As the final rounds at the U.S. Open of Surfing take place through the weekend, BNQT Inside Access takes you into the water with surfer Kolohe Andino.
Andino has been around the waves his entire life as he grew up in a home with a professional surfing father. His love for the water knows no bounds where it has become a “romantic relationship” as Andino put it.
At the age of 15, Andino surfed in his first U.S. Open. Now at the age of 23 and eight U.S. Open contests later, Andino is out to prove to the World Surf League that he can be a podium threat.
BNQT: What is it about surfing that draws you in?
Andino: My father was a professional surfer so I grew up in the water. I was always at his contests and surfing with him in the downtime so I was around the beach constantly. By the time I was able to compete, the fire of competition and the love for surfing was burning so hot that I had to constantly feed that fire. It is a lifestyle for me, in many ways it is a romantic relationship between myself, surfing and the water. There is so much respect you need to have for the waves and the environment you are in. To have that relationship with the board and water is special.
BNQT: What is it about the U.S. Open that is so unique?
Andino: The biggest thing that makes the Open so different and special are the crowds. Fans of the sport and casual fans pack the beach and along the pier above your head and scream and cheer all day. There is an arena aspect to the crowd. To have them above you on the pier yelling and cheering from above you, it almost has a gladiator feeling.
BNQT: The pier provides a difficult obstacle to navigate in the water. How does the Huntington Beach Pier affect you?
Andino: Aside from allowing the fans to be right on top cheering for you, which is really awesome, it’s really difficult to have the pier there. I have seen surfers get tangled up in all sorts of things that around there around the pier, so you really have to know what you are doing. If the pier wasn’t there the wave would be a straight close out. The pier is great for the fans but other than that it’s tough.
BNQT: You have the most National Surf Titles for a male. How does that experience help you on the World Surf League competing against international riders?
Andino: I have always approached surfing in the same fashion whether it is a National Title or a World Title on the line. I have a strong game plan that I build before the contest and I surf to that plan. When I am out surfing the contest, the plan helps me stay focused but I also look for ways that I can add and improve to the plan. I am hyper competitive and I always try to push myself to improve. I look for ways to improve and push myself in the water, how I prepare, how I eat and with my fitness. Thats my competitive nature, I always look for ways to find that edge and use it my advantage.
BNQT: Even though you have been surfing from a very young age, and have won several titles you are only six years into the World Surf League as a competitor. From a preparation standpoint, how do you mentally prepare yourself to compete on the World Surf League against riders that been there longer than you have been alive like Kelly Slater?
Andino: At first I will admit I was very start struck. I often felt like I was a kid competing against grown men. But as the years continue, and you get some heat wins and event wins on the tour, your confidence in yourself grows. Knowing that the game plan for the event can work and beat riders that I have grown up watching builds confidence but it also builds comfort. Once you are comfortable with one aspect of your surfing then you can find ways to push it and improve on it. That is the only way you can get better. Having experience is one of the best things you can have to prepare yourself mentally.
BNQT: For people who are not professional surfers that get to travel to the best beaches in the world, places that people call “paradise” to vacation, where do you go to vacation and recharge?
Andino: Honestly I go back to the beach just like everyone else. I am drawn to the water. There is a calming nature the waves have on me. So when I am in my off season or have downtime you will find me at the beach with family and friends and enjoying our time there. Once a year though I will go on a snowboard trip with my friends and that is always a great time as well.
BNQT: What does it mean to you to be a part of the Red Bull family?
Andino: It’s awesome. Especially when I am at an event like the U.S. Open of Surfing, when I wear my Red Bull hat you automatically become a recognizable figure. Whether people know your name or not, they recognize the brand and respect the brand. Red Bull athletes represent the top athletes in their sport, and it is an honor for me to represent them in my surfing.