There’s been a movement in surfing of which has been pushing forward for a few years now. It’s been a combination of things really, which include the advancement of progressive, above-the-lip surfing and the development of accessible wave pools, among others, but also a surge in youthful talent that surfing has never seen before.
More than one observer of things surf has predicted that the wave pool will have a huge impact on that advancement. The predictability, repetition, and familiarity all working to create the ability to dial in technique in a perfect petri dish of sorts.
Add some young, open minds to that formula and there is no telling where this might go.
Last week, Cruz Dinofa made those predictions seem rather prophetic when he landed an incredible backside front flip at the BSR in Waco. At 11 years of age, what we are seeing is something of which will surely inspire the next generation of other young frothers continuing to raise the bar of progression.
Truly inspired, we reached out to Cruz to get a few questions answered. He responded in a muture and professional manner that we think you will enjoy, as we did.
What Youth: Where were you born and raised?
Cruz Dinofa: I was born in New Jersey. First, I lived in Linwood. Then when I was 8 years old and in 2nd grade, my family moved to Ocean City, NJ. OC is only 15 minutes away from Linwood, but we wanted to be closer to the beach and boardwalk. The move for us was so good because my family loves the beach. My mom used to be a beach lifeguard and my oldest sister, Lily, is a lifeguard now. My other sister, Meadow, loves cheer and does flips on the beach. It’s really cool because my dad surfs with me all the time too.
WY: At what age did you start surfing? / Who first got you in the water?
CD: I started surfing when I was 3 years old. My family went to the beach because my older sister, Lily, had a surf lesson. When she was done with the lesson, I jumped on her board and told my dad that I wanted to try. My dad held my hand and I surfed around the white water. I really loved surfing since then and kept asking to go. Since I was only 3 years old, my mom made me wear this red life vest every time I surfed. My dad always took me out to the lineup with all the other surfers. He wouldn’t bring his own board so he could just push me into all the waves. At the end of my rides, my dad would swim in to get me because I was just floating there in my vest. He would take me back out, over and over again. He taught me how to paddle. I couldn’t duck dive so he laid on my back and pushed my board down through the wave. We stayed out for hours. We even surfed through the winter. I had all the winter wetsuit gear, booties, and gloves. Those sessions never lasted long but it was really fun to be out there in the snow.
WY: Who are some surfers that get you stoked these days?
CD: Italo and Mason Ho are two of my favorite surfers. Italo’s airs are super sick, and it’s so cool to watch Mason because he makes every session look crazy fun and he does the sickest airs too. Rob Kelly is the pro that lives here in Ocean City. He’s just the best. He’s always looking out for me and has my back. We’ve had some fun trips together. It’s fun surfing with him here out front. His winter barrels are always the best around and he charges gnarly waves.
WY: It looks like you have some solid sponsors, did anyone help you hook that up?
CD: When I was eight years old, Rob Kelly invited me and some other Billabong team riders to Waco, Texas and we were the first surfers to test out the pool at full force. It was so crazy to surf in a wave pool. That’s the same trip where Seth Moniz landed his massive backflip. It was super sick to see that live and be part of that group.
WY: Sounds like Rob has been a great mentor. Obviously the flip at Waco was very next level, give us a little background on that, and has your world kinda blown up since then?
CD: The night before I landed the front flip, I got really close to stomping it. I knew I wanted to land it as clean as possible, but I only had one more session in the morning so it was going to be my last chance. I was psyched when I woke up and got down to the pool. It was sick that Rob and Kevin Schulz were in the session with me. They were awesome. The whole session they were hyping me up and cheering me on. I was stoked when I finally landed the front flip and rode out clean. It was definitely the best air I’ve ever done. I was so stoked to see my clip float around Insta on pages like Stab, Billabong, and Surfline. It was so awesome to look through Insta and see a bunch of pros comment and repost my air on their accounts. That was super cool. I’m so thankful they took the time to do that for me.
WY: We also saw all the posts on Insta. How did that make you feel?
CD: I was super excited when Italo put me on his Instagram. That was awesome. He’s one of my absolute favorite surfers. I was blown away that Italo took the time to reach out and post. Definitely means so much to me. Thank you Italo. I’m Stok-ed!
WY: We saw that you’ve been to Hawaii. How was that and any thoughts on the difference between Hawaiian waves and waves from home?
CD: For the last few years I’ve been going to Hawaii with my dad for the winter. It’s super awesome because I can pretty much find waves anywhere on the island that are good size and powerful. My favorite breaks are Backdoor and Off The Wall. In Hawaii, it’s all reef bottom but in New Jersey it’s all sand bottom. We don’t always have waves in NJ, we can have a huge swell for a few days or it can go flat for weeks. NJ definitely has some fun waves with good air sections and we do get solid barrels in the winter. It gets pretty cold but everyone is still out there.
WY: Where else have you been on surf trips?
CD: I have traveled up and down the East Coast, Puerto Rico, California, Texas, Hawaii, and my favorite place is the Maldives. I did a boat trip to the Maldives for my 10th birthday. It was the biggest trip I’ve ever done and I will definitely go back one day. I want my next big trip to be to Mexico or Indo.
WY: Are you planning on moving into competitive surfing as you get older or going with the free surf thing?
CD: I’ve been doing contests in all of the surfing organizations since I’ve been six years old. My biggest accomplishment was winning a National Open Title for NSSA. I took a break from contests this year to do more traveling. I plan on getting back into it next year. I’m not sure what I’ll end up doing in the future, I’m just happy to be surfing.
WY: Do you have a coach or an older mentor helping you develop your surfing?
CD: My dad is a professional photographer and he videos almost every session of mine. It’s definitely a great thing because I get to watch the clips back to see what is working and what needs more practice.
WY: Well. that’s obviously working! Thanks for your time and good luck going forward.