Up Close Tim Reyes 3-8

From Little League To The Big Time.The rise of Timmy Reyes.By Aaron Checkwood

Some people are born with talent, others aren’t. In the case of surfing, the ability to surf well and win contests at a young age earns you a ticket to American surf-prodigy hell. Sure, you’re the coolest kid in school, your sponsors take over for your parents, and you’re traveling around the world with the cream of the crop, but is it good for you?

The professional side of surfing in America, like any other sport and any other country, has seen prospective surf stars literally fall apart-whether it be due to drug abuse, laziness, or the fact they couldn’t produce competitively or editorially.

“The main thing is that a lot of them aren’t ready to move on,” says NSSA Executive Director and close family friend Janice Aragon. “A lot of them, as soon as they graduate from high school, feel like they have to leave the NSSA and move on to pro surfing, and then they get walloped out there. They’re getting pressure from their sponsors to turn pro.”

Tim Reyes Jr. could’ve taken any one of those paths, but instead took the road less traveled-not necessarily by choice, but a result of his personality and family support. At nineteen, he’s doing well in contests, getting photos, and making sponsors happy, but he’s also playing golf, racing his beloved car, and living clean-in other words, escaping the pitfalls of surf stardom.

“Others might have gotten burned out, or just moved on to a different thing,” says Tim Jr. (or Timmy). “They might not want to get better and better. Some people get as good as they can get, or it gets harder to improve and they just kind of quit. After the age of nineteen or twenty, it’s all mental-you’ve just got to work really hard.”

As a youngster growing up in Huntington Beach, California, the other sports Timmy participated in took the focus away from surfing so he wouldn’t burn out. He played Little League from the time he was four until twelve, loves basketball, races his BMW M3, and is heavily into golf-he even takes private lessons. “He’s a pretty darn good golfer,” says Tim Reyes Sr. “He’s got a 300-plus yard drive. It’s an insane drive, very powerful-I can’t even do that.”Tim Jr. wasn’t channeled into the role of young surf icon, he just kinda fell into it. At the age of five, Tim Sr., a.k.a. Big Tim, pushed Jr. into his first wave, which led to his competing at age eleven. The following seven years were spent doing junior high and high school contests, and, of course, the NSSA. “The very first time I saw him was at the Sauer Middle School Surf Team workout,” says Aragon. “Sometimes it takes me a couple of years to see potential in kids. I saw it immediately with Timmy. From the first day-I saw it right off the bat.””The whole contest thing was for fun, and then it developed into what it is now,” says Tim Sr., who along with wife Julie didn’t think it would all come together like it did. Although they were highly involved in Jr.’s career, and more importantly in his life, they did have to draw the line between being parents, coaches, and managers.

“I think it’s always been a little hard because Tim Sr.’s such an awesome coach for him,” says Julie.

An avid surfer himself, at one point Tim Sr. was even his son’s surfboard shaper in addition to everything else. There was a time when he was making Timmy’s surfboards, was his coach, and most importantly, his father-it seemed like he was always just grinding and grinding. After a while he stepped away from the surfboard part of it, picked up a local shaper, and then finally progressed to Merrick (Al Merrick of Channel Islands). “That was a big break for me and also him,” says big Tim, “because then we could focus on the father/son thing and then on a surf career-not everything at once.””But then there’s also a part where you want to be his dad and you want to be his buddy. How hard do you get on him? Is he listening? Once he got older and better, more mature a stronger, and grew into a young man, then it became ‘tough love’ because that’s what he wanted to do-become a professional surfer.”Instead of sending Timmy to Huntington Beach High, the premier “surf school,” the Reyeses sent their son to Edison High-a school they felt was better academically. Timmy pulled a 3.2 grade point average or better for all four years. “We could surf and have fun, but where’s surfing really gonna get you?” says Tim Sr. “Sure, it’s fun. But is it really gonna be a career for Tim? Hopefully. He had to focus on his grades-and if he didn’t have them, he didn’t get to surf.”

Although a kid growing up in Huntington and its party-like atmosphere could cause problems for any parent, the Reyeses never had problems with their son falling by the wayside-he’s nineteen years old and still doesn’t hang out or party.

According to close friend Shaun Ward, Timmy doesn’t mind being alone and doing things on his own: “He’s kinda shy, kind of introverted-he’s not gonna tell you anything if he doesn’t know you well. He’s just a mellow guy. He’s just the type to meet a girl and chill with her, he doesn’t need to go out and party.””I just like being quiet,” says Tim Jr. “I’m not a loud person or anything. I’ve always been quiet my whole life. I’m always on my own program. I only call people I can really hang out with who I’ve been hanging out with my whole life. I just like to chill by myself and surf whenever I want. Most of the time, I do my own little thing.”

Mom Julie remarks, “Everyone In Huntington has tattoos and ear rings and body piercings-it’s really odd he’s not interested in any of that. You could almost say he’s an introvert. I don’t think it’s a bad thing.”Call it enthusiasm, call it motivation, call it whatever you want. It all began at a very young age,” says his mom.

According to Tim Sr., a lot of it came from living in the shadow of another Huntington Beach prodigy, Micah Byrne: “He was behind Micah for years, and I think being a step behind Micah really helped him out-it pushed him. He was living in Micah’s shadow for a long time until the last two or three years.” His parents also credit the clothing company Katin for running full-page ads when Timmy was twelve years old and surfing Pipe-a huge push for him.

“I knew I had to work hard, and I knew I could make it,” says Tim Jr. “Everyone was telling me, ‘You’ve gotta do this,’ and I’ve always worked really hard to get where I’m at right now. It’s taken a long time, but I’m almost there. So I’m trying harder and harder every day, every session.”

“Obviously, his potential is incredible,” says Aragon. “He loves to compete, and he wants to win-those are two enormously great attributes he has.” “He zones out and gets all amped on stuff,” says Ward. “He puts all his energy into one thing, and that’s why he does so good. He’s just crazy-he blows up, pulls in, and does big moves. He tries to go as big as possible and surf as good as he can on every wave.”

Then there’s the “Little League” parent label the Reyeses and other parents deal with. If they’re involved, are they yelling at their kids as they surf their heats? Are they giving positive or negative support if their child loses? Tim Sr. and Julie, who attended every contest, try to keep their involvement to a minimum-but it’s still way more than most parents. Ward explains, “I think they’re a big part of it his success-they back him a lot and help him organize everything, make sure everything goes smooth.”

Timmy offers his parents nothing but appreciation for their support-whether it’s for dad’s coaching help or their driving him to every event from age twelve: “My parents were are the biggest thing.”

By attending every contest, the Reyses were able to witness the pressure put on other kids by parents and by themselves. They tried to avoid it, yet sometimes still had to step in. And anybody who knows Timmy knows he’s very hard on himself. When he’s on a contest roll, he’s on a roll. If he makes a couple mistakes in a heat, it kills him and he takes it really hard.

It wasn’t uncommon for his parents to practice prevention when it came to Timmy being his own worst enemy. “He wanted to do real well,” says Tim Sr., “and had a little bit of attitude showing-then I would come down on him. I stepped in and let him do what he does best-surf. We try to incorporate having fun. That way he’s not always trying to win, which makes it a less stressful situation for all of us.”

“He’s one of those kids who loves to compete, and he wants to win,” says NSSA’s Aragon. “Obviously, there’re a lot of youngsters who just don’t like to compete-he does. One of the things he had to overcome when he was competing in the NSSA was getting down on himself in heats when he wasn’t surfing to his potential. The heat’s twenty minutes long. From the first horn to the last horn, you gotta keep your head in the game-no matter what. He’d get down on himself, and it would show in his heats. He’d start slapping the water and show frustration.”

Like any mother who felt the judges were being unfair, Julie became involved: “There were times where we actually had to speak up. I did it on his behalf. ‘What should Timmy be doing? What shouldn’t he be doing?’ It was always in more of a positive way-not like Little League. It’s more of a one-on-one sport. The judges have to like you, so we always tried to keep Timmy positive.”The making of Timmy Reyes is an important lesson for future stars and their parents. “Even though they’re in a business of their own, you have to be there for them, says Julie. “Most kids are not old enough or mature enough to handle all that. Stand by them a 100 percent.” he makes a couple mistakes in a heat, it kills him and he takes it really hard.

It wasn’t uncommon for his parents to practice prevention when it came to Timmy being his own worst enemy. “He wanted to do real well,” says Tim Sr., “and had a little bit of attitude showing-then I would come down on him. I stepped in and let him do what he does best-surf. We try to incorporate having fun. That way he’s not always trying to win, which makes it a less stressful situation for all of us.”

“He’s one of those kids who loves to compete, and he wants to win,” says NSSA’s Aragon. “Obviously, there’re a lot of youngsters who just don’t like to compete-he does. One of the things he had to overcome when he was competing in the NSSA was getting down on himself in heats when he wasn’t surfing to his potential. The heat’s twenty minutes long. From the first horn to the last horn, you gotta keep your head in the game-no matter what. He’d get down on himself, and it would show in his heats. He’d start slapping the water and show frustration.”

Like any mother who felt the judges were being unfair, Julie became involved: “There were times where we actually had to speak up. I did it on his behalf. ‘What should Timmy be doing? What shouldn’t he be doing?’ It was always in more of a positive way-not like Little League. It’s more of a one-on-one sport. The judges have to like you, so we always tried to keep Timmy positive.”The making of Timmy Reyes is an important lesson for future stars and their parents. “Even though they’re in a business of their own, you have to be there for them, says Julie. “Most kids are not old enough or mature enough to handle all that. Stand by them a 100 percent.”