Griffin Colapinto chaired up the beach after winning the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal
© Thiago Diz/World Surf League
Surfing

Griffin Colapinto’s secret to world number one surf success

Fresh from his World Surf League win in Portugal, Griffin Colapinto reveals what helped him rise to the top – and how it feels being on the tour with his brother.
Written by Chris Binns
11 min readPublished on
Griffin Colapinto has moved to the top of the World Surf League Championship Tour rankings and will be wearing the yellow jersey at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach in Australia after winning the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal in Peniche, Portugal, last week.
This is the second time Griffin has tasted success in Portugal, having secured his first victory at the same event two years ago. This season he's been joined on the Championship Tour by his younger brother, Crosby, and the pair fed off each other's energy to make it to the finals on the opposite sides of the draw, with Crosby recording a career-best semi-final finish in just his third event on the Championship Tour.
"This is probably one of the most special events of my life with Crosby making the semis," said Griffin on the podium immediately after the final. "We’ve had a long road together, it’s been a rollercoaster where either I’m up and he’s down, or I'm down and he's up, so for us to finally start peaking at the same time feels so good.
"Falling in love with the things that make you feel good is the secret, I think," said Griffin, when asked what was behind his recent run of success. "It’s cool to see it all come together, it’s really exciting. It feels insane to take the yellow jersey to Bells, I’m psyched!"
It felt long overdue when Griffin won his first Championship Tour event at the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal back in 2022. He burst out of the gates at his first rookie event in 2018, finishing third at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, highlighted by a triple-tube perfect 10 in the quarter-finals, surfing the legendary point break of Kirra for the first time.
While Griffin's future seemed assured, his first three years on the tour showed plenty of potential without ever completely setting the world alight. The immensely popular Californian was locking in his share of semi-final finishes and banking plenty of highlight reel waves, but a breakthrough still beckoned. That moment came in 2022 with a win at the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal. Not only was it the first Championship Tour win by a Californian since the 1990s, it sent the next phase of Griffin's career into overdrive.
Griffin Colapinto wins his first WSL Championship Tour event: the 2022 MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal.

Then… Griffin Colapinto wins the 2022 MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal

© Damien Poullenot/World Surf League

Griffin Colapinto and Ethan Ewing on the podium at the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal

Now… Griffin wins the 2024 MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal

© Damien Poullenot/World Surf League

In the two years since he lifted his first Championship Tour trophy, Griffin's stock has soared. He has won in El Salvador and at the Surf Ranch, dropped jaws with fearless performances at the heaviest waves on tour, and stormed into last year's WSL Rip Curl Finals, held in his beloved San Clemente.

17 min

Before & after: Griffin Colapinto

A surf town rallies behind their homegrown, hometown hero as he chases the glory of becoming a world champ.

English

A massive sponsorship move from Billabong to Quiksilver confirmed Griffin's standing in the eyes of surfing's most powerful figures, and this led to a perfect storm of publicity in the lead-up to surfing's biggest day, so huge was the hype around the hometown hero's dream shot. While Griffin eventually finished the season in third place, he well and truly announced his arrival at the business end of surfing's world title ranks.
Last week, after Griffin won the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal for the second time, becoming world number one in the process, we caught up with the 25-year-old to talk about how fired up his generation – Jack Robinson, Ethan Ewing, Kanoa Igarashi and co – are to take charge.
Griffin spoke candidly about growing up on tour while remaining a kid, and how great it is to finally have younger brother Crosby joining him on the journey. Griffin, who is still recovering from hip surgery and spent a week in the off-season at a meditation retreat, also reeled off a laundry list of 2024 goals that would see his year go straight into surfing's Hall Of Fame. Enjoy.

Congratulations on winning Portugal! You're now the number-one ranked surfer in the world, how does that sound?

Griffin Colapinto: Thank you! And number one sounds pretty right on! Happy with that.

Griffin Colapinto chaired up the beach after winning the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal.

Griffin Colapinto chaired up the beach by brother Crosby

© Thiago Diz/World Surf League

Does the yellow jersey mean much to you, or does it not change a thing?

It's pretty rad. I think it means something, I think that it's a good sign that what you're doing is working and that you should keep doing it.

Does it also put a target on your back?

I guess there's a little bit of extra pressure because once you get the jersey you wanna keep it, and the only way to keep it is pretty much make another final. I think that maybe it does add a little extra pressure, but in a good way, to make you lock in, and keep you motivated to stay locked in.

Griffin Colapinto surfing at the 2024 Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach

Griffin Colapinto back in action and defending the yellow jersey at Bells

© Aaron Hughes/World Surf League

Does seeing someone else in the yellow jersey fire you up a little bit?

I think more so with my peers, the guys that are in my generation, like Jack. If I see them in yellow it definitely fires me up, whereas I might see John John Florence or Filipe Toledo and it's not the same, because they're older than us and it's not as much of a shock.

Do you feel like your generation, Jack, Ethan and Kanoa are shaking up the Brazilian Storm and John John Florence era?

Yeah, for sure. I think we are all in on this sport, we're willing to do anything it takes to be the best or win a world title. Those guys have already won their titles, whereas I know the hunger and fire we have is pushing us hard.

Portugal must be a pretty special place for you.

Oh yeah, very much so.

Griffin Colapinto surfing in the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal

Griffin Colapinto's Portuguese backhand blowtail is a thing of beauty

© Damien Poullenot/World Surf League

What’s changed for you since winning your first-ever event in Portugal, to now winning your fourth event in the same place a few years later?

I've had the same motivation and drive since I was super young, that's been consistent since I was a young kid. I think it's more just experience over time; learning all the little ins and outs of the tour; making all the mistakes then and not making them now.

Of your event wins, Portugal's a pretty fluky beachbreak; sometimes it's a tube, sometimes you’re doing turns. The wave pool's obviously super consistent, El Salvador's a right point, and we all know what you're capable at the heavy reef breaks. It must give you so much confidence to be that well-rounded a surfer.

I definitely pride myself on that because I've put in so much effort and hard work to get better at my weaknesses over time. There have been so many things I've struggled with, and it's taken a lot of hard work to get better at them, especially my backside surfing. I grew up at Lower Trestles, with a bunch of other right points around so I always felt like my forehand was better than my backhand.

Griffin Colapinto rides the tube at Pipeline

Griffin Colapinto confidently committed and comfortably deep at Pipeline

© Brent Bielmann/World Surf League

You definitely charge with the best of them in Hawaii and Tahiti and the rest of the reefs on tour.

It took me a while to feel confident going left, I was probably 21 or 22 before I actually felt comfortable on my backside. That's why I was super psyched with this Portugal win, because I was mostly going left so it felt good to show off that part of my game. You don't really get too many chances to do it on tour, because it's mainly rights.

Griffin Colapinto rides the tube in Portugal

Griffin Colapinto on his way to winning the 2024 MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal

© Damien Poullenot/World Surf League

To win the final with a nine-point backhand tube must have been satisfying, your outpouring of emotion seemed so pure.

Oh yeah, that was sweet, it felt really good to let it out and have fun with the crowd. It was definitely a moment!

Griffin Colapinto signing autographs at the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal

Griffin Colapinto, king of the kids

© Thiago Diz/World Surf League

You're an incredibly popular surfer, especially with kids, and crowds all over the world love you. Do you see yourself as a bit of an entertainer?

I feel like I'm still a kid myself. I'm only 25 but I think I'll always be a kid. I never wanna lose that side of me, of being able to be silly. When you're a kid you don't really care about what other people think of you or the way they see you, you just do you. I've always tried to stay true to myself in that way, and I think that younger kids pick up on that, and it resonates.

8 min

Homegrown with Kolohe Andino

A dream surf trip, an injury, a baby due and competing in Tokyo. It's been quite a year for Kolohe Andino.

English +1

Let's talk about your hometown. When you came on tour you were Kolohe Andino's understudy, now you've gone and broken the Californian drought, made the Final 5, and you're leading a big squad of surfers from San Clemente who are shaking up the WSL rankings. How did all this happen?

It's trippy, for sure! It used to feel like I was leading the way for my brother Crosby, now there's four or five guys who are all three-or-so years younger than me who are coming on strong. The age gap is perfect where they can look up to me a little and we're not quite competing yet so it's still cool between us.

4 min

Down The Line – Griffin Colapinto

Griffin Colapinto talks us through four minutes of firing waves, at home in California.

Do you feel like you're the leader of the San Clemente pack?

Around the tour maybe? I'm just trying to share as much as I can with those guys. There are certain things that I might have to keep to myself, but for the most part, I want to try and help them out. They respect what I have to say, and listen to anything I tell them, it's super fun. They've been calling me the team captain lately, which is cool.

Griffin and Crosby Colapinto at the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal

The Colapinto Brothers take on the Championship Tour

© Thiago Diz/World Surf League

It must be awesome having your brother Crosby on the Championship Tour with you?

It's been freaking radical! Hawaii was a bit different because everyone was on their sponsor's program, so it didn't feel like we were fully doing it until Portugal when we stayed together. And then Cros got the third and we almost had a final together, which was insane. It's really healthy, the relationship we have and the support we give each other. It's crazy, it's something we've dreamed of for so long and now it's happening. I'm psyched because I'm pretty sure he's gonna make the cut, so that's pretty insane too!

Crosby and I share a goal of wanting to be the best brothers ever on tour.

What's going to happen when you have your first heat together?

I think it's going to be pretty competitive! He seems like he really wants to beat me, so we'll probably get pretty heated.

It's pretty rare to have siblings on tour. There's Owen and Tyler Wright from your era, but you would have grown up watching Andy and Bruce Irons, and the Hobgood twins. That's elite company, it must feel pretty special.

It feels incredible. Crosby and I share a goal of wanting to be the best brothers ever on tour, and I think we have a good opportunity of making it happen. We'll definitely give it our best.

Griffin Colapinto in the Red Bull Athlete Zone at the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal

Griffin Colapinto taking a minute to get in the moment

© Jesse Jennings/World Surf League

What other goals do you have for 2024?

I've got a few! Win three CT events, win the world title, win gold in Tahiti… They're the main ones. I had a goal of healing my labrum in time for Pipeline, because I had surgery in the off-season and didn't know if I was gonna be ready to go at the first event. So that was one of my first goals and I've already checked it off, which I'm pretty psyched on.

Griffin Colapinto late dropping into a big wave at Backdoor Pipeline, Hawaii

Griffin Colapinto going all-in at Backdoor Pipeline

© Brent Bielmann/World Surf League

Is there going to be a Griffin And Jack Movie, with you two going head-to-head in crazy waves?

We've been talking about it! We wanted to do it this year, we were planning on maybe trying to do it soon, but then he had a baby and it's the Games this year and stuff. We should definitely be getting it in the works for next year though, I'm keen, I'm in.

Anything else we need to know about Griffin Colapinto in 2024?

I'm just trying to stay focused on the day at hand. It's funny, after winning a contest you try and relive it, try to get a dopamine hit from what happened a few days ago, because it was insane. But really you've gotta let it go, and get back to living life like normal. Whether you are winning or losing every day, true happiness lies in the present moment. So I'm just staying focused on that.

What else makes you happy?

My mum and dad are coming to Australia, so we'll have the whole family in town. They're pretty much the happiest parents in the world right now. Mum was stressing about Crosby making it past the mid-year cut, but now that it looks like we're both pretty good she's gonna be floating at Bells!

Well, good luck there mate. It's the best trophy in surfing so go ring it!

Thank you! Let's do it.

Part of this story

Griffin Colapinto

A high-flying Californian with his sights on the world, surfer Griffin Colapinto is now a regular contender for wins on the WSL Championship Tour.

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