Don’t let his humble, zen appearance fool you. Chris Stone has profound surf coaching skills. Stone will lead the coaching efforts of Team USA’s 2020 Olympic team, which will be named in 2019.
As the team’s head coach, he will focus on analyzing surf athletes’ technique and the detailed mechanics that can make all the difference for those surfing at elite levels. A native of Northern California and a former Championship Tour surfer, Stone has coached standouts like Jordy Smith and C.J. and Damien Hobgood.
We asked him some get-to-know-you questions:
Q. What does it mean for you to be the head coach help U.S. athletes prepare for the Olympics?
A. Honored of course! As a kid growing up surfing was such a fringe almost rebellious sport and to see how far it has come is amazing. The Olympics … wow!
We all understand how amazing and difficult this sport is and to have a chance to show that to the world is inspiring.
To be a part of surfing’s debut at the Olympics is so cool and I am excited to see what the future holds.
The resources that the USOC can provide the athletes and coaches can take the sport to a new level. I am looking forward to learning and seeing where that can take us.
Q. What is your approach to coaching?
A. I try to simplify the difficult.
Surfing is such a spontaneous symphony of movement that on the technical side it can get confusing and hard to make lasting changes.
Also after years of working with dozens of athletes one finds many different ways to communicate the same thing to accommodate different thinkers.
Q. How will coaching Olympic athletes be different for you? (Or won’t it)
A. So hard to say at this point. This is a book that hasn’t been written. I hope to keep my mouth shut and ears open for a while to try and find that balance of how to approach things. There is also such a difference between the developmental side and the elite side. This is all brand new. I know how to teach people how to surf better. How that gets implemented in this context is still up in the air.
Q. I’ve heard you say two really interesting things — “it’s about adjectives, not points” and “regrets, not results.” Obviously the athletes you coach perform at high levels and want to score and win, but does this have them think differently?
A. Again, it’s about trying to simplify things with a quote or a concept that sticks. Sometimes more of a philosophy can induce a mindset that can free up an athlete in pressure situations. The first quote is about scoring in a way that isn’t a rehearsed routine. It’s a dance that should, when done right, elicit a positive adjective or in the judges’ case an “excellent” or above.
Surf with joy, aggression, flow, rhythm - whatever it may be, and the scores will follow.
The second quote — “regrets, not results” — is easy to apply to anything in life. Regardless of the result, you don’t want to regret not giving it everything you have to succeed. Surfing can be so unfair and unpredictable that this mindset can keep you grinding when things aren’t going your way.
The USA Surfing staff and athletes are stoked to have Stone’s powers of observation and technical coaching finesse.
Stone has earned major respect from those in surf industry circles. Retired pro and Rusty America General Manager Matt Keenan is a regular in the lineup and parking lots with pros and those who support them. He says Stone brings a highly regarded platform and work ethic at the highest levels of the sport.
“Working with world champion CJ Hobgood and World Title contender, Jordy Smith is something only a few can add to their resume,” Keenan said. “That headspace awareness and mental toughness is largely the most critical factor at the highest levels. He has always been an incredible surfer and a technical genius on body mechanics before anyone was even thinking about it.”
- Olympic Surfing: A Progress Report
- Fulfilling Olympic Dreams in Two Sports
- A Guide to Watching Olympic Surfing
- USA Surfing’s High Performance Committee — the nation’s leading experts in surf athlete training assembled to support the U.S. Olympic Surfing Team’s peak performance as the sport makes its debut in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
USA Surfing is the National Governing Body for surfing in the United States, recognized by the International Surfing Association (ISA) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). USA Surfing’s mission is to promote and grow the sport of surfing and support United States athletes of all backgrounds to achieve sustained competitive excellence in Olympic competition. USA Surfing will oversee and support U.S. surfing teams as the sport makes its debut at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and surfing and stand up paddleboarding athletes compete in the Pan American Games Lima 2019.