Veteran ASP World Tour surfer Fred Patacchia talks about the challenges of being the injury replacement surfer as well as what the future holds for him and his growing family…
TransWorld SURF: Fred Patacchia, you started the year one spot removed from the world tour but you’ve managed to surf in every event as an injury replacement for Dusty Payne. Knowing he is a friend of yours, is it a bittersweet feeling?
Fred Patacchia: Yeah, it’s definitely bittersweet. Especially because I’m a big time advocate of Hawaii surfing and the future of Hawaii surfing and there’s only two of us on tour right now—me and John John Florence. Dusty’s my buddy and to see a talent like that get hurt early in his career—I’m sure he’ll bounce back 100%—but it’s hard to see things like that. You never want to see anyone get hurt, but it’s just the fact of the matter, the ways that we’re surfing and the things that we are doing these days, guys are going to get hurt and there has to be that injury replacement.
So as an injury wild card, how much lead-time do you have before you know you’re going to be in an event or not?
It’s different for every event. Dusty’s injury was pretty severe but he’s been nice enough to give me a heads up on what he’s doing and whether or not he’s going to be in the event. So I’ve been getting a good two weeks in advance almost every time. At Snapper they called me almost a month before. But now that he’s recovering, who knows if he’ll be back for Tahiti? Either way, my whole thought process is that I’m going to be in every event. I’ve bought my ticket for every event and I plan on staying with the Quiksilver guys. I’m going to have my equipment there and be ready to go whether or not I get in. You see a lot of guys that are somewhere else when they get the call and then they have to rush over, and who knows if they have the right equipment with them. I’ve noticed in the past it’s always a last minute thing. So for me since I’m the first alternate and history has shown that 90% of the time maybe even more like 98% the first replacement gets in. So basically I’m just going to be there, everywhere.
At the next event, the Billabong Pro Tahiti at Teahupo‘o, people get hurt warming up all the time. It doesn’t have to be big, so I guess it’s a good thing to be there and ready to go.
Exactly. People warm up and injuries happen. Just recently at the Volcom Fiji Pro, Raoni Monteiro got hurt, and who knows how long he’s going to be out? Surfing is a dangerous sport and it takes a toll on your body and injuries happen. The way I look at, last year I injured my knee and somebody took my spot, that’s just the way it goes.
So you can’t get sentimental about whose spot your taking, because someone’s going to take it regardless.
Yeah exactly, and I’m sure Dusty’s gotta be a little stoked that if he can’t surf, at least one of his boys is replacing him.
Representing quite well might we add.
The worst part about being the replacement is that you’re the lowest seed. In four events I’ve had Kelly Slater twice, I’ve had the number one seed Parko once at Bells—and he’s really hard to beat at Bells. It’s hard to get out of that little rut of going against the top guys that are going for World Titles. I’ve been doing well; my score line has been good so I’m challenging these guys to beat me. And once I break out of that seed area and stop getting those upper echelon guys that are going for World Titles, that’s when I think I can really take off. If you talk to anyone about those seeds, it’s the toughest part getting out of that area. And when you do get out of that area and start getting the number five or six seeds that’s when you’ve got to capitalize and be like, “All right, I need to beat this guy and move on to the 9th round or the quarters.” But you start hitting freaking Kelly Slater in the 17th round and he’s a tough guy to beat!
Switching gears a bit, you recently became a father. Congratulations, how is that treating you?
It’s exciting and a new part of my life. It’s trippy man, you leave the hospital and you have a kid, and you’re just like “What do I do?” [Laughs]. It’s a fun learning curve and it’s been a great time. I’ve been taking her to a lot of places. She wasn’t even a month-old and I brought her to Australia for two months. She’s been loving it and so have I. We were joking around when we were in Australia that she was getting an accent, she was going “Oi, oi!”
Now that you have family and everything does it light a fire under your ass? Do you feel like you have more people to surf for, like baby-needs-new-shoes kind of deal?
Not really. A lot of people say they do but for me I’ve always been pretty focused on competition—it’s what I love to do. I don’t think it’s lit any new fires. If anything, it has given me new perspectives on surfing. You know, when you have a kid you don’t get to surf as much and at times you don’t want to surf. You would rather stay home and stare at her and see the new things that she’s doing. So when I do surf, I try to take advantage a little more of my free surf. I treat them a little more like practice sessions than just going out and surfing. It’s like, if I haven’t surfed in a week because I’ve been watching the baby, I will bring three or four boards down to the beach and make sure I know which is the best one and these are the ones I’m going to bring and this is the one I’m going to ride in my heat. I guess I structure my time surfing a little bit better now, but surfing wise and competing wise, I’m still the same guy. I wear my heart on my sleeve, I go out there and leave it all in the water. That’s just what I do and what I’ll do until my surfing career is over.
Which leads into my next question. As you get older and think about life after the world tour, where do you see yourself in the next five or ten years?
That’s a question I’m asking myself right now: What I realistically want to do and how much longer do I want to be on this tour. So I was in Brazil for almost a month and I started missing my baby. It’s like, how long can I really do this tour away from my kid? I know there are other guys that do it, like the Parkinson’s, the Hobgood’s, and all that. They’ve found a way to surf the tour and have a family and see their kids a lot. I’m just trying to wrap my head around what I’m going to do. Am I going to do what they’re doing or do I want to be here at home and have a home base? So that’s kinda the question I’m asking myself. I’m one of those guys, where I feel like I’ve done well with surfing and I’ve invested fairly well. I love the surf industry and I want to be apart of it, whether I’m a professional surfer or working with Quiksilver in the end or just doing something with surfing. I feel like I always need to be apart of this sport and I’m trying to figure that next step of my life out right now. Honestly, I’m 30 and I don’t see myself on tour for any more than another five years. I don’t know if I could do this for another five years. Especially with the way they’re structuring it—if you’re not in the top 10 they’re almost forcing you to do the six star primes. So, that’s like ten WCT events on top of eight six star primes. So that’s eighteen events—more than one event a month. So with gas and ticket prices going up, the industry not doing well, and surfers not making enough, shit’s gonna get nuts…
Whatever happens, best of luck and thanks for taking the time for the chat!
Thanks guys, aloha!