Where are you? It sounds like you're in a coffin.
I'm in a hyperbaric chamber for my foot. It's like a big plastic tube, kind of like a sunbed with airplane windows. I'm lying down on a mattress and I'm stuck in here for the next hour.
Did you take a book in there with you?
I've got my phone, that's all I've got. That's why I'm calling you. I'm bored.
What stage are you at with your recovery?
Right now I'm on the verge of starting to walk on the foot. By the end of next week, in 10 days, I'll be rid of the crutches and I'll be walking around in a moonboot. I'll be in a moonboot for up to six weeks, but at least I'll be walking on my own. I'm just happy to get off crutches; that will be a huge step.
I bet when you took that moonboot off last year with your injured ankle, you were hoping to never see it again.
For sure. I hated that thing, but now to me it's a step closer to getting back in the water.
Speaking of that, how was getting back in the ocean for a swim the other day.
That was incredible. The best thing I've felt since I cut my foot. I just had another swim this morning and I haven't washed the salt off me. It just feels that good to have that crusty salty feel on your skin again. The thing with my foot, if you do your ankle or your knee you can still shower, but with the cut I can't get my foot wet. I went five weeks without being able to wash my foot.
How did it smell?
Not good. It still had crusty blood from the operation on it. I can't go and spend hours out in the pool with it, but at least now I can jump in and wash it. It's a big psychological thing to be able to get back in the water.
Have you started training again?
I started yesterday. It was great. The foot was fine to train with. I'd tried to train two weeks ago but it was too painful and it opened the cut up a little bit. The surgeon told me to forget about it for a couple of weeks, but now that I'm at that stage I can still do my ball work and all my sit-down stuff. I can do all that, all the stuff I usually do on the ground. My arms, abs, my heart rate and cardio level, if I can keep all that up, then I'm not starting from scratch when I get back on my feet.
What's your surgeon saying about when you can surf again?
Mid-October. There are no shortcuts. Even though it feels great and it feels like it's healing, if I put my bare foot down on carpet it feels like I'm walking on nails. What makes me cringe is the thought of walking on a road. My God, that would feel like walking on broken glass. The scar tissue still has shooting pain through it when I put weight on it. The doctors told me that from the start, and that's going to be the biggest thing to overcome in getting it back to normal.
Are you counting down the days until you surf again?
Not really. For now I'm thinking short term and looking at the day I can lose my crutches and walk without them. They're the things that will happen sooner, and they're the stepping-stones to getting back on a board. They're the things that mean more to me now and keep me going, rather than thinking about getting back on a board. There'll be a time for that. Just to get my day-to-day life back, instead of getting out of bed in the morning and having to get on my crutches to go clean my teeth. That shits me.
And a return to the Tour?
If I can make the Triple Crown I'll be stoked. I'll be surfing again when the Puerto Rico event is on, but Monica is due to have the baby around then. And I'd only just be back in the water, so I don't think it's feasible to surf a Tour event after just a handful of surfs. I don't want to go back on the tour happy to get a 17th, I want to go back on Tour and be confident enough to know that I could win.
The Triple Crown worked well as a goal for you last year coming back from your ankle injury.
Yeah, last year was a little different. I set myself the goal of winning the Triple Crown, but I don't want to put too much pressure on myself this year. I'm coming off a pretty horrific injury. If I can go there and be competitive and just surf some good waves, I'd be happy with that. I'd love to win the Triple Crown again, sure, but I'd also be happy to win some good heats and get a bit of momentum back. If by some chance I feel 110 per cent with my foot leading into it, I'll be going there to win, but I don't think that will be the case at the moment. Come February 28, 2011, that's when I'll throwing the kitchen sink at it.
Tahiti is about to start: are you missing not being there?
I'm a bit edgy, but it was harder missing J-Bay being the first event after I cut my foot. Even the US Open looked fun, and I would have loved to be in that. Now I'm starting to get used to the fact I'll be watching a lot of surfing on TV this year.
What are your thoughts on the new ASP contest format?
I reckon it's unreal. I can't wait to surf that format. It's almost a bit like two comps in one. I reckon when it gets down to the last 12 guys and you get those three-man heats where nobody loses; they're going to be really exciting. I'm already thinking about surfing one of those heats with Mick and Dane. You're going to give it your all, put it on the line, because you're not going to lose. There's no priority, you're going to catch a lot more waves, and you're going to throw caution to the wind.
I got some good tailor the other day down the back of Fingal, some chopper tailor that fed the family for the night. I got a big flathead – six or seven pounds – the other day off the jetty at the back of the house. And I've been fishing with Occ in the boat a little bit
And Joel Junior, your third child, is due in October.
I'm pumped. We're going to have a boy, which I'm stoked about because I'm not going to be so outnumbered in this house by women anymore. Evie and Macy love the idea of having a little brother. We've got no idea what we're gong to call him at the moment, although Macy wants to call him Joey because he's in a pouch at the moment. She keeps asking, "When is he going to hatch?"