As Kekoa Bacalso is finding out, it ain't easy being a rookie. For those just setting out on the World Tour the learning curve is steep, the environment is foreign, and for all intents and purposes, the waves are hell of a lot better. ESPN Surfing caught up with the freshman from Oahu to talk a little shop and see just how he's fairing out there on the lonely road. The following are excerpts from our conversation:
Back in Hawaii, you've got the first couple legs of your rookie year under your belt, does it feel good to be back home?
Always. It always feels good to be back home, without question.
How are you adapting to life on tour?
I love it. I mean, we have a lot of downtime on this tour, so everything isn't quite as sporadic. We have a lot of time to go surf different breaks, and there's only a handful of us everywhere we go, so even though the spot that the contest is at may be flat, there's other places that a couple of us may go and find some waves. That's a huge perk.
Has there been any one thing that's really stood out, that maybe you didn't expect?
Yeah, you know, life on tour is really different. The media pressure's definitely something I hadn't thought of. You know, I had no idea how much people would talk and say things. I guess you just have to take it as it comes and try not to feel too much pressure. I'm trying to take this whole year just to learn and figure it all out. Hopefully at the end of the year I'll be in the Top 27 and re-qualify that way.
Where are you sitting right now?
I'm 18th right now.
Does anything else standout as being a lot different than life on the 'QS?
The 'QS is more of a dog-eat-dog kind of deal. You're constantly surfing every single day. The World Tour's mental. I mean, if the waves one day are looking pretty average I can express myself, and if I say I don't want to surf my heat and everybody else agrees we can call the contest off. It's really nice to have a voice. Whereas with the 'QS if it's knee high or head high you're out there, you have to go out and surf your heat regardless. Plus, as I mentioned there's a lot more time. The venues are amazing, I mean the waves are just way better. I did that 'QS contest at Trestles and I just couldn't believe it, I couldn't believe I survived that for so long. It was a rude awakening. I don't want to be back there again. It was a good reminder that if you don't step it up on tour this is where you're going to be.
What does it mean to come back to Hawaii now after being on tour? Do you think people see you differently?
It's trippy, you know. There's only a handful of us from the islands, and I'm like full Hawaiian pride. I wave the flag, definitely. Then when somebody I don't know comes up and shakes my hand and says hello, you kind of realize the impact it has. You know, I love it. I love saying that I'm Hawaiian and representing the islands. Seems like everybody from the boys to the general public here's been pretty stoked on the outcome of things so far. Hopefully I can keep it up and give them more to cheer about.
Is it hard from being away from Hawaii?
It's always nice to be back, but then doing these events is my job and I gotta go out and work. Hawaii will always be there and I'll always be able to come back. I'm not going to be a pro surfer for the rest of my life, and if for now I can go travel the world and surf different waves and meet different people I think I have to make the most of that opportunity. I could have come home from Tahiti early, but I didn't, I stayed. There aren't a lot of times in life you can say you were in Tahiti, so you might as well make the most of it…surfing perfect waves and what not.
You said you won't be a pro surfer your whole life? What other ambitions do you hold? The next Hawaiian in the White House?
Yeah, I'm going to be the next Barack Obama. Ha, this whole country would frickin' fall apart if I was running it. No, I don't know. I've got surfing right now, and that's about all I have in the bag. I barely graduated high school, I suck at tennis, I suck at golf. I mean, I love them, but I'm the shittest one out of my crew. I've got the worst slice in the history of golf. I aim a buildings and somehow it still ends up in the pond on the other side of the fairway...it's a full boomerang.
What's next for you before Brazil?
I'm going drink beers and barbeque, Hawaiian style. Hahaha, nah, I'm just going to be hanging out. I'm going to try and do some training, and then follow the forecast and see if anything comes up. I left all my boards in Tahiti, so if something comes up I may head back there and hopefully get some waves.