US surfer Griffin Colapinto using poor performance in Tahiti as learning experience ahead of Olympics


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Griffin Colapinto’s thoughts and emotions are much like the waves he surfs: up and down, sometimes flowing with him while others try crashing into his mental state. 

But the California native couldn’t be feeling any better mentally as he looks ahead to his first-ever Olympic Games, where he will be one of four Team USA surfers heading to Tahiti to compete against the best in the world. 

“I’m feeling really good,” Colapinto told Fox News Digital. “I feel that this year, the past few years, every year there’s been a lot of challenges that’s come at me, and I feel I’ve done my absolute best to get through them. In the moment, they were really hard.”


Griffin Colapinto with headphones on

Griffin Colapinto of the United States is shown prior to surfing in the semifinals of the VIVO Rio Pro on June 28, 2024, at Saquarema, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Thiago Diz/World Surf League via Getty Images)

Pressure is in the job description of a professional athlete, no matter the area of expertise. 

For Colapinto, dealing with that pressure mentally can be a challenge, but there are other times when he says he can enter the water. 

“Sometimes, I get out there, and it’s like, boom, flow state right away,” he explained. “Or I’ll be challenged with a lot of different thoughts coming at me. It’s basically just being able to be aware of that, and use it to become more present.”

Heading into the Olympics, Colapinto knows that he needs to keep his mental state focused as much as possible. And that “flow state” being found quickly in the water can lead to choosing the right waves to ride in Tahiti, where the Olympic surfing competition will take place.


However, Colapinto’s recent trip to French Polynesia wasn’t the best, as he was quickly eliminated from his World Surf League event earlier this year. 

“Last time I was in Tahiti, I ended up losing to the wild card in round 2, which is as early as you can lose in the event,” he said. “I lost to the wild card, and I was so bummed because I put in so much preparation, so much hard work for that wave, and I have been for a long time. It just didn’t come to fruition. 

“In the past, those things haven’t really gone my way, but I feel like I’ve learned so much every time things haven’t gone my way. So, I’m almost feeling like everything that’s happened to me is leading up to this moment in the Olympics.”

Colapinto may have lost, but he learned just how the swell works in Tahiti, which he explained. 

Griffin Colapinto surfs wave

Griffin Colapinto of the United States surfs in the Outerknown Tahiti Pro on Aug. 18, 2022, at Teahupo’o, Tahiti, French Polynesia. (Damien Poullenot/World Surf League)

“The heat I ended up losing in over there, the swell was rising throughout the day, and it was in between the first ledge and the second ledge,” he said. “It was like this weird game of, ‘Do you sit further in or sit further out?’ The surfer I was against was an expert on the first ledge, and most of the waves in that heat were coming in on that first ledge. Right when that heat ended, the waves got bigger, and it went out to that second ledge the rest of the day.

“I lost because I gave him a wave that I wasn’t sure was going to be good, and it turned out to be really good, and he got the score. It’s just moments like that that’s all going to be in the [memory] bank. I can go to that in the Olympics.”

Colapinto will try to tap the memory bank next month, which will require a good mental state, something he and fellow surfing brother Crosby Colapinto have worked on together. 

“I started getting real interested in mental health through surfing, obviously, and being a pro surfer,” Colapinto said. “Just chasing a dream, chasing something that’s so challenging, you’re going to be dealt with hard moments throughout the journey. Through that, I started journaling, meditating and reading books. I ended up kind of just creating my own little system of tools to help me on my journey, and the journaling was a really cool one.”

Because of his own mental health journey, Colapinto applied to be one of 20 athletes to be chosen for an Athlete for Good grant, a joint initiative with Proctor & Gamble, the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralymic Committee that gave $24,000 each to support causes championed by recipient athletes.

Griffin Colapinto looks out from podium

Griffin Colapinto of the United States is shown prior to surfing in the round of 16 at the VIVO Rio Pro on June 27, 2024, at Saquarema, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Thiago Diz/World Surf League via Getty Images)

Colapinto’s charity of choice was To Write Love on Her Arms, a nonprofit dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with mental health, addiction and more. 


“We’re super fortunate to be in the positions we are, and we’re living amazing lives,” Colapinto said when asked how important this initiative was for him. “The best thing we can do is just pass it on to people around us and anyone that looks up to us. Lead by example and be the best person you can be. Not be afraid to share our secrets of what we’ve learned on our journeys because we’re all going through similar hard stuff, and it helps a lot to be able to relate with each other.”

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