PRO SPOTLIGHT: Fred Patacchia

“Dude, young surfers today are making way too much money. They need to put in their time.” This statement is usually a common one among critics about the current state of professional surfing, and unfortunately, there’re Fred Patacchia haters out there. Those who think he’s overpaid and over-promoted are jealous of a good-looking, smart kid who isn’t a “Mainland American,” or even an Australian-he’s Hawai’ian and only twenty years old. Jealous of a “kid” fulfilling a contract rumored to be worth a million dollars with one of the world’s foremost surf companies. Jealous of a surf style and talent that earned him numerous NSSA National titles and good results on the WQS. Jealous of a clean-living, carefree life, and charisma that makes young girls cry. Don’t be jealous.

Times have changed, and so has the sport of surfing. Like any other professional, Fred does normal things that other young pros his age do. But what differs Fred from many of his cohorts is that he’s a new breed, a version of what some people like to call a “professional athlete.”

Read this interview. Many just plain can’t elaborate on subjects like him. Fred knows his job and he does it well-maybe that’s why he makes a lot of dough. An empire like Quiksilver just doesn’t hand out million-dollar contracts-they want contest results, they want photos, and most importantly, they want someone who can represent their image and sell trunks. Fred Patacchia can do that.

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How hard was trying to qualify for the WCT last year?
It was kind of hard, but at the same time I felt it was good that I didn’t qualify because maybe I wasn’t ready for it. Going out to the ‘CT is a big transition. You go into a 30-minute, two-man heat. There’s just a lot of stuff that I have to get used to and learn. So, I feel another year on the ‘QS will probably make my surfing stronger. I’m doing horrible in the ‘QS now. Not that horrible, I was ninth going into the French leg, which was a huge leg-super important. I just pretty much cooked it. I wasn’t too stoked with my performance. I wasn’t stoked at all with what happened.

If you had a choice between competing in contests and not competing, what would you do?
I’d rather lose a heat in every event than not surf a contest.

Why’s that?

I have a competitive thing about me where I always have to be better than someone laughs. I always have to beat people in everything-ask any one of my friends. I’m a competitive person. Not being able to surf competitively, I’ll never know where I stand in the surfing world-whether I can cut it or not. I know there’re a lot of surfers who don’t surf events and surf a lot better than everyone on the tour. The fact that the guys on tour can prove it in 30 minutes is a great accomplishment. Even though some of them do three turns to the beach, and get three solid fives or three sixes in every heat-no matter what-you’re just going to have to top it. That’s the challenge about surfing heats, and that’s what I love. I love losing, and I love winning even more.

What’s the hardest loss you’ve ever taken?
I’ve never really had too hard of a loss. I mean, every time I lose, I think I can make something of it. I can find a way to see if it was my fault, and to figure out what I shouldn’t have done. I just recently had a heat in Portugal with Shane Beschen, and he only needed a four to win. A wave came through, and I knew he was going to get it-he’s a great surfer. I didn’t really want to snake the guy because he’s one of my heroes, and he’s been on the ‘CT before. He’s not on it right now, and I’d love him to be back on the ‘CT, but at the same time, I’m trying to do the same thing he is. That was a hard decision for me, but sometimes that’s just what you have to do-I ended up losing that heat to Shane. There was a chance he would’ve fallen, not gotten the score, and I would have made it-that’s the chance I took. When surfing major events, yohave to think fast and go with your gut instinct. Whether you win or lose, you just have to suck it up.

You have a really good work ethic. You willingly participate in interviews, you’re at every contest, you go on every trip, and you don’t have any problems with anyone. Where does all that come from?

Probably from my mom. My mom’s a really easy-going lady. Everything is just like, “Whatever, let’s do it.” I think it’s easier to live life that way, too. If you don’t have any worries, and you realize you have to do it because it’s your job. You can either have fun with it, or hate yourself for the rest of your life and hate what you’re doing. I don’t mind doing interviews and going on trips, because when I’m not doing so well in events, it’s another way I can show my sponsors that I’m out there doing something.

You recently bought a house on the North Shore, and instead of paying someone to fix it up, you and your dad are working on it together. What’s the reason for you choosing to do it this way?

My dad and I have always been “hands-on.” My dad and his friends built the house we’ve been living in with their own hands. We just felt that because this is my first house, it’s got to mean something-we both enjoy doing it together. We don’t really get to surf much together anymore because I’m always on tour. So when I’m at home, we’re doing construction together-sweating and having a good time.

Does your dad help make a lot of career decisions for you?

Not so much making decisions for me, but he steers me in the right direction. If he doesn’t feel good about a decision, he’ll tell me something-put it in my head, and allow me to decide. When I was in France I didn’t want to call him because I knew he was going to say something to piss me off. I’d lost in the contest already, and he would wonder what I was doing. He does that out of fatherly love, which I understand, but sometimes you just don’t want to hear it. We’ve had our share of arguments, but we always get over it.

You don’t feel any pressure from him?

It’ll always be there. Pressure goes with everything you do. If you’re in school, your parents want you to get good grades. When you know there’s a big exam coming up, you know that you have to buckle down and do it. I think the biggest pressure comes from myself. Before I started riding for Quiksilver, I told myself that in three years I wanted to be on the ‘CT. This is my second year, and personally, I don’t think I’m going to make it. There’re three events left, and everyone’s telling me that I can do it. The ratings are really high this year. You have to be at 8.2, or maybe even higher to make it. I don’t want to sound like I’m getting down on myself, but the way my year’s been going-my scores aren’t going to cut it.

How has your contract with Quiksilver been going so far?

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I like the fact that at a lot of people tell me I’m getting paid so much and I’m not even on the ‘CT. When I do make the tour, it’ll be just like I’ve earned it. People are always going to talk. It was going to be me or someone else who got the contract, I can guarantee that. Look at all the other kids-they’re buying nice cars and doing well. I invested in something, and at least I’m spending my money wisely. I’d rather invest in my house, and make more money off of that. Surfing doesn’t last forever, my dad taught me that.

When I signed contracts with Quiksilver and Dragon, my dad and I were thinking long-term. I have insurance policies and a whole bunch of other benefits. I think a lot of these other kids don’t have benefits. That’s why I’m really grateful that my dad’s around, because he’s done so much for my surfing in the long run. Being the “Million-Dollar Man,” all I have to say is that it was going to be me or someone else.

Do you think by signing that contract you’re going to be held responsible for more kids getting a lot of money from surfing?

I don’t care. I think it’s great-look at Kobe Bryant. Kids getting paid will bring surfing to another level. I think those guys deserve it. It’s not cheap to travel on the ‘QS. A lot of the money we make goes toward airfare. I don’t have a travel fund, so that money comes directly out of my pocket.

If I’m at the forefront of younger surfers getting paid more, so be it. There’s nothing I can do about it right now. I think it’s better because it shows that the sport of surfing is progressing, and we can make a good living off of it. I’ve had teachers who told me left and right when I was in school that they didn’t want me missing class by going on these trips. Now a lot of my old teachers realize I’m making more money than them. I don’t rub it in people’s faces, though. I’ve barely told anybody I bought a house, because I feel that it’s my own personal business. I don’t go flashing stuff around. I’m just a regular guy who lives in Hawai’i and surfs.

What about the pressure from the more established pro surfers who have already been on the ‘CT, but can’t get a sponsor because they’re in their late twenties?
Do you feel a lot of angst from them?

I don’t think so. If they do, they don’t do it to my face. I know there was a thing with Ken Bradshaw. I don’t know if he mentioned my name, but that kind of stuff doesn’t bother me. I don’t mind if someone feels that I don’t deserve it, or that I’m not going to make it. People have their own opinions, and they’re entitled to them. I just want to be the one who proves them wrong. I’d hope they’d just be happy for me, because I’d appreciate it. I’m really a down-to-earth guy.

Do you find yourself being scrutinized for little stuff that you’d normally do in life?

From what I feel when I’m on tour, I think a lot of people are pretty stoked. I think there’s jealousy, but I don’t see it too much. There’re always going to be jealous people. I’m jealous of Mick Fanning because he’s doing so well. I’m jealous of Joel Parkinson because he’s on the ‘CT for a second year in a row. They’re my good friends, but they’re also on the ‘CT. One day I’ll be right there with them, but for now, I’m not. There’s no reason why I should be pissed or mean to them. When I do see those guys do good, I’m like, “God, that should be me.

The stereotype of a Hawai’ian surfer is that they’re really tough, but you, Joel Centeio, Sean Moody, and Jason Shibata are a really down-to-earth group of guys. Do you think you’re breaking that stereotype?

I don’t think we are because Shane Dorian, Ross Williams, and all those other guys are really nice guys, too. It’s just not in my mentality. I’m not really the kind of person who goes around thinking I’m tougher than everyone, because I’m probably not. I just think, “Live and let live.”

When you go back home, is everyone glad to see you?

Is it the same vibe as when you were sixteen?

Every time I go home, I’m so stoked to see the Dahlins, the Fosters, and all those guys. Going to Rocky Point and seeing Risan and Uncle Butch-that’s what home is all about. You know everybody-familiar faces. Everyone’s happy to see you, and you’re happy to see them. Your true friends-the true people who love you and your family-are the ones who make it home. I could live in Texas if the same people were around me, because it would be just like home.

How do you think the media has treated you so far?

I think the magazines have done a good job for my surfing. They’ve portrayed me in the image that I want to be portrayed in. I’d like to be on more surf trips. I want to go on trips to Tahiti with Shane Dorian and Kelly Slater. I understand that sometimes I can’t go on trips because of the conflicting timing with the ‘QS.

Are you trying to change the progression of this sport?

Definitely. I was just surfing an air-shmoney from surfing?

I don’t care. I think it’s great-look at Kobe Bryant. Kids getting paid will bring surfing to another level. I think those guys deserve it. It’s not cheap to travel on the ‘QS. A lot of the money we make goes toward airfare. I don’t have a travel fund, so that money comes directly out of my pocket.

If I’m at the forefront of younger surfers getting paid more, so be it. There’s nothing I can do about it right now. I think it’s better because it shows that the sport of surfing is progressing, and we can make a good living off of it. I’ve had teachers who told me left and right when I was in school that they didn’t want me missing class by going on these trips. Now a lot of my old teachers realize I’m making more money than them. I don’t rub it in people’s faces, though. I’ve barely told anybody I bought a house, because I feel that it’s my own personal business. I don’t go flashing stuff around. I’m just a regular guy who lives in Hawai’i and surfs.

What about the pressure from the more established pro surfers who have already been on the ‘CT, but can’t get a sponsor because they’re in their late twenties?
Do you feel a lot of angst from them?

I don’t think so. If they do, they don’t do it to my face. I know there was a thing with Ken Bradshaw. I don’t know if he mentioned my name, but that kind of stuff doesn’t bother me. I don’t mind if someone feels that I don’t deserve it, or that I’m not going to make it. People have their own opinions, and they’re entitled to them. I just want to be the one who proves them wrong. I’d hope they’d just be happy for me, because I’d appreciate it. I’m really a down-to-earth guy.

Do you find yourself being scrutinized for little stuff that you’d normally do in life?

From what I feel when I’m on tour, I think a lot of people are pretty stoked. I think there’s jealousy, but I don’t see it too much. There’re always going to be jealous people. I’m jealous of Mick Fanning because he’s doing so well. I’m jealous of Joel Parkinson because he’s on the ‘CT for a second year in a row. They’re my good friends, but they’re also on the ‘CT. One day I’ll be right there with them, but for now, I’m not. There’s no reason why I should be pissed or mean to them. When I do see those guys do good, I’m like, “God, that should be me.

The stereotype of a Hawai’ian surfer is that they’re really tough, but you, Joel Centeio, Sean Moody, and Jason Shibata are a really down-to-earth group of guys. Do you think you’re breaking that stereotype?

I don’t think we are because Shane Dorian, Ross Williams, and all those other guys are really nice guys, too. It’s just not in my mentality. I’m not really the kind of person who goes around thinking I’m tougher than everyone, because I’m probably not. I just think, “Live and let live.”

When you go back home, is everyone glad to see you?

Is it the same vibe as when you were sixteen?

Every time I go home, I’m so stoked to see the Dahlins, the Fosters, and all those guys. Going to Rocky Point and seeing Risan and Uncle Butch-that’s what home is all about. You know everybody-familiar faces. Everyone’s happy to see you, and you’re happy to see them. Your true friends-the true people who love you and your family-are the ones who make it home. I could live in Texas if the same people were around me, because it would be just like home.

How do you think the media has treated you so far?

I think the magazines have done a good job for my surfing. They’ve portrayed me in the image that I want to be portrayed in. I’d like to be on more surf trips. I want to go on trips to Tahiti with Shane Dorian and Kelly Slater. I understand that sometimes I can’t go on trips because of the conflicting timing with the ‘QS.

Are you trying to change the progression of this sport?

Definitely. I was just surfing an air-show event in Newport Beach, and it was so much more fun to surf than a ‘QS event. There were eight photographers on the beach shooting video and still. Three steps down the way to the regular event, there was no one there. People are just more interested in progressive surfing. I think no matter how much the ASP says that they reward for aerials and futuristic moves, they’re still giving the same scores.

For example, you take off on a wave and do an air because it’s the only thing the wave will allow you to do. You land it and it looks good, but the judges usually only give you a four or five. Why not reward that person?

I know it depends a lot on wave selection, but sometimes you just can’t get that wave you need. Joe Blow can get eight waves, do six turns to the beach, and then get a five because he was just going through the motions. That’s the one thing that I don’t think is right.

Obviously, there’s a lot of glamour to being on the WCT, and it means a lot to you. What if some new tour suddenly came along with a different format and the media was covering it, what would you do?

I don’t think that would happen in my surfing career. I mean, they’ve already tried that. I think everyone’s so used to doing the ‘CT or the ‘QS that it’s going to be really hard to change the format of surfing. Someone’s going to have to come up and throw down a lot of money to do that, and I don’t think there’s much interest in surfing to do that. If I had enough money, I’d do that in a heartbeat. I’m sure a lot of the other surfers would, too.

Do you ever wonder why skateboarding’s on the X-Games and ESPN and surfing isn’t?

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I know exactly why. You can skate a ramp right here on this floor; the ramp will always be there and it’ll always be the same. You don’t have to wait for the ramp to get there, and you’re not going to hit a chop on the ramp. You’re not going to have to fight for a position on the ramp with other skaters. You have three minutes for your run. Skateboarding is an open arena-people can go to see it, because it’s scheduled for a certain time. For instance, there’s a two-week waiting period for the Triple Crown surf contest on the North Shore. Who’s going to call up to see if the contest is on?

That’s the difference. For surfing, we depend on Mother Nature to supply us with waves, and if she doesn’t, we all have to deal with it.

You have a lot of momentum in your career right now. Do you think there’s more the surf industry could do to make the sport more visible on television?

If so, do you think that you’d be a spokesperson for surfing?

I’d love for that to happen. I think the surf industry could do it. Everyone could collaborate and put surfing on TV-cover everything that the tour does, as well as freesurfing where it’s good. It’d be like MTV, and I guarantee everyone would love it. I think everyone who doesn’t surf and knows about surfing is either into it, or totally infatuated with it. Every time I’m on a plane just wearing pants and a T-shirt, some people wonder what I do for a living, or why I’m not in college. I tell them I surf professionally, and they want to know everything about surfing and what I do. People are stoked on it, and I think if it was on TV, a lot of people would relate to it.

Do you ever get burned out on surfing?

Oh yeah, all the time. That’s when you go home and relax-watch TV and eat ice cream. I don’t even think about surfing for a whole week sometimes. You start missing it, I swear. I won’t surf for four days, and then I miss it and have to go surf. You need that. You need to want it and have fun while you’re doing it. I’m sure a lot of guys get burned out on football, but they get sick and tired of not hitting someone, so they go play again. If you do it too much, you do kind of burn out on it. That’s why a lot of guys go golfing. I can’t golf, so I do other stuff to occuppy my time.

What are your other interests besides surfing?

I don’t really have much. I still play Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, but not that much anymore. Right now when I’m not surfing, I’m probably working on my house or hanging out with my friends. A lot of my friends are traveling-one of my best friends is doing the JPSA in Japan, and I barely ever get to see the guy anymore. When we’re both in the same place, we just hang out and try to hook up with chicks.

Regarding girls, are you extra careful because of who you are?

No. I’ve never really thought of it like that. You definitely have to think about other stuff, you know?

Note: Now that you’ve read this, go out and buy Fred’s newest video project with videographer Josh Williams titled The Rising-you’ll like it.

CALLOUTS”I love losing, and I love winning even more.”

“People are always going to talk. It was going to be me or someone else who got the contract with Quiksilver, I can guarantee that.”

“I don’t go flashing stuff around. I’m just a regular guy who lives in Hawai’i and surfs.”

“I think no matter how much the ASP says that they reward for aerials and futuristic moves, they’re still giving the same scores.”

“Joe Blow can get eight waves, do six turns to the beach, and then get a five because he was just going through the motions. That’s the one thing that I don’t think is right.”-Fred on the current ASP judging system

event in Newport Beach, and it was so much more fun to surf than a ‘QS event. There were eight photographers on the beach shooting video and still. Three steps down the way to the regular event, there was no one there. People are just more interested in progressive surfing. I think no matter how much the ASP says that they reward for aerials and futuristic moves, they’re still giving the same scores.

For example, you take off on a wave and do an air because it’s the only thing the wave will allow you to do. You land it and it looks good, but the judges usually only give you a four or five. Why not reward that person?

I know it depends a lot on wave selection, but sometimes you just can’t get that wave you need. Joe Blow can get eight waves, do six turns to the beach, and then get a five because he was just going through the motions. That’s the one thing that I don’t think is right.

Obviously, there’s a lot of glamour to being on the WCT, and it means a lot to you. What if some new tour suddenly came along with a different format and the media was covering it, what would you do?

I don’t think that would happen in my surfing career. I mean, they’ve already tried that. I think everyone’s so used to doing the ‘CT or the ‘QS that it’s going to be really hard to change the format of surfing. Someone’s going to have to come up and throw down a lot of money to do that, and I don’t think there’s much interest in surfing to do that. If I had enough money, I’d do that in a heartbeat. I’m sure a lot of the other surfers would, too.

Do you ever wonder why skateboarding’s on the X-Games and ESPN and surfing isn’t?

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I know exactly why. You can skate a ramp right here on this floor; the ramp will always be there and it’ll always be the same. You don’t have to wait for the ramp to get there, and you’re not going to hit a chop on the ramp. You’re not going to have to fight for a position on the ramp with other skaters. You have three minutes for your run. Skateboarding is an open arena-people can go to see it, because it’s scheduled for a certain time. For instance, there’s a two-week waiting period for the Triple Crown surf contest on the North Shore. Who’s going to call up to see if the contest is on?

That’s the difference. For surfing, we depend on Mother Nature to supply us with waves, and if she doesn’t, we all have to deal with it.

You have a lot of momentum in your career right now. Do you think there’s more the surf industry could do to make the sport more visible on television?

If so, do you think that you’d be a spokesperson for surfing?

I’d love for that to happen. I think the surf industry could do it. Everyone could collaborate and put surfing on TV-cover everything that the tour does, as well as freesurfing where it’s good. It’d be like MTV, and I guarantee everyone would love it. I think everyone who doesn’t surf and knows about surfing is either into it, or totally infatuated with it. Every time I’m on a plane just wearing pants and a T-shirt, some people wonder what I do for a living, or why I’m not in college. I tell them I surf professionally, and they want to know everything about surfing and what I do. People are stoked on it, and I think if it was on TV, a lot of people would relate to it.

Do you ever get burned out on surfing?

Oh yeah, all the time. That’s when you go home and relax-watch TV and eat ice cream. I don’t even think about surfing for a whole week sometimes. You start missing it, I swear. I won’t surf for four days, and then I miss it and have to go surf. You need that. You need to want it and have fun while you’re doing it. I’m sure a lot of guys get burned out on football, but they get sick and tired of not hitting someone, so they go play again. If you do it too much, you do kind of burn out on it. That’s why a lot of guys go golfing. I can’t golf, so I do other stuff to occupy my time.

What are your other interests besides surfing?

I don’t really have much. I still play Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, but not that much anymore. Right now when I’m not surfing, I’m probably working on my house or hanging out with my friends. A lot of my friends are traveling-one of my best friends is doing the JPSA in Japan, and I barely ever get to see the guy anymore. When we’re both in the same place, we just hang out and try to hook up with chicks.

Regarding girls, are you extra careful because of who you are?

No. I’ve never really thought of it like that. You definitely have to think about other stuff, you know?

Note: Now that you’ve read this, go out and buy Fred’s newest video project with videographer Josh Williams titled The Rising-you’ll like it.

CALLOUTS”I love losing, and I love winning even more.”

“People are always going to talk. It was going to be me or someone else who got the contract with Quiksilver, I can guarantee that.”

“I don’t go flashing stuff around. I’m just a regular guy who lives in Hawai’i and surfs.”

“I think no matter how much the ASP says that they reward for aerials and futuristic moves, they’re still giving the same scores.”

“Joe Blow can get eight waves, do six turns to the beach, and then get a five because he was just going through the motions. That’s the one thing that I don’t think is right.”-Fred on the current ASP judging system

to occupy my time.

What are your other interests besides surfing?

I don’t really have much. I still play Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, but not that much anymore. Right now when I’m not surfing, I’m probably working on my house or hanging out with my friends. A lot of my friends are traveling-one of my best friends is doing the JPSA in Japan, and I barely ever get to see the guy anymore. When we’re both in the same place, we just hang out and try to hook up with chicks.

Regarding girls, are you extra careful because of who you are?

No. I’ve never really thought of it like that. You definitely have to think about other stuff, you know?

Note: Now that you’ve read this, go out and buy Fred’s newest video project with videographer Josh Williams titled The Rising-you’ll like it.

CALLOUTS”I love losing, and I love winning even more.”

“People are always going to talk. It was going to be me or someone else who got the contract with Quiksilver, I can guarantee that.”

“I don’t go flashing stuff around. I’m just a regular guy who lives in Hawai’i and surfs.”

“I think no matter how much the ASP says that they reward for aerials and futuristic moves, they’re still giving the same scores.”

“Joe Blow can get eight waves, do six turns to the beach, and then get a five because he was just going through the motions. That’s the one thing that I don’t think is right.”-Fred on the current ASP judging system