WAIMEA BAY, Oahu (Wednesday, December 4, 2008) – ASP Europe caught up with new European ASP World Tour recruit Michel Bourez (Tahiti, PYF), 22, during his profile photo shoot at Waimea Bay for a chat on his path to glory. From his beginnings to his new elite ASP Top 45 status, Bourez talks about his successes, weaknesses, people around him and his look back on a young but already great career.
Full Name: Michel Bourez
Residence: Patu, Tahiti
Sponsors: Quiksilver, Kelly Surfboards, Red Bull
Career highlight: ASP WQS 6-Star Prime Reef Hawaiian Pro win
1. Let’s give a quick look in the rearview mirror on your victory at the Reef Hawaiian Pro. How did you prepare for this crucial event knowing a quarterfinal berth would qualify you for the 2009 ASP World Tour?
I felt a lot of pressure coming at Haleiwa because I knew exaclty what I needed to make my dream come true and get back into the ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) ratings’ Top 15 so I was definitely stressed out heat after heat. I did not have any specific training or plan but it was boiling in my head and everytime I was surfing I had one thing only in mind, to make it whatever it took. I spent a lot of energy thinking of the different scenarios that could come up during the heats. It was more a work on myself, a work on my strategy. Usually love surfing as much waves as I can in a heat but for this one, I managed to be more calm in the water, to have a better wave choice but fortunately there were a lot of good waves coming through during that last day and I just slowly let the pressure go and it went well up to the end.
2. Were there any opponents in particular you thought could beat you? Were you feeling more pressure from a few guys out there? When did you let go the stress?
It is pretty weird because I felt like it is the only event of the year anyone could beat me. There wasn’t any easy or tough heat. All heats were very tricky knowing what was my goal and it was more a battle against myself, not making any mistake and staying patient. Apart from that, the conditions got so good throughout the day and I got in rhythm heat after heat until I made the Quarterfinals of the event and knew I had achieved what I was here for. Then I started to unleash and thought I could maybe try and get a spot in the final. Once in the final, Jihad Khodr (BRA) started off with a couple of bombs and it just pushed me further to answer back and I found the two waves I needed to grab 1st place.
3. What about the symbolic part of winning in Hawaii?
It is the greatest win of my life so far and I am pretty sure it will remain up there. Many people don’t even dream of getting a win at one of these events on the North Shore, so when you grab that trophy, it is just so special. I never even thought I could win that event at Haleiwa before that day, it seemed so far and almost out of reach.
4. Let’s stop a while on your “path to glory”. When did your surfing story start? Where and how did it get started?
I started surfing at 8 years old in French Polynesia with an old board my brother and I were sharing. Like many other teenagers, I am from a middle class family and I just had fun free surfing a lot everytime I could. The first thing that made a big difference came from my neighbour who opened a surf club right next door and that neighbour took us to the contests around Tahiti. I surfed my first event at 14 and got a few results here and there before it became clear I wanted to try and travel to compete. My dad told me that once i graduated from high school, I could do whatever I wanted so during that last year at school, I focused very hard to make it and did not even look for any other option: I wanted to become a pro surfer and my only sponsor Kelly Surfboards helped me to go to Australia and do a few events. Then Quiksilver saw me Down Under and accepted to help me. I went to do the ASP European Junior Tour and finished No. 4 which made a difference.
5. So from 18 to 23 (Michel will turn 23 end of the month), you have got through the Juniors and the WQS tours. How do you look back on those five years? Who were the people who helped you during that year?
I have a few regrets because you know you can never go backwards and try something you missed again. For example, I wish I could have won when I was in the final of the ASP WQS 4-Star Xcel Pro at Sunset Beach in 2006 because you never know if you will ever get a second chance. But I am definitely happy with these few years I have been through until today. I must say it was pretty hard when I started travelling alone because eventhough you have made the choice, you are still young and when you are out there travelling alone around the world when you cannot even speak english, you face a few tricky situations. But little by little, you get used to it and it is a cool life.
2008 was the year of changes for me on many parts of the job. I needed to find new things and new motivation and luckily I got in the Red Bull team and their training program which just heloed so much. I got in touch with Red Bull at the end of 2007 through Raimana (Van Bastoler, a renowned big wave charger) and they invited me to be part of the program which suited me straight away. Apart from that program, I met my coach Xavier (Huard, coach of other qualifer Tim Boal as well) on the North Shore last year and I knew I needed someone to help me mentally as well, to stay focus and on the right track. He has been helping a lot to qualify. Tim Boal was the other person who helped me. He probably doesn’t even know it but we travelled together all year and I learnt a lot from his surfing and competitive experience.
6. What about next year now? Is it like a new start for you? Have you been thinking of that?
Well, I must say I haven’t thought of anything yet… That’s another weird thing. When you are so much focused on qualifying, you just want to make it to the WQS Top 15 and you don’t have the time to think of what you are going to do if you make it! It was my dream to make it to the Dream Tour and it would be even bigger because I was going to be the second Tahitian only after Vetea David (PYF, a former ASP World Tour surfer) to make it. But apart from that, now it is done, I don’t have any plan and I just want to try and requalify through the World Tour before anything. Then 2010 will be the time for proper objectives. Next year will be about learning all I can, gaining experience and maybe focus more on my boards.
7. What about your small experience as a wildcard? You have had great results as a wildcard, does it give you more confidence?
It is another story when you are a wildcard… You have nothing to lose, it is just about bonus and having fun about the best guys in the world. It is usually a lot of fun, no stress and all about surfing your best knowing you are not going for any title. That experience is still important because I hope I can have the same attitude in 2009 as a fulltime touring surfing. You always surf better when you have nothing to lose so I hope I can recall these few memories from the ASP World Tour contests I surfed at.
8. Looking at next year’s schedule, what are the events you are looking forward to? What about the others?
There is one thing you learn while on the WQS: you can never know what you are going to get and you have to be prepared for any situation. You cannot have in mind you are going to do good at this or that event because everytime you expect something, it ends up differently and it is definitely a tricky point. And you get the waves you expected, your opponent will get the better waves and you can still end up losing no matter how good you are or how confident you feel. That’s why I plan on focusing more on my boards and be prepared for any unexpected conditions. I like surfing Snapper Rocks in Australia, I really don’t like Bell’s Beach but there is definitely Teahupoo at home I am looking forward to.
It is another of my dreams to surf the event at home, with all my friends and family around. I have been dreaming of this for a long time… To wake up, check the conditions, jump in my car and go to surf the Billabong Pro at Teahupoo… I cannot wait to be there and surf that wave during the event against the best guys in the world. For the rest of the waves on tour, I have never been to J-Bay, never surfed Mundaka and I have a bit of experience at Pipeline but nothing serious.
9. You are the second Tahitian surfer ever to qualify for the ASP World Tour. It must a special feeling. Who has been influencing you at home?
I am so stoked to represent Tahiti and be the second surfer to qualify. It means a lot to me off course and it shows the rest of the Tahitian surfers it is possible. To fly the flag is definitely special and I will have it in mind next year. Looking at the people who have influenced me, I was too young when Vetea was on tour and eventhough I know him we have never talked about the tour together. Hira Teriinatoofa was my example and I really looked up to him; Heifara Tahutini is the other big influence I got from Tahiti; he made a big difference, he is probably the one person who has influenced me more than anyone.
10. You were an ASP European Champion in 2006, you spend most of your time with the Euro crew, do you feel part of the growing European group? Part of this new era of European surfers?
I definitely feel European and I hang with the French surfers most of my time so there is no chance I can feel anything else. It is a great group and I have good friends withing the crew, Tim Boal (FRA), Joan Duru (FRA), Aritz Aranburu (EUK), Hodei Collazo (EUK)… I am happy to represent Europe and I feel part of the team. I am following all of the top guys including Miky (Picon) and Jeremy (Flores) and they are the examples I have and I feel close to. More and more of us are getting to the top and I am sure it is not over. Joan (Duru) has all the skills and talent to make it, it is just a matter of him really wanting to make it or not. He has the level to qualify and I am sure he can make it soon, maybe next year. Charly Martin (GLP), Marc Lacomare (FRA) will soon be knocking on the door as well.
11. To finish, any weaknesses you have to work on for next year’s start against te best?
There is always something to learn, always things to improve on your surfing and the tricky thing is to identify your weaknesses and work on them. For example when you are behind in a heat, to find the way to come back and score the maneuvers that will get you there is a tricky thing. So this is what I will have to focus on next year, my skills to analyze and step back to think more and find solutions while in the water. I know Xavier (Huard) will still be with us to help us in our training so we should have all we need to do well.
12. Anything you want to add?
Well, I would like to see surfing up there next to tennis or football and I really believe it is a beautiful sport that has potential to reach more people. It is a unique sport, beautiful images, and no other sport brings such exceptional footage. I hope surfing can reach that spot one day.
Check out a selection of downloadable high resolution pictures of 2009 ASP World Tour new qualifiers Tim Boal and Michel Bourez at aspeurope.com/2008/photogal_champ08.php.