A ride into first nursing a wound

Corey Colapinto opens up about surfing, school and stingrays

Brandon Drey/ Lariat

The sun beamed directly into the outdoor bar seating at Bear Coast Coffee, located feet away from the sands of San Clemente beach and pier. Tuesday afternoons typically bring an easy crowd around the “pier bowl,” a term dubbed by locals of the charmingly modest southern California beach city. 

“Do you think we could find some shade,” says Saddleback Surf team member Corey Colapinto. “That sun is pretty intense.”

His thick black sunglasses give a shield until he removes them after finding a large palm umbrella-shelter, casting a shadow away from the ocean. He makes himself comfortable in the sand, brushing patterns with his hands and feet.

“I surfed San O this morning,” he says. “I’m glad I went early today.’

Colapinto began surfing at the age of three when him and his dad rode tandem on an 11-foot longboard. Born and raised a stones throw away from the sand he sits on, he fixes his eyes on the sets forming and rolling toward the shore.

“He just through a life jacket on me,” he says. “So, he was doing all the work. I didn’t really get into it until I was about ten when I started getting into competitions.”

Growing up in a surf town, a lot of groms look to the ocean as their playground. If they can play well enough, the hobby becomes a sport and the sport becomes competition.

Most recently, Colapinto placed first in the National Scholastic Surfing Association’s longboard division at Seaside beach in Encinitas, California. The Saddleback Surf team competed in both the longboard and shortboard divisions.

The judges base their scores on control, connecting maneuvers and overall style.

“You’ll get scored higher than if you look out-of-control,” he says. “A lot of time, you know, if you have a good style you can pull things off that make it look like you’re in control when you’re really not.” Colapinto laughs, admitting he feels like that “a lot of the time.”

He says,”Surfing is a lot of improvisation because you don’t know what the waves going to throw at you until a second before it does.”

A week before Colapinto won the competition, a sting ray stung his right foot, beginning on the bottom and coming out of the side near his outermost toe.

“It stabs you really deep like a knife wound and its poison is so painful,” he says. “I wanted to cry, but I didn’t. If I was by myself, maybe I would have.”

Laughing at the moment, he expressed his gratitude about a fellow surfer at San Onofre Beach aiding his misfortune. The man boiled hot water in his RV and extracted the heat-seeking venom from Colapinto’s foot

“During the competition I still had a big hole in my foot,” he says. “I hadn’t been surfing the days before it, like, the whole week before it actually. I wanted to let it heal and close up, but it didn’t and I still surfed the contest anyways. The next day, my foot got super infected. It swelled up and I had to get on antibiotics.”

Nursing his wound thereafter, he spent another week out of the water and the waves wait for no man, including Colapinto.

“It’s tough,” he says. “I feel like all my marbles are in surfing and when I can’t surf, I don’t know what to do.”

Picking up the sand, he shifts it back and forth, from hand to the other like a never-ending timer. The sounds of the waves fill the silence as he watches a new set appear.

“The waves were really small during the competition and there wasn’t a lot of waves for almost everyone in the final,” he says. “Conditions were 2-3 ft with some of the sets about chest high.”

Competition surfing for Colapinto is not his primary focus. He enjoys his time on the surf team and admits he didn’t even know there was one until the coach (Lindsey Steinriede) told him about it.

Steinriede notes Colapinto as one of the stand-out surfers of our community. Rightfully so, considering his professional status, many awards and sponsorships.

“She’s actually one of my favorite longboarders,” he says. “I surf with her pretty regularly out at ‘San O’ and I maybe wouldn’t of thought about joining the surf team if it wasn’t for her.”

Although ‘being on the surf team is cool,’ Colapinto says competition surfing brings out an ‘aggressive side to surfing’ he does not prefer.

“I enjoy the artistic side of surfing more, that’s why I wanted to learn film actually,” he says. “I kind of started getting into it and then Saddleback helped me out a lot too because there is a big side of surfing that isn’t competition. It’s artistic; it’s media. With surf movies and lifestyle — which is really what I think surfing is.”

For Colapinto, surfing opened opportunities to travel all over the world. From the shores of Mexico to the island of Fiji, his list goes on. Noting his favorite break, he mentions a point called Double Island off the coast of Australia.

“You get to this spot, you mob out there to this point break with this super long and beautiful wave,” he says. “It was such a cool experience to get out and surf a new wave that feels like you’re in the wilderness.”

His next adventure will take him to Africa. Traveling with Capo Valley Church’s ministry ‘Red Door,’ Colapinto will lead high-school students to Swaziland.

“I’m really excited,” he says.

As a student at Saddleback College, Colapinto also works toward completing his degree online in Liberal Arts. Ultimately, his goal aims toward getting his teaching credential to educate future generations at the elementary level.

“I just like to try and offer more than my surfing for them,” he says.