On our latest IPD adventure we headed to Santa Cruz, the seaweed-ridden capital of Northern California surf culture, and met up with local shredder Ben Coffey. Ben showed Ty Burgess and Kainalu Nichols around the rugged coast he grew up on, and in the process we found a few playful green corners to smack.
If you’ve spent any significant time hunting waves north of Manresa, you’ve probably run into Ben Coffey. The kid can lay claim to potentially the best Ocean Beach wave of all time, and displays an unmistakable backside flow on SC’s kelpy right-handers.
To accompany the IPD rip-clip, we sat down with Ben for a quick chat on Northern California surfing, shaping, and style.
Favorite style In the surf world?
I really like a lot of different kinds of surfing. Watching Parko is amazing, with how smooth he is on a shortboard. I also really like twin fins, and since Kerrzy started riding twin fins he’s been pretty fun to watch. He's pretty psycho. And then, we were watching Griffin Colapinto out here for the Coldwater Classic, and he was surfing so insane. The Lane is a pretty hard wave to surf, and he was getting to places on the wave that are hard to get to and doing it all with the sickest style. He’s probably my new favorite style, which is cool because he's a good friend of mine.
You ride a lot of unique boards, right?
Yeah, it's pretty cool, my dad shapes boards and we have fun working on lots of different outlines. I’m doing a lot less comps than when I was growing up, so it leaves room for experimentation with longboards and cool fishes. Whatever the waves are doing, I try to ride the boards that’ll be most fun for the condition.
Do you do much shaping?
I just recently shaped a board, it’s kind of a plug, since I’m not that good at shaping. (laughs) I’ve shaped two with quite a bit of my dad's help, shaped one by myself — which is almost unrideable — and then this last one he helped me out just enough to make the thing go. It’s a process. I really want to learn how to do it all. It’s a skill and an art form. That's the goal over the next 10 years is to really figure it out.
What do you like to do when you’re not surfing?
I’ve been pretty into taking photos. I wouldn't say I’m a photographer, but when I travel I like to take a film camera along and snap photos. Over the last couple years I’ve tried to learn a bit more about composition and stuff.
Where’s your next surf trip?
We’re going to Australia in January with my boardriders club. They’re doing a big comp at Snapper and we got invited. Pretty stoked!
Who’s your favorite Santa Cruz surfer?
Well right now it’s definitely my brother, Sam Coffey, he’s three years younger than me but he’s just insane. He’s pushing the envelope a lot. In the older generation, I really love Rich Schmidt’s surfing, he’s the man. My family and his family went to Hawaii the first time we went and he showed us all his Pipeline lineup spots. He’s a legend. Adam Repogle is gnarly in town, ripping harder than ever. Definitely also Flea and Rufo and Pete Mel. There’s too many to name (laughs). It’s special having so many good surfers around Santa Cruz.
What’s your biggest goal?
That’s actually a pretty cool question right now, because I’m 25. I feel like I’m in a transition period, trying to open new doors. I want to learn how to shape and I’m going to school at the local college. I’m taking photography classes and learning about digital media too. I want to learn new skills to apply them to what I want to do. There’s a lot of skills I learned in the surf world which I love, but there’s things outside that I can learn to give back to the surf community more. I’m tryna build out my resume of things I know. I want to have more to offer than just surfing. That’s what excites me right now.