MICHEL BOUREZ HAS ONE THING ON HIS MIND. WINNING A WORLD TITLE. FOR THE TAHITIAN, IT'S NOT A MATTER OF IF, BUT WHEN. AFTER HIS SHOCK LOSS AT JEFFREYS BAY, TRACKS CAUGHT UP WITH MICHEL AT HIS HOME. WITH A FEW WEEKS DOWNTIME BEFORE THE BILLABONG PRO AT CHOP
Tracks: Did you watch the rest of J-bay?
Michel: I watched the whole thing. It was super hard, watching perfect waves after I had been knocked out before I had a chance to surf it. To see all the boys ripping, getting big barrels and those massive turns and I missed it all. It was heavy.
Do you analyse your losses? How much time do you spend on them?
Yeah, for sure you look at it. With that one, my head wasn't in the right place. I was thinking about so many things at the one time and I wasn't ready for that heat. Mentally I wasn't there.
What was up?
As I said, just too many things in my head. I was stressing most of the time. I do well when I have no emotions, when the only thing you are thinking about is how to win the heat. That's when everything comes together. That's when I'm at my best.
How do you learn to put all the other life stuff out of your mind?
It's experience for sure, you get wiser, you learn more patience. Look the body is always there, with surfing everyday you pretty much train constantly, but the mental side of it just comes with time.
Has it been different being involved in the World Title race this year? Has that added pressure?
Yeah it's different, I'm not going to lie. I was the first to win two events, so it's natural to be in that conversation. But I like it, I like when I have to improve myself under pressure, so it's a good thing.
I remember back in 2008 when you were ranked about 50 on the WQS you told me your goal was to win the World Title. So while it may be new for other people, it's not a new concept for you.
Yeah, it's been a long time in the planning. As a surfer on the QS your first goal is to make the CT. Then when you make it to the CT, the next goal is to win the World Title. You don't want to just make up the numbers. You want to set the highest goals achievable and that's to win it. That's everyone's goal.
But there's probably only a handful of guys that actually believe they can win it.
You know it's good to think about the World Title, but it's another thing to go out and do it. There is so much that needs to be done to achieve that goal. It takes a whole year for starters and you have to choose the time to stay focused and the times not to be focused. Otherwise all your energy can be gone when you really need it. But I see your point, not everyone has the chance to win it. And right now there are only a few of us that can win the world title.
After a few final losses you won two events in two months, what changed?
Right now it feels like I never won an event. It's a weird feeling, sure in the moment you feel it, but now every comp is a new job. There is a different approach. Like the work I had to do to win at Margarets was very different to the work I did in Brazil. But in both contests I was 100 per cent focused on winning.
After the loss in Jeffreys, how do you reboot?
I have three weeks here in Tahiti. I changed my mind about going to the US Open, it is draining with the crowd and the noise and the waves aren't that great. My focus is completely on winning the World Title and to do that it's all about Chopes now. I've come home and hang with my family, my wife and kids and put all the positive vibes on my side. I've also brought my coach Yannick Bevan out for three weeks before the comp because this event is a hard one for me.
Why is it so hard?
The main problem I have is that every time it's firing I get too excited. I want to get so many barrels and I treat it like a freesurf. So I need to slow down and actually think about the heat because that's when good stuff happens. Also being at home everyone is so pumped, but as Yannick says we are going to treat it like an event in Japan or wherever. Same approach, same goal, to win.
Is Chopes the place you surf the most when you are at home?
When Chopes is pumping I go there. I mean if Chopes is good, the whole coast is firing but there is nothing better in Tahiti than Chopes. My parents have moved about a 15-minute drive away, so that's why my little brother Kevin surfs there all the time.
I've seen some killer pics of Kevin, is he taking waves off you out there?
He is just one of the boys, he can get any wave he wants. He respects all the travellers of course, but he wants his tubes. It's like me when I go there. I don't look back. I just paddle for any wave that I think is good and if I see a local on the inside then I'll stop, otherwise I just go.
Did you grow up near there?
I grew up about 40 minutes away in Papara and I have now moved to Kaoriki. There is a lot of reefs around where I live and there are so many different options.
And your house, is it the full cribs mansion, or is that not done in Tahiti?
Look, I live in a beautiful house, but we don't need much. The house is a dream for me and it is next to my wife's family house, so there's a family vibe and there is nothing better than that. It's not about the size of the house, it's about the vibe and the people that surround it.
Growing up, did you think this is where you would end up, gunning for a World Title?
My dad is a maths and physics teacher at high school and my mum didn't work, she was at home with us. My life was mainly about sports, school too, but I chose sport, cause school wasn't my thing. It wasn't cause I was either bad or good at it, I just didn't want to keep doing it. I wanted to be a pro surfer. It's a state of mind. My mum always taught me that whatever it is you want, just go and get it. There is nothing that can stop you if you put your mind to it.
Was it more difficult coming from Tahiti?
When I was young, I didn't have the money or the sponsors, so I had to wait till I was older to actually travel and compete. My first comp outside of Tahiti was the ISA's in Bali when I was 14.
Did you think straightaway you can beat these guys?
Yes, I didn't have the comp experience, but I knew I was as good as them. It took a few years to get the experience and then I knew my surfing was at a level that could take them out.
And after that you hit the QS?
Yes, I gave myself three years to qualify. The first year was to learn the ropes, to understand how it works. The second was to try my best to see how far I could go. The third year was like, 'well I have learned everything, now there is no excuses, I can't not qualify.
So far it seems that you are achieving all your goals?
You always need new goals, so you keep moving forward. The first year on the CT I said I was going to make the top ten, and I did, which was sick. Then I told myself that I have to win an event. So I won two. Then I said, okay top five, and that has to be this year. Then I said if you are in the top five, you have to sacrifice everything that needs to be sacrificed to win the World Title. I need to get as close as possible to learn what it takes and how good it tastes. And then the next year, go even bigger. So it's a constant process.
What are those sacrifices you have to make?
It's always the family. Even when I'm back in Tahiti,
I'm away. I'm surfing and training hard, or I'm tired from the travel. So there's a lot of things I give away to get what I want. My family is always there behind me, but at the same time I'm always trying to be as good as I can as a husband and as a dad. But I love that balance, I feel there would be no point in winning anything if I wasn't a dad. It would be meaningless.
Back to that process though, so far everything you have set yourself you have achieved. Will the ultimate goal of the World Title be any different?
It's going to happen. When you reach the point when you know exactly what you have to do to win it, then it's just a matter of doing it. Like for me I am really bad at airs, so right now that is all I'm doing in every single freesurf. As soon as I get that dialled, I am going to be more consistent and people will be even more scared. That's just another piece of the puzzle. My power is my strength and in comps there is no need to do an air when I can do a carve and get the same points.
But there's times when power surfing doesn't work. Everyone sticks to their strengths, Kolohe with his airs or Mick with fast top turns, but you gotta keep working. Did you hear Kelly Slater talking about the World Title contenders and how you had only won in shorter, peakier waves and might struggle in other conditions?
Do you listen to when people start talking about the way you surf?
It's just background noise. I mean it's good to be talked about, but whether it's good or bad I have my plan andthat is all that matters. All I want is for people to talk about me at the end of the year after Pipe. It doesn't matter till then. It's early, Mick and Joel are now back in it, so it's pointless to worry about or talk about anyone now.
Can you see yourself winning the World Title at Pipe?
Pipe is Kelly's backyard, it's where he was won so many times before and it's a place where I feel I have to work harder than most of the other guys. It's always so crowded so it's hard to get waves. Then again it's just a barrel, it's all about getting barrelled and coming out. It's that simple really. Sometimes, you don't need to over-think it, it will just happen.
Michel Bourez, the good-natured family man, has his heart set on a world title and would undoubtedly be a popular bearer of the crown.