JEREMY Flores at only 20-years-old will be competing in his third ASP World Tour in 2009 and seems to be more relaxed than ever. As Europe's undisputed tour leader and has already secured one of the most impressive career starts on tour, including a deserved ASP Rookie of the Year award in 2007 after finishing No. 8 in the world for his first year against the big names of the sport. The surf phenomenon spent an hour with us discussing about last year, the Hawaiian showdown and his approach to the 2009 Dream Tour starting at the end of the month at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast.
Resides: New Caledonia and Capbreton in France
Sponsors: Quiksilver wetsuits, clothing and surfboards, Orange mobile, Komunity Project accessories
Career Highlights: 3rd in Trestles (2007 and 2008), 2nd in Brazil (2008), 3rd on the Gold Coast (2008), ASP Rookie of the Year (2007), ASP WQS Champion (2006), ASP European Junior Champion (2005)...
1. A few words about the final event in 2008, the Billabong Pipeline Masters?
Things did not go as I wanted but the waves were better than in 2007 and it was good to see some good surf. Just as in Fiji, Tahiti and Bali, the three other lefthand barrels of the tour last year, I was not able to do any better at Pipeline. I faced Jamie O'Brien (HAW), one of the best if not the best surfer at Pipe, and it was not the right time of the day with the weather going wrong and the waves just slowing down. The good thing is that the rest of the guys behind me did not do well so I managed to end the year No. 10 in the world and I am happy with that.
I have been surfing at Pipeline for years and I really like the venue. I feel comfortable surfing this wave on tour and it makes me so happy to see that after all these years of comitment, I've reached a satisfying level. I am confident enough these days with that wave and I feel that if we have to surf some epic and intense Pipe in the upcoming years, I will be ready. All these years coming to Hawaii and all these hours surfing there are starting to pay off and it is almost more important than competition for me. For the moment.
2. What does the North Shore of Oahu represent for someone like you coming from the other side of the world?
I think there is something special there. Talking about competition, all the best guys of the sport have won there before and you really want to proove yourself you can do well in these waves. To get a big result at one of the three events of the Triple Crown is something precious and only a few guys have won these events in the past. It definitely means a lot to do well in Hawaii but it also depends on your own feeling with the place. It is a crucial stop in the year but it is still one stop only and there plenty of other places you want to score.
3. You've been in the ASP World Tour Top 10 for two years in a row now. What does that mean to you ? How did you enjoy the tour in 2008 ?
I think it's been a good year for me overall. I learnt a lot during this second year on tour and I feel like my surfing has improved a lot compared to 2007. I had a better rating for my first year but I've had better results last year including my first final in Brazil and two semifinals at Trestles and on the Gold Coast. Even though I did not improve my rating, the performances were bigger in 2008 and I had a great time. On the other hand I had average runs in the Pacific leg in Fiji and Tahiti, lacked a bit of luck at these events but I still felt good on my board while freesurfing and I was confident I could take my level higher. And that is what counts most for me, to feel you can do better and keep the confidence.
It was a good year with the rise of other young top surfers like Jordy Smith (ZAF) and Dane Reynolds (USA) and I must say I was happy to see all the hype and media around them because it left me out of the spotlights and I enjoyed to have less pressure and requests. This is one of the reasons I really had a good time on tour in 2008.
Talking about my fitness, I had a few injuries that were not very big but still very annoying. I injured one of my heels before the event in South Africa and it did cause me some trouble for a few weeks. Then while training in Bali for the Search event, I got a serious ankle injury that almost forced me to pull out from the event. After that, I flew back to France to recover at the CERS in Capbreton for a month and I had great support from all doctors. I was back at 100% for the event in Trestles and I got 3rd there.
4. What about the general level in 2008? And do you think you achieved what you wanted?
I thought it was a very competitive year. All the Top 10 surfers from the year before were back in good form and everyone was really firing. And with the new guys joining the tour like Dane and Jordy but also Tiago (Pires) or some of the Brazilian surfers, the level was really unbelievable at all events. I cannot remember one easy heat at any event. All the guys were ripping hard and everyone wanted to get his result right. So I enjoyed a lot being part of the show and being a witness of all this action. It was a great year for pro surfing.
Speaking about my goals, I think I did not really have any precise one. As in 2007, I just wanted to do well and secure a solid position next to the top guys which I think I did. Little by little, I am gaining in confidence and this is a big part of it. This is actually the main objective for me and I know I have a lot of things to learn still. What makes me feel relaxed at the moment is that I think I know what I will have to do to improve my weaknesses and it is a clear path for me. I've been training hard and will keep doing it; "Hard training, easy results" as we say with my coach Yannick (Beven).
5. Any words about the ASP World Champion Kelly Slater?
Kelly lost no time and opened with two wins in a row in Australia last year. I think he showed one more time he was definitely the king of surfing and it was unbelievable to see him being that good after all these years on tour. Physically as well as mentally, he was far ahead of the rest of us and deserves his 9th world title more than anyone, there's nothing else to say.
6. Let's talk about the rest of the European crew now. What's your view on this unforgettable year for European surfing?
It's been a great year and all the guys did well. I think we were a threat to any surfer and there was a good game plan that worked out well. Tiago (Pires) surfed some of the best heats of the year, defeated Kelly in Bali, showed impressive levels of surfing against Parko and Taj (Burrow) and I am stoked he managed to re-qualify through the WQS. Miky (Picon) prooved he deserved his ASP World Tour spot by finishing No. 21 and not doing any ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) event as a back up. He committed to the tour 100% and remained focused until the end showing how tough he was despite some hard moments. He got some good results in Tahiti, Mundaka and Brazil of course where we met in the Semifinals. As for Aritz (Aranburu), he missed half of the year because of injuries so he was not able to show his surfing but he still managed to give promising signs and got 9th at Pipeline so it is really cool to have him back in 2009.
7. What's happening for the new year? What do you expect from 2009?
I am retiring... (Laughs). No just kidding, I am going to be on tour for sure, for this third year among the world's best surfers but I don't really have anything set for 2009, competition wise. I am going to take time to go on surf trips in Tahiti and in the Mentawaiis as well as spend more time at home in New Caledonia. I want to surf more and more good and perfect waves and just slow down on all the contest part. I have been competing around the world for so long I feel like I need to take a bit of time to enjoy life more and do other things than surfing. There are so many things I want to see around the world apart from surfing events so I want to make it happen this year, while I am feeling good on the World Tour. And the day I will feel ready to aim at a world title or even just the Top 5, I will go for it.
Things will be different as well on tour with some of the best guys pulling out (Andy and Bruce Irons) and it is going to be a whole different story, again. There is always space for improvement and I need to train and take the time to approach competition differently. As Kelly shows it every day, you can always do better and think about your surfing and your training. Since he won his first title in 1992, he has managed to adapt to all generations and kick ass anytime anywhere. And this makes him the man.
8. Your best memory in 2008? The worst?
Brazil was so good. We had such a great time all together, getting through rounds, winning tough heats, and eventually meeting with Miky (Picon) in the Semis. It was the best time ever, we had fun out there, talking, surfing and just enjoying our time. We were just trying to remember a few years behind us when we were dreaming of facing one another in the semifinals of an ASP World Tour event. I never thought that event in Brazil was going to be so good. I went there mostly to support Miky who needed a big performance and we trained hard to make it happen. That event gave us great confidence and I am sure it will help this year.
The worst times came in the Pacific leg where I had my first 33rd ever and there was kind of a whole negative atmosphere around me for two events. I was not confident and just out of rhythm. I felt like everything was going the wrong way, my heats were always at the worst moment of the tide, I broke many of my favorite boards... It took time to leave this behind but in the end I learnt from it as well.
9. What else?
European surfing is going well and I am having fun being on tour. We had a great team in 2008, worked hard but all enjoyed our time. We managed to find the balance between training and fun and we are ready for the first event in Australia. Yannick, Miky, Ze, Ricardo, Patrick (Beven), and my girlfriend who is also qualified for this year's ASP Women's World Tour... All these people are like a second family to me. My mum and dad and sister always there to help as well. And of course the great support in France from the public that counts a lot. I'll finish with Quiksilver who keep supporting me so much, and it's been like that for eleven years, I can't thank them enough.
Check out Jeremy Flores's profile at www.aspworldtour.com