Santa Barbara isn’t a carefree spot for aspiring pro surfers. “Being in Santa Barbara, you had to be humble, or you weren’t going to get to surf the good spots,” says Conner Coffin about his hometown. “There are so many good surfers and older guys that were gnarly that you couldn’t be this arrogant, little dick, because you weren’t going to get any waves or respect. I always had this goal to be a pro surfer but then I always wanted to get along with everyone and respect the hierarchy here.”
Mind Surfing is our new documentary about Conner Coffin. Not unlike Tom Curren and Bobby Martinez before him, Conner’s a Rincon fixture whose professional career is a product of his undeniable talent, rather than some internalized desire to wear a jersey. Directed by Keith Malloy, Mind Surfing spotlights who Conner really is, beyond just a surfer with opportunities, success, and a breathtaking style that rests on a shelf labeled, “iconic.”
Conner’s career has been a story about taking life as it comes and enjoying the good times while gritting your teeth and powering through the not-so-good times. That signature forehand wrap? It didn’t come by accident, or the wealth of endless open-faced right-handers at his doorstep. It came from years of hard work, paddle battles, and paying his dues. Don’t believe us? Watch the film below.
And then you have Conner’s hometown of Santa Barbara, which almost plays as much a part in the story as Conner himself. It’s a particular stretch of coast that, while breathtaking, isn’t exactly the most charmed place to be a surfer.
Yes, there are about 110 miles of pristine coastline between Jalama and Rincon offering a bounty of setups. It sounds ideal, but those even vaguely familiar with the area know nature played a cruel joke when carving out the California Riviera’s shoreline. It faces almost directly south, and even then is blocked by the Channel Islands. Waves in the fall are sporadic, spring’s fickle, and the summer is downright heartbreaking.
To break, it needs a proper west swell. Two-hundred-and-eighty degrees from the cold depths of the Pacific Ocean is the magic number. It’s rare, but it happens. And when it does? Well, if you need undeniable proof that our creator, whoever they may be, is a surfer, go to Rincon on an offshore winter day.
“The way I ended up surfing was definitely because of what I ended up watching and what I grew up around,” says Conner. “It was all about being smooth and stylish. Black wetsuits and, you know, the opposite of Orange County. It always felt a little more roots up this way.”
“When we were younger it almost wasn’t even cool to be a pro surfer in Santa Barbara,” says Conner’s brother, Parker. “If anything, it was looked down upon to have stickers on your board and a colorful wetsuit. We wanted to prove to ourselves that we could do it in a way that wasn’t cheesy, or lame.”
And it’s here that we find Conner now. There have been US Open Wins, feature films, a fourth-in-the-world finish in 2021, and many other achievements along the way, sure, but he’s doing it in his own way.
Featuring interviews with Conner’s family and surfing legends like Shane Dorian, Lakey Peterson, Rosy Hodge, and more, Mind Surfing highlights how that unfortunately angled, yet charmed, stretch of coast made Conner the surfer he is today.