Brett Simpson (USA), 28, one of three California gunslingers taking on the world’s best in 2013.
HUNTINGTON BEACH, California/USA (Friday, November 11, 2012) – The creation of superstar athletes around the world may vary slightly from sport to sport, but the nature of recognition, development and competition remains largely unchanged. Promising individuals are identified at an early age, coached and provided all the opportunities to develop throughout maturation before being tested against the world’s best. Surfing is no different in this regard. Every promising young surfer on the planet is supported and coached into believing they will be worthy challengers to the mantle of Kelly Slater (USA), 41 – a mantle that grows evermore distinctive with each passing season. However, as we’ve seen time and again, come December 20th, there is only one surfer standing as ASP World Champion, meaning 33 other would-be stars go home disappointed.
It has been 22 years since California last held the ASP World Title (Tom Curren in 1990). Brett Simpson (USA), 28, will return in 2013 as the longest-standing elite tour competitor remaining from the Golden State, entering into his fourth consecutive year as an ASP Top 34 member. A meteoric rise throughout the amateur, pro junior and qualifying ranks (including back-to-back wins at the US Open of Surfing) has cemented Simpson’s reputation as one of the best West Coast exports in decades, but despite moments of brilliance amongst the world’s best, Huntington Beach’s favorite son has yet to transcend into a world beater. ASP caught up with Simpo to pick his brain on all manner of things before he kicks off his 2013 campaign. This…is his story…
With your Dad being a former professional athlete (Bill Simpson was a Defensive Back in the NFL), how much did that help shape your career? “It’s a massive reason as to why I am where I am today. From a young age, whatever it was, he had me always wanting to do my best and be very competitive. It sounds strange to say, but constantly wanting to impress my Dad really got the best out of me at a young age and that desire to perform at my best has become a personal goal for me. While football and surfing are obviously different exercises, my Dad has been in many similar situations in terms of ups and downs with losing and winning and always shares knowledge of how he tried to keep a level head week in and week out. One thing he has used a little more than I have is aggression – in football, aggression is more of an asset at all times than in surfing. Surfing is quite a bit different, but controlled aggression is something I’m looking forward to bringing more of in 2013.”
Huntington Beach has produced no shortage of talented surfers. Who were your biggest influences and inspirations growing up in HB? “HB sure has had its fair share of great surfers. Growing up, it was the likes of Bud Llamas, Jay Larson, Wyatt Simmons, Ryan Simmons, Jeff and Barry Deffenbaugh, Mike Hoisington, Micah Byrne, Danny Nichols, Brandon Tipton, the Turner Bros, Timmy Reyes, Shaun Ward all the way to kids now like Derek Peters and Kanoa Iragashi. I have been blessed to live in a talent bed area where we are always pushing each other.”
A lot of surfers go from being major sensations on the qualifying series to struggling to find their feet on the ASP WCT. What are the biggest differences between the two levels of competition? “By far, the level is just so much higher at the WCT than the qualifying series. I know that’s kind of an obvious one, but until you’re actually in a heat with some of these guys, you don’t realize just how good they are and that they rarely, if ever, make mistakes. Another big difference is having a 12-day window which means you’re on high alert the entire time. On the ‘QS, it’s a set schedule so you can organize your preparation around a specific time when you’re going to surf. On the ‘CT, they’re just after the best conditions which is what we all want, but it does mean you have to be mentally ready all the time. It can be an exhausting psychological exercise.”
We’ve seen, time and again, how important it is for ASP World Title contenders to have good relationships with their shapers. Whether it is Kelly and CI or Joel and JS or Mick and DHD, it seems that the more dialed in the surfer is with their shaper, the more unstoppable they become. Who is shaping your boards in 2013? “I’ve always had great support with boards. There’s always going to be a balance between diversifying and riding a few different styles, which is fun, and dialing in your equipment for the tour spots. I have a great relationship with Matt (Biolis) and he and I talk a lot about surfboards and he made me a lot of really good boards last year so I’m grateful to be working with him again this year. I’m also doing a lot of work with Tim Stamps. He’s a local guy from Seal Beach and he’s a great surfer and shaper. We surf together all the time and he’s making me some great boards. With Tim, he really believes in me and his drive in shaping my boards is wanting to see me succeed at the WCT level. Having that kind of support from both shapers is really exciting heading into this season.”
The big story this off season has been the merger of the Nike and Hurley teams and the acquisition of John John Florence. As a long-serving member of the Hurley team, what have been your thoughts on this and how does it affect your approach to 2013? “Well, I’ve had a while to think about it – since everyone was told in early December and, even then, they mentioned the possibility of signing someone like John John (Florence). It’s a game changer, there’s no doubt about it. I’m a huge fan of Hurley and the guys like Bob (Hurley), Pat (O’Connell) and Evan (Slater). They’re all core surfers and they’re doing things that no one else is. Hurley have supported me for 8 or 9 years and I’m with them for another 3. The mixing of the Nike and Hurley teams and the signing of John John is something that I take personally. It challenges me. We’re all part of the same team now, but surfing’s an individual sport and if I draw one of the boys in a heat, I’m there to beat them. It’s going to be a good year.”
Any closing thoughts on your surfing and being one of three Californians doing battle on the 2013 ASP World Championship Tour? “I would say that, while my surfing has felt like it belonged on occasion, I haven’t gotten the results I’ve wanted. It eats me up a little bit because I love surfing so much and I know that I can mix it up with the guys on tour, but sometimes, heats just break the other way. I’ve had a bunch of heats over the last 18 months where I know, in my heart, I had the guy on the ropes and things just went south for a variety of reasons. It’s a teething process though. It took me a while to qualify for the tour, and I know I belong here. It’s taking me a few years and some hard mistakes to get comfortable and have confidence against the world’s best. I’m 100% healthy, I’m getting great boards and I think 2013 is going to be my best year yet.”