classic is an Association of Surfing Professionals World Championship Tour event and is the second to last stop on the 2012 ASP WCT, which may well determine the 2012 World Champion.  This year at the O’Neill Coldwater Classic, the biggest names in surfing from around the globe are present, including the current ASP Top 10 surfers.

Just a few days before the big event, on October 26th, O’Neill announced it had awarded one of its two wildcards to local Santa Cruz standout Jason “Ratboy” Collins. Additionally, on October 31st, the CWC  hosted a trial to select the second and final wildcard for the 2012 competition, and local standout Nat Young, 21, successfully joined the rankings of the top 34 surfers to compete in the 2012 O’Neill Coldwater Classic.

The Santa Cruz native and hometown hero, Nat Young, sat down with me for an interview, just a day after he competed in the first round of the O’Neill Coldwater Classic on November 1st.  Young and I discussed surfing in the CWC, competing against his childhood favorite, practicing pre-surf rituals, and much more in the interview.

Uloop: First off, congratulations on winning the final wildcard spot in the 2012 O’neill Coldwater Classic, and successfully, beating legendary surfer Kelly Slater and Kolohe Andino in the first round of the CWC.  What was it like to compete against one of your favorite surfers, Kelly Slater, in the first round of the CWC?

Young: This was my first time ever having a heat against Slater.  It was really cool that I got to surf against him at my home break in the my first heat.  It was very special for me and I was pretty starstruck.

Uloop: What does the O’Neill Coldwater classic mean to you for the ASP?

Young: Right now it is about surfing against the best surfers in the world, in my hometown, and kind of getting a taste of what it could be like for next year on the WCT.

Uloop: How old were you when you started surfing?

Young: I started surfing when I was five and then I really got into it when I was about 11.  And since then I have been surfing probably every day I could.

Uloop: Although you are only 21 years old, you have already made a deep impression in the surfing world.  Where do you see yourself in the next year for your professional surfing career?

Young: I’m hoping that by the end of this year, I will have qualified for the WCT.  There are two more contests left, and as of right now, I would be but it depends on how I do and how other people do in these next two contests.  My main goal is just to qualify for that and that is the top 32 surfers in the world, so I have dreamed about that ever since I was a kid, and just to be able to accomplish that would be a dream could true for me.

Uloop: In 2008, at the age of 17, you won the O’Neill Coldwater Classic and now four years later, you return to Steamer Lane to compete in the same competition.  What is it like to be competing in the O’Neill Coldwater Classic for a second time?

Young: The contest this year is much bigger than it has been ever since I have done it.  Before it was a WQS so there was 128 guys in it and now there are 34 of the best surfers in the world in it.  I was pretty nervous in my first heat, but I don’t know, just to compete against Kelly Slater and Kolohe Andino was a huge confidence boost and I am looking forward to the rest of the competition.

Uloop: Do you feel that you have a home-court advantage surfing at Steamer Lane for the CWC?

Young: Home-court advantage plays a huge role in Santa Cruz.  The Lane is a tricky wave and guys who aren’t from here have a hard time surfing it so local knowledge and all that comes in to play.  I just know what waves to go on and where to sit and stuff like that.

Uloop: Since the start of the competition at Steamer Lane, you have drawn out a spectacular fan-base.  What is it like to be competing in your hometown in such a big event?

Young: It is amazing; everyone that comes out and cheers for the locals out here.  Me and Jason “Ratboy” Collins had heats back to back and everyone that came down to support us was awesome and it makes it so much fun.  You know, I was paddling into a wave and everyone was cheering and it is kinda almost nervewracking when you are about ot get to your feet and there is everyone on the cliff cheering for you.  But you know, when I came in from the heat and made it and everyone was so stoked it couldn’t have been anymore better than at home.

Uloop: On the Wednesday, October 31st, I attended the event and was so overwhelmed by the tremendous “Nat Young” fan support in Santa Cruz.  In addition to the heaps of people cheering you on, many of your fans, friends, and family members sported San Francisco 49ers jerseys with your name on the back.  Are you a fan of Bay Area sports?

Young: I am a huge Giants fan, 49ers fan, and Warriors fan. I am sponsored by Nike, and Nike makes NFL football jerseys and they made me a few 49ers jerseys with my name on the back for the competition this week.  They called me a few weeks ago and asked me what my favorite number was and I didn’t really know what it was for and then they surprised me the other day with them.  It was pretty cool to see my fans supporting both my team and me.

Uloop: What has your experience been like becoming a professional surfer at such a young age?

Young: I am living my dream.  I get to travel around the world and surf the best waves in the world.  I have been dreaming about this ever since I first started surfing.  I mean, it does get tough sometimes traveling a lot, and going to airports and sitting on a plan. But when you get to your destination, and get to surf on new waves and be somewhere new and meet new people it’s pretty amazing.

Uloop: Where is your favorite place to surf in the world?

Young: I think my favorite place to surf is Indonesia, and I have been going there since I have been 14 years old to surf.  It’s a pretty amazing location for surfing.

Uloop: Where are the spots that you like to surf in Santa Cruz?

Young: I surf the lane probably more than any other spot because it’s close to my house and it’s easy to go out there and catch waves.  Other times, I will go up the coast up to Onyo and I will go all over.  I like to surf different spots, it’s fun. It could get boring if you surf the same wave over and over, so I try and mix it up a little bit.

Uloop: Many athletes have a pre-game routine or ritual.  Do you have any pre-surf routines that are worthy of mentioning?

Young: I used to be really supersitituous and try to have a routine but I have realized that I don’t really benefit from that because I still lose sometimes even when I do the same thing.  But I don’t know, I try and listen to some music before my heats, it gets me amped.  I listen to all kinds of music, but before I surf a heat, I listen to rap and it gets me really amped to go out there and surf in a competition.

Uloop: In the O’Neill Coldwater Classic you are competing against some of the best surfers in the world, are there any surfers that you are looking forward to watching in this year’s competition?  Also, what can we predict from this competition?

Young: It is going to be an exciting few days.  there are guys who are competing for a world title so the intensity is going to be very high.  And the next few days are going to be very exciting.  I am excited to watch Joel Parkinson, Mick Fanning, and Kelly Slater, for sure.

Uloop: Do you have any last thoughts on competing in the 2012 O’Neill Coldwater Classic in your hometown of Santa Cruz, CA?

Young: It’s fun to be able to surf against some of your favorite surfers in your home spot, so I am looking forward to the rest of the competition this week.

In proper-surfer fashion, Young walked into the interview room sporting a sun-bleached, blonde mane, and simply stated that he only had thirty minutes or less to talk because he wanted to catch the last waves of the evening.  Nonetheless, thirty minutes with the hometown hero was a true honor, and one day everyone will be sporting “Nat Young” jerseys in Santa Cruz and across the globe.

Follow Nat Young’s journey in the 2012 O’Neill Coldwater Classic at


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