Andino wants to win with humility

Seventeen-year-old phenom Kolohe Andino made it to the final day of the U.S. Open of Surfing. Jake Roth/US Presswire

HUNTINGTON BEACH -- Kolohe Andino leads what many would consider an enviable lifestyle.

The young phenom has taken the surfing world by storm, earning wide-spread praise that has led others to call him the future king of surfing. He has traveled the globe, hitting the waters at some of the world's most exclusive beaches, and has inked contracts with mega-sponsors.

And he has done all of that before most teens enter their senior year of high school.

"It's been pretty cool, but I don't really notice that stuff," said Andio, who turns 18 in March. "I don't think about my career every day, I just think about the next event. Someone once told me you can't drive a car in the rearview mirror, you have to look ahead."

For Andino, a San Clemente native, what lies ahead Sunday is the U.S. Open of Surfing. He edged John John Florence, 16.10-12.17, in Heat 3 of Round 8 Saturday to clinch a berth into the event's final day.

"I am just taking it a heat at a time," Andino said. "Different heat, different strategy. I'm just surfing against different people, and I am just having a great time."

It is somewhat of a dream come true for Andino, who vividly remembers coming to Huntingon Beach for the Open growing up. More specifically, he remembers when Andy Irons beat Rob Machado to win the event in 2005, and the shower of affection Irons received as he walked off the beach.

"When he won it, a whole bunch of people mobbed him. It looked like everyone was carrying him off the beach," Andino said. "Just watching them surf and watching them get mobbed after the heats was awesome. I always just wanted to be like that."

That's why, in the middle of his heat, Andino had to take a moment to take it all in. He glanced over at the peer and was taken aback at how people were lining up to watch him surf. He turned his head and peered over to the beach to see just small patches of brown sand lying in between the thousands of viewers.

"I couldn't believe I was on the big stage," Andino said. "I remember when I was just a grom running around here, I would say, 'Oh my god, there is that guy. I can't believe they get to surf against all these people.' I just wished I would get there one day."

And now not only is he there, he is three heats from walking away the winner. He'll bump heads against Dane Reynolds in the quarterfinals, with a chance to advance the furthest he's ever gone in a Prime event.

It's an opportunity to kick his career in overdrive, and his father and ex-professional surfer Dino Andino is well aware.

"I can't believe it," Dino said. "He is out here at 5 a.m. in the morning, surfing at dark and that is one of the reasons he's done so good. He's tried so hard."

However, with success comes confidence, and too much can eventually lead an athlete -- caught in an omnipresent spotlight -- down a path of narcissism and arrogance. But Dino isn't going to let that happen with Andino.

"Sometimes you get caught up in the moment, you start to believe the hype and you lose focus," Dino said. "But that is where I come in. As his dad, I just try and teach him these things, be the best dad I can be."

Andino's listened. He makes sure not to ignore those who appreciate him most. He'll walk through a crowd of crazed fans, make cameos in photos and sign as many autographs he can after almost every heat.

His father's pep talks don't just extend to what he does out of the water. Andino couldn't even begin to describe how much his father has helped him during his surfing career.

"I got to give all the props to him," Andino said, "there is not enough room on a piece of paper to list all the things he's taught me."

All those lessons have translated into success, and Andino's track record can prove it. But individual awards only go so far. Andino wants to hold a much bigger effect on the surfing community after he calls it quits.

"I want to remembered as a humble, hard-working surfer who helped change the sport," Andino said.

Brian De Los Santos is the sports editor of the Daily Mustang, the newspaper of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo