Sine Qua Non (Si-Ni-ˌKwa-'Nan) : noun
1. Absolutely indispensable or essential.
2. The absolutely needed.
Sine qua non can be translated literally as "Without which, not” – a reference to the people, places, and things that are inherently necessary – the crucial elements required to create something else.
At James, we find inspiration in the idea of the indispensable. The people that make it all happen, and the tools they rely on. Yesterday, today, tomorrow. Everyday.
We caught up with James team member Conner Coffin at his home in Santa Barbara, CA to see how he keeps his head right in between trips. Conner's indispensable items seem obvious – boards, wetsuits, wax, fin key – yet it's the things off the contest circuit and the way Conner handles himself out of the water that make him a crucial part of the next generation that will shape the future of surfing.
Many of us only know Conner for what he does on Tour. Classic, powerful style, absolutely ripping turns when he can open up on a big face.
But there's a lot more to it when you sit down and get a chance to chat with him outside of the circus surrounding the World Tour.
Like many other kids, he dreamed of one day being a pro surfer. From his early days around Rincon he gained an appreciation for clean smooth lines and natural, free-flowing style. How could you not when you grew up watching and sharing the lineup with the likes of Tom Curren, Bobby Martinez, the Malloy brothers, and Dane Reynolds?
Home at Rincon.
Conner’s career has taken him all over the world, but he keeps his feet squarely on the ground and his heart in the right places.
From shooting for Nixon in Teahupo'o to paddling out for heats against the world's best in the shifting sandbars of Hossegor, the 24 year-old has traveled more in his short career than many of us will in our lifetimes.
Yet, of all those pins on the map, his favorite place on the planet remains the stretch of coastline surrounding Santa Barbara. Conner has a truly meaningful and profound connection to this magical place where he grew up. Minutes from Rincon and never far from his friends and family, he grew up with a great support system and a level of comfort to return to after each time he travels.
Checking the surf in the morning, probing the depths for halibut, jamming with the boys at night.
From the moment we meet up with Conner in Carpenteria, he couldn't be more welcoming and flat out nice. It's immediately apparent how comfortable he feels meeting new people, even when they have a litany of cameras and won't stop asking questions. Every spot we go to, he's genuinely excited to meet the people there.
He oozes a defined sense of home and connection to the place where he grew up, with a solid group of rituals, places, and people to return to after traveling. Gardening, composting, fishing, surfing, music; all of his pastimes are closely tied to the land, people, and the pure enjoyment that being home has to offer.
Understated yet capable. Humble yet confident. Conner’s very organic and heartfelt approach to all he does sets him apart from the typical picture of what we often expect of a world-renowned surfer.
Farm to table.
Conner’s grandmother introduced him to gardening when he was just five years old.
He remembers going out with her and weeding, planting tomatoes, composting, and eventually harvesting the fruits of their labor to make lasagna from scratch. After a short phase we all experience in our teenage years, he rediscovered the subtle joy of the process. Of spending time in nature. Taking a wheelbarrow up the street to get a load of horse manure from the neighbor’s ranch to add to the compost pile. Of coming home from a surf trip and seeing the slow progress coming to fruition.
"My grandfather always says that there's nothing better than taking really good ingredients and doing very little to them."
Salt of the earth.
"Off tour, sometimes it's nice to keep the garage shut for a few days, play guitar, garden, fish."
When Conner is home, family is a huge part of his life, and he hangs with them as much as he can, off of the phone and away from distractions. Hitting the beach with his brother, Parker, and his dad, Rich, or grabbing coffee with his mom and grandparents. It's this ability to separate personal life from heats and competitions that makes Conner such a down to earth person out of the water.
"It's really important to not let results affect your life outside of the jersey. You have to make time to enjoy and experience the places you're going."
One of the most exciting things about competitive surfing is the big role an uncontrollable force – the ocean – plays in the results. No matter how much you prepare there's so much that is out of your control. You could have a rad heat and still end up combo'd or waiting nearly half an hour for just one scoring ride.
For Conner that fact has taught him so much about himself and what drives him – a desire to experience the world. To take advantage of the opportunity to leverage this experience and grow as a surfer and person.
Make it your own.
“I’ve always had a full fanout and looked up to Keith Richards.”
"Listening to his music, it has such an underlying soul and 'special sauce', the attitude, the feel. It just has a presence that is so unique." In all that he does, Conner looks for people that don’t really care what others are doing, instead they follow their passion, find their path, and make it their own.
For more on Conner and a great recap of his first year on Tour, do yourself a favor and head over to his blog, Young Wise Tails.
Stay tuned for more installments of Sine Qua Non as we continue to catch up with the rest of the James team.