Tracks - - Buzz - IN­TER­VIEW BY BEN MONDY

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.

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