Catching Up With Male Rookie of the Year, Mo Freitas

Photos: Tony Freitas

Since we featured Hawaiian waterman Mo Freitas in Grom Talk last year, the 16-year old phenom has reeled off a string of impressive results, highlighted by wins at the US SUP Tour’s Huntington Beach stop, the Standup World Tour’s Ubatuba Pro in Brazil, Surf Race to Victory, and in the Under-18 category of the 2012 Battle of the Paddle. He also finished 7th in the grueling Molokai 2 Oahu crossing, and was fifth in the Men’s division at this year’s BOP.
Mo’s rise up through the rankings this year secured him the Male Rookie of the Year Award at the 2013 SUP Awards, and some big sponsors. We got a few minutes with Mo as he and his father/manager, Tony, drove along North Shore, Oahu’s Kamehameha Highway to Turtle Bay. —Phil White

SUP mag: What did it mean for you to be honored on the same night that your idol, Laird Hamilton, won the Lifetime Achievement Award?
Mo: It’s really important to me. Growing up I watched his movies every day and his wave at Teahupoo still amazes me. His book has also had a big influence, so it was an honor to get an award and to talk with him backstage at the SUP Awards.

SUP mag: The top 3 guys in the SUP Awards Male Paddler of the Year category are just a few years older than you. How do they inspire you?
Mo: Kai, Connor and Slater are all monsters, and I learn so much from watching how they compete and train. They’re bigger than me, so I know I’ve got to bulk up physically and stay focused to get to their level. I never thought standup would blow up like it has, but, now that it has I’m looking at them to see what it takes to win. I hope to soon become one of the biggest threats to them in standup paddling.

SUP mag: Your younger brother, Marvin, is already turning heads in the SUP world. What’s it like to have him out on the water with you?
Mo: You know, I don’t want to give away all my secrets to him! Marvin gets me pumped when he catches a wave ‘cause he’s ripping so hard. I get a little worried for what’s to come out of him in the future. But seriously, it’s great to be out there catching waves together. He’s a lot younger than me, but when he’s older we’ll be a team and will take on the best.

SUP mag: How do you balance training, competing, school and rest?
Mo: I spend a lot of time on the water so that I’m ready for all conditions. We usually go out in the morning and surf when it’s pretty flat on the ocean, and then back out in the afternoon when there are more waves. I also fit in flatwater training on the river at the back of my house and will go on downwinders with friends. Home school comes in-between training sessions, and I try to get a lot of sleep to make sure I recover and allow my body time to grow. Outside of the water, I just like to go to the river dock in my backyard, and play my ukulele and just zone out of everything. I also meditate. It all matters.

SUP mag: What off the water training are you doing?
Mo: I work on balance a lot, standing on a big ball while doing different exercises that also develop strength. My cousin, who’s an osteopath, recommended a bungee cord system, so we have that rigged up from a tree in our backyard. It’s nothing fancy, just a Gold’s Gym thing we picked up.

SUP mag: You’re already getting involved in board design. How do you see SUP boards advancing in the next few years?
Mo: Working with my sponsor, Focus SUP, and uncle Pat Rawson has being amazing. Focus has some really good, new and sharp ideas for race boards and I’m stoked to be helping them. The boards are getting narrower – now you’re seeing some that are just 22 inches wide. And though they’re getting thinner too, they’re also more stable. Sometimes it seems like everything below my knees is submerged because the board sits so low in the water. With the surfing side of Focus SUP boards, Pat and I have been working on making some crazy new shapes, looking for speed and control, boards that are looking like they’re going to change the look of standup paddling.

SUP mag: How important are nutrition and sleep to your success?
Mo: Eating and drinking right is one of the most important things to do– just read Laird’s book! Even though I need to work harder on it, it matters what you put into your body. You get out what you put in, so if you eat donuts all the time you’re going to get donuts out. Rest is the same way. I personally don’t get how people stay up late. I’ve tried and I just can’t. I need my sleep. If you don’t sleep enough you’re probably going to perform like a dead veggie, limp. And you can’t have that happen at the level we’re playing at.

SUP mag: What advice do you have for young paddlers looking to move to the next level in SUP?
Mo: If you love it, stick with it and do it to be the best. I mean, if you like surfing, go surf and don’t stop, don’t fade to different things. I did and it just was a waste of money and time. When I was in school everyone switched around: they were interested in surfing one week, then it was biking for a month, then everyone got into skating and forgot about their boards and bikes. So don’t get your mind off of what YOU wanna do.

SUP mag: What are some of your goals moving into 2014?
Mo: I’m going to spend the winter focusing on surfing, trying to hit Pipe[line] a lot. We’re also going to France, Portugal and Spain. For next year, I’m looking forward to Battle of the Paddle and want to make the top three. I also want to get into the top 10 at Molokai in 2014. On the SUP surfing side, my goal is to become the youngest world champion ever.

Read Mo’s Grom Talk interview here.
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