Fresh off a U.S. championship win, Nic H’Dez is ready to take on the world
By Neal Kearney | Photos: Billy Watts
Santa Cruz has a knack for churning out world-class surf talent. Groomed on the juicy right-hand point breaks, fellows such as Adam Replogle, Chris Gallagher and, just recently, Nat Young have all stamped their distinctly powerful and graceful Santa Cruz-influenced styles on the elite Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Tour.
Looking ahead, another young star is entering supernova status: Nic H’Dez. The 18-year-old Pleasure Point native has dedicated almost his entire life to becoming a top-level athlete. And, with a recent win in the under 18 division at the 2014 Surfing America USA Championships at Lower Trestles in San Onofre, H’Dez moves closer to joining his mentor Nat Young on the world stage. Santa Cruz Waves cornered the globe-trotting teen to talk about his monumental win.
Congrats, dude. How does it feel to be the new U.S. champion?
Thank you! It sort of feels surreal. I’m so psyched.
Describe the preparation you have undergone this year to get into top form.
I’ve been training over at Paradigm Sport with [owner] Joey Wolfe a lot and putting in work over there. My coach Erik Kramer has been super helpful and making things easier for me at these contests. And I’ve just been surfing my brains out—having fun and putting in a lot of time in the water.
Talk me through your year so far. Any ups and downs?
This year I’ve competed a lot. [I] probably have done the most events I have ever done in a year. I feel like I was sort of struggling to find my feet toward the beginning of the season, but all those events were good practice and sort of kept me in a contest state of mind throughout the season. I also got on some bigger boards just before summer and I definitely think that helped.
Who was your biggest threat coming into this event? Was the event stacked?
Yeah. It was a stacked event for sure. For the U.S. champs, kids come from all over the country in the under 18 division to compete at Lowers. I’d have to say a couple of threats coming into the competition were the Moniz brothers and Kanoa Igarashi.
Surfing rippable Lowers, did you enjoy your advantage of growing up surfing a point break?
For sure. Growing up in Santa Cruz has been a huge benefit to my surfing … It’s the best place on Earth.
Describe the blade that got the job done.
The blade that got the job done was a Channel Islands remix model epoxy. 5’10.5″ x 18″ 3/4 x 2″ 5/16. Swallow tail.
Go through the competition for me. At what point did you feel like you could win?
My first round heat was probably the gnarliest heat I had the whole competition. I squeaked it. Liam McTigue came out of the gates swinging with a couple of high eights, and Josh Moniz dropped a 9.1 on his first wave. I was sitting there, hadn’t caught a wave yet, just like, “Whoa, this is nuts!” I ended up getting a seven and, like, 6.8 to just edge out Josh in such a nail biter. After that it was just heat-by-heat, trying to be on the best waves and not fall. I felt like I could win it after my first wave in the final. It had been a pretty slow one so far and I had just got the highest score of the heat. On the paddle back out from that wave I was so fired up I thought, “Here we go!”
What did you eat for breakfast the day of the finals? Popeye’s spinach?
I had a breakfast burrito from Pipes [Café, in San Clemente]. The No. 1 with cilantro.
Talk to me about getting carried up the beach in a chair by your friends. That must have been quite a feeling.
I actually didn’t get a proper chair [ride] up the beach. Due to a crazy last exchange, it wasn’t [certain] that I had won, so when my friends lifted me up I jumped out after a few seconds because I didn’t want to jinx anything.
What are some of your goals for next year?
To keep getting better and have fun, to qualify for [the] ASP World Juniors [event], and to build my WQS [World Qualifying Series] seed and get into as many events as possible.
Any thank yous or shout outs?
My Mom and Dad.