Spotlight Sessions - Ep. 03 - Corey Colapinto // Kookapinto

Welcome to Episode 3 of the First Light Surf Club Spotlight Sessions, where we dive deep into the lives of entrepreneurs, creatives, and people we admire both in and out of the water.

In this episode, we sit down with Corey Colapinto, a Southern California native known for his creativity and progressive approach to surfing. Born into surfing's esteemed Colapinto family, Corey carved his own path distinct from his cousins Griffin and Crosby. Join us as Corey shares insights into his upbringing, his profound love for surfing, his faith journey, and the unique path that led him to become a shaping innovator and a source of positivity within the surfing community.

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corey colapinto, kookapinto, surfer, shaper, san clemente, surf, surfing, fishy noserider, longboard

FLSC - Let's just dive in. Tell us a bit about your upbringing and how you fell in love with surfing.

Corey - I grew up in San Clemente and my dad is a big surfer and has been my whole life. So he got me into it as a kid. We’d go out at San Onofre and go tandeming, and I was just a grom. I didn't really get super into it until I was about ten and started competing with my cousins, Griffin and Crosby, doing all sorts of contests up and down the coast. It was super fun getting into it, trying to do some big airs. Then I got a little more into longboarding later in life. Now I’m kind of in between and like to ride everything. If the waves are big and pumping, I'll take out a short board. If it's medium, maybe a mid-length. Then if it's micro the log and try to nose ride. So yeah, it's all fun.

FLSC - Tell us a little bit about growing up with Griffin and Crosby. What was it like having them beside you surfing and competing?

Corey - Yeah, super fun growing up with Griffin and Crosby, they really helped push me. Griffin was always a bit better than me. Even though he's only about a year younger than me, he really pushed me. He's just got a really cool, competitive edge to him that is fun, but serious at the same time. I had a blast hanging with those guys and still hang with them a bit when I can. Although they travel the world pulling into barrels wherever. I'm usually staying more local. I travel when I can, but I'm not quite on their level of success. Although I'm trying.

FLSC - Was it the surfing next to them that, like, helped you progress? Having a family with three amazing surfers in it, was it something in the water that your dad and uncles were feeding you? What was that about?

Corey - You know, the definitely community's huge and wanting to push each other. I feel like I still see that today, especially in San Clemente. There is still a really tight knit crew, especially when you go down to Lowers. There's just groms and there's a tight knit pack of people who push each other and yeah, it was really cool to be in that when I was a grom.

FLSC - Your whole family are all beach people, all surfers. Who would you say froths the hardest out of your entire family?

Corey - Ooh man. You know, my dad is actually a mega frother. He still goes every day that he can. He's got some jet skis in the Oceanside Harbor and he zips out to DMJ’s and even up past that to Las Pulgas.I know it's been getting more popular. So he'll just ride his jet ski all the way up with his buddy, like find a peak to himself and they'll do step offs. I haven't been on that in a while because of my head injury, but I used to go a lot and when it's on, it's just like just the whole coast just barreling for miles and you can just ride the wave so early on the jet ski, you watch how it's going to form. That's really cool. He loves doing that. He also longboards a lot, so we surf San Onofre and trails together a lot. Super fun.

corey colapinto, kookapinto, surfer, shaper, san clemente, surf, surfing, fishy noserider, longboard

FLSC - Tell me a little bit about leaving the shortboard and exploring more of the longboard, and then stepping back from competing.

Corey - I think I just got a little bit burned out. I was surfing Lowers just all day, every day and it's tough. You know it's one peak, it's crowded, and you got to battle for waves. I'm not someone who really wants to be aggressive in the lineup. So it's kind of tough. I want to just chill it. So sometimes yeah, just be sitting out there for a while and getting bored. So I guess the boredom is maybe what led me to want to be able to have fun on days where it's just kind of an average day. I want to just catch a lot of waves, honestly. So I kind of started trying to surf less crowded waves, and it just so happened to be that longboards were what you needed to ride.

But I remember telling my dad at a younger age where I was like, You know, I think I kind of want to get more into just making surf videos than competing. I think that's just where my passion is. It feels a little bit more artistic and soulful and not as serious, which is kind of my passion with surfing. It's funny to have seen since then, the surf videography and influences through social media. It's taken off and it's taken off around the world. I felt like as a kid, being into that, it really helped me shape who I was and where I wanted to go with it. I’m really just super grateful for all that.

FLSC - Where do you think that passion for free surfing and creating content and filming came from? Now, if you ask a kid they see you doing it and other big names doing it and it's more of a visible path forward, but you kind of paved a lot of the way for that.

Corey - I loved watching surf movies as a kid. One of my favorites is Modern Collective with Jordy Smith and Dusty Payne. I just grew up loving watching the surf movies, the art and the music behind it, and just how entertaining that was. It really just painted an awesome lifestyle. Something that put a big impression on me.

I also feel like now with Social media as well, it's really connected the world together in such a cool way where I follow surfers all around the world. I'm always trying to stay connected. It's fascinating to be connected with someone in Portugal, Australia, Japan and be able to message them and comment on their waves that they had that morning and say like, “Hey, that's awesome, nice job. That board’s looking really good. That style's insane.” And just try to, you know, keep the hype alive. It's really cool to see the way the world's connected through that now. I feel like it's kind of got that similar sense that I grew up with in San Clemente where I had that community. But now I feel like I have it in a broader sense with long boarding and long boarders around the world as well as mid length surfers. Because I feel like that's kind of a smaller gap right now. Coming from the short board scene which was the biggest. Then I got into longboarding which is smaller. Then I feel like the mid length scene, or like many longboard scene is really small. So any time I see someone out on the Internet kind of pushing that boundary, I'm like, “What!? This is sick! Let's connect Let's surf some time.” It's really cool.

corey colapinto, kookapinto, surfer, shaper, san clemente, surf, surfing, fishy noserider, longboard

FLSC - As a free surfer and someone building their personal brand, how is it providing for your family and making ends meet? What's that look like for you?

Corey - Yeah, it's been awesome so far. Just been doing a lot of custom boards and trying to stay connected to people and talk with everyone about what's the best board for them. Keeping it as personable as I can. One of my favorite things to do is get a call from someone who’s looking for a surfboard to surf this particular wave, they weigh this much, their level is intermediate beginner and wherever they're at, just try and make the perfect board for them. So yeah, I love doing that and getting creative. Obviously it's nice to make a little bit of money and get by with that. I’ve got my wife and dog back home. So yeah, we're, we're making it work. I also coach at JSerra which is in San Juan. It's a private Catholic high school. We meet down the beach early in the mornings, do some contests and get the kids out there and stay stoked. So kind of just get my hands on whatever I can. Try to find work wherever, you know, private surf lessons here and there.

But you're saying having a career with it is interesting. You definitely got the social media influencers who, you know, that's cool and that's the thing to do. But you know I want to focus more on having a product, especially just having some sort of innovative product with surfboards. You can always get creative and have something new. I feel like boards are just going to get better and better and more unique. And, you know, we might find something that is really special that no one's done before and it fills a little gap in the quiver that makes surfing this weird wave that nobody wants super fun. I feel like even foiling kind of did that for me for a bit. I was like, I can just ride an open swell? Like, that's crazy. So I just feel like there's so many avenues to go with that. You know, you can have an 11 foot mega glider that you're able to take a hundred steps to get to the nose. And you're like, that's an awesome feeling. And then you can have like a little six foot stubby mini nose rider where you just do one little step and you're on the nose, but you're like locked in. That feels really cool as well. So yeah, I want to just try and create something that is sustainable with that and able to keep people stoked.

FLSC - Tell us about your head injury and how that got you into shaping?

Corey - Yeah. So growing up I was into a lot of different, action sports, skating and snowboarding, surfing, and I just hit my head so many times. I think that concussions start to build on each other. You hear a lot about soccer players, the ones they've had six or seven. It's like your career should probably start thinking about maybe other things just because it can – if you get more than that, it starts to get really bad. So I think that's where I was at when I hit my head about four years ago. It was crazy. It was really a tough time. Really put me back into a simpler lifestyle because I couldn't really do much. I had to stop surfing for about a year and just had constant headaches.

That was also when I was getting into shaping and I started designing boards that would be a little bit more controllable, easier to ride, and that I wouldn't have to worry about falling and the board hitting me. I got a lot more into smaller mid-lengths and I started going a lot thinner with the boards. The benefit of going thinner with the boards was I would get more planing. I would keep the planing surface of a longer board, but I would get the response time of something smaller. So I got to still nose ride and cross step but when it came to turning in a critical section, I wasn't like, “okay, I've got this three inch thick log.” Instead, I've got a two inch thin like blade that I can kind of manhandle if I get thrown out of a weird section. So, yeah, that really helped push me into a little bit more of these advanced type boards that are really just blady and progressive. Although I don't make a lot of those for the public because they're harder to paddle - unless somebody wants it and wants to get radical. I’m like, let’s go but most people want to be able to paddle.

So yeah it's been a journey with the head injury. I'm just grateful that I’m still able to do what I love. It's made me count my blessings for sure.

FLSC - On your social you're pretty open about your faith and all of that. How does your faith in God translate to how you approach your surfing and community?

Corey - Having a faith is probably the most core part of who I am. I became a Christian about eight years ago and it just completely changed my life and my world. I was definitely a bit more of an aggressive surfer at the time. Since I became a Christian, I definitely got a little bit more convicted with taking other people's waves and being aggressive and back paddling and just being a punk little kid that I was. I feel like that's fueled a big part of this. You know, being someone who is sensitive to everyone in the lineup. I have a hard time when I do go out at places that are crowded and I see some local guys all gnarly just kind of doing laps around other people. I've had times where I’m like you need to relax, but you know, that's the way the world works. It's a tough world. I’m just trying to spread God's love and just remind myself, this is the system of the world.

You know, Jesus did say that the people of this world use their power to try to climb on top of each other. But he was like, you know, I don't want that to be the way it's going to be with you. He said, I want you to serve other people. And you know the least is going to become the greatest in the kingdom. And then the greatest is going to become the least. There's going to be a day of reckoning where there are people who have just not been nice in a sense, there will be justice. It's a scary thought of me having to face that justice, but thankfully as a Christian we know that Jesus died for our sins. So to know that I'm forgiven is the greatest blessing. I know that my soul is secure in God's hands. I just want to share that with other people, that God's forgiveness is for everyone. I just remind myself that I'm not better than anyone else. I've been there before and we all need to humbly just receive God's love and take it and use it and help other people out. Be kind, share waves.

corey colapinto, kookapinto, surfer, shaper, san clemente, surf, surfing, fishy noserider, longboard

FLSC - It's cool to see you shaping more surfboards and growing the Kookapinto brand. What's your goals with that?

Corey - Trying to ramp up the brand for sure. I want to eventually go international one day. That's the dream. I'd love to be able to travel and have a sustainable business model where I can go to places like Australia and Europe and Japan and wherever there's surf scenes and be able to connect with people wherever they are. That's probably my biggest dream. Just be able to meet with people all around the world, keep the stoke alive, and kind of spread this little thing we’ve got going. I feel like it's really doable in a lot of places around the world because you don't need very big waves to be able to ride these little mini longboards. I mean, it's nice because they're great for beginners. I feel like once you open up your mind, you can also ride it like a mini longboard and try and get that cross step which I feel like kind of pushes a lot of people's boundaries. You know, it's easy to think you can only cross step and nose ride on a 9’0” but trying to push that. Like hey let's let's get creative here on these little seven or eight footers. You know it's still plenty of room to get a cross step in. You see people on those little three foot balance boards doing tiny cross steps. I'm like, “ah dude that’s sick.” How small can we go while still getting that little longboard flow.

So, yeah, I want to be able to just kind of get people psyched all around the world with that and have the boards that will work well with that. And obviously wanting to start here in the USA. I’m trying to just ramp up the business model, be able to get boards for people, and have a good stock inventory so people can go on the website and buy it which I don't have that set up right now. Lately I've just been going kind of word of mouth. People just hit me up or give me a call some time. But I’m figuring it out right now.

FLSC - For someone who’s a grom who wants to make a life of surfing what's some advice that you'd recommend to them?

Corey - A grom that just wants to send it, I would say stay creative and don't feel like you need to get stuck in the mold for sure. I feel like I got burned out cause I kind of did that. I would say just, have an open mind with a quiver. I would say that putting in the time as a grom on the short board really helps you learn a lot about surfing. It's nice cause you're smaller so every wave feels way bigger. I would say that's where you can really probably improve the most. Although the short board is the hardest, when you're young you're able to catch on to those types of things quicker. So yeah, I'd say probably go for that shortboard route at first and really build that foundation. Then from there everything else is easier to ride.

FLSC - What's one spot that you haven't surfed yet that's on your list that you'd like to surf at some point in your life?

Corey - Hmm. It's funny. I've got a lot of spots on my iPhone maps. Just like nerding out and being like, “Ah there’s a sick point there, like down in Baja. Is there any roads that lead to that thing?” I don't know, there's a lot of spots in Baja I want to go to.

But I mean, if I could just teleport anywhere, it'd be somewhere tropical and super nice. I mean it's obviously more expensive to get to those types of places. I've had a lot of fun actually when I surfed Restaurants one time at Tavarua. That was probably one of the best waves I've ever had. It’s just like a just wrapping barrel that went forever. I don't know if there's anything that beats that in my mind. But somewhere new would probably be something similar. If there is anything else like that out there. Maybe something like Macaronis. Like that one wave in Indo or wherever it is. I haven't been over there. It looks really cool. All those Indo, Bali waves look really cool. So some just big barreling left. With clear water. So you can kind of see the reef around you. That's really cool.



Follow along Corey Colapinto's journey here.

Learn more about Kookapinto Shapes here.

Filmed and Produced in partnership with Amigo Studios and Bookabl Studio

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