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Euroforce's Tiago Pires shares his rookie experience..


Tiago Pires : photo ASP Cestari/Covered Images

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ASP World Tour No. 31 Tiago Pires Shares his Rookie Experience

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 19 December, 2008 : - - After he pulled out from the Billabong Pipeline Masters due to an injury, we caught up with Portuguese surfer and 2008 Dream Tour rookie Tiago Pires (Ericeira, PRT) to talk about his first experience as a member of the world’s best surfers.

Pires, 27, who finished No. 31 in the world after a testing year of competition around the world, has requalifed for next year’s ASP World Tour thanks to his solid performances on the ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) where he finished No. 13, enough to secure a second run on the world’s best waves in 2009. Find out what the first ASP Top 45 member to defeat Slater in 2008 has in mind after his 2008 campaign.

1. Let’s start with a look at the season you have been through, surfing on both ASP World Tour and ASP World Qualifying Series.

I think it’s been a very positive year for me. I managed to get a few good results for my first year on tour, got through several heats at various events so I am happy with this first experience. I would have prefered to start off the season strong with a couple of good places because it would have given me a better seeding and probably a better rank in the end.

I finish 2008 just outside the requalifying Top 27 guys without even surfing the Pipeline Masters because of that injury so I am definitely satisfied with that rookie season. I knew it was going to be tough doing both tours but it was my plan since Day 1 so I went for it. Lots of travel, lots of heats and a lot of pressure on the WQS events because I really needed to do well at these events.

2. How did you handle things mentally and physically? Did you have a intense training all year?

I did not really have time to train physically because of the non-stop trips all around the world so I never managed to take a break and focus on my training. The WQS events are very demanding and I put a lot of energy into it and it paid off which was a big relief. It was a great thing to finish into the Top 15 because it was a great compensation for me after all the hard work.

3. What about the major things you learnt during this busy season?

It was a year of learning for me and after all these events, I feel like I have grown up a lot in my whole competition approach. At the end of 2007 when I qualified, I was so focused and wanted to train and be as strong as possible and went to Australia too early. When you travel to the next event too early, you are already kind of burnt when things get started. I put too much pressure on myself at the beginning of the year and it was a mistake.

This is something I will be working on for next year, to go to a World Tour event just as if it was a WQS one and be relaxed. I just want to do my thing and enjoy so I will start with a big break at home this winter before going to Australia end of February for the first event. 2009 will be a big change as I probably won’t be doing the WQS anymore and focus on the ASP World Tour.

4. So many people expected you to rip at all the righthand pointbreaks on tour and you got your best results in solid lefthand barrels. How is that?

I think it is a problem of pressure that made it hard for at these locations. I wanted to do so well that I missed the opportunity. On top of that, I did not have perfect boards in the first half of the year at Snapper Rocks, Bell’s Beach and J-Bay and I was not confident on my equipment which made it harder when going to events.

The balance of equiment, mental approach and physical skills is the perfect solution to do well at an event. And the events where I felt close to this balance were taking place in lefthand barrels so that’s the reason why I did well there. Once I had the right surfboards, I could put this aside and focus on the rest. For next year I am going to work a lot more on my boards at the start of the year and be relaxed on this aspect of my preparation.

5. What about that one heat at the Billabong Pro Tahiti against Joel Parkinson? You scored a perfect 10 and ended up losing?

It’s probably the one heat I keep thinking about most. It was a hard time for me and it’s one of the times in my life I was very angry and unhappy. I did not understand what was going on while in the water and I really thought there had been a big mistake when I was called with an interference which cost me the heat against Joel. I hadn’t understood what was going on because it a very tricky priority rule I did not know.

So after talking with a couple of guys I got to understand better and I was given an interference because of a blocking situation I did not even know I was making. I learnt the hard way because to me, it is one the best heats I’ve surfed in my life and it is hard when you don’t make it because of a stupid mistake.

6. You pulled out of the Billabong Pipeline Masters on the day your heat was paddling out, can you tell us about it ? Are you going to recover fast?

I injured myself before my heat in the O’Neill World Cup of Surfing at Sunset during a warm up surf and I felt like I had something wrong at the back of my neck so I saw the doctors who told me not to push it too much. It's not a big problem and I don't suffer a lot so there is no reason to panic about it but it's the kind of things you don't want to play with, especially in such demanding conditions. The MRI did not reveal anything in particular but the doctors told me in the worse case scenario I could hurt my spine so I should rather relax because it can last between two and six weeks.

I wanted to surf in the event because I had this one thing at the back of my head about Marlon Lipke (DEU) who finished No. 16 on the WQS and needed me to improve my World Tour rank so I could requalify directly which would have taken him in for next year. We are good friends and I wanted to help as much as I could but I couldn’t risk it too much in a wave like Pipeline. Unfortunately I finish the year with this injury but I am okay and I know I will on tour next year.

7. It took time for you to make it to the ASP World Tour and you know kind of know how Marlon can feel now right?

Yes for sure, it happened to me before when I finished No. 17 that one year so I know it is hard after putting so much into it and doing well on the WQS. But I still think there is a small chance he makes it in with the guys possibly retiring and the wildcards available so we’ll see. Whatever happens, it’s not a bad position to be this close because you are first in line for replacements for the following year and you can learn a lot from surfing a few Dream Tour events.

Nic Muscroft (AUS) is the best example; this year, because of many injured guys on tour, he got to surf almost every event and learnt a lot from that experience before eventually making it into the Top 15 to qualify for next year’s ASP World Tour. There is definitely a positive thing in being that close and having the opportunity to surf events against the world’s best surfers.

8. Talking about your fellow European Dream Tour mates, how do you look on this amazing progression of surfers from Europe? Did you think three years ago there would be a minimum of five Europeans on tour?

I am proud to be part of this amazing moment for European surfing, and I never thought there would be that many of us on the ASP World Tour three years ago. I think European surfing has caught up with some of the world’s best nations and I think that Jeremy (Flores) and Michel (Bourez) are right up there and have an amazing level. If these guys manage to show all their potential, they have the skills to reach the top. Being part of that crew is a great feeling and we travel together and it definitely makes you stronger. If you look at the other nations, all the guys hang out together and encourage eachother which makes them stronger. What has happened in three years is unbelievable and I hope it keeps going.

9. Have you been watching the next generation coming up? Do you think there is potential to see some of the young guys follow you to the top?

I usually keep an eye on the results of the big junior events and I know a few f the guys coming up. Joan Duru (FRA) is probably one of the best upcoming surfers along with Marc Lacomare (FRA) and Charly Martin (GLP, ASP World Junior No. 3 in 2008). These young kids have a great level already and on top of that they spend a lot of time with us and whenever we can we give them all our experience. This is a big help when you are hoping to qualify because to see some of your friends up there shows you it is makable.

What happened in Brazil (Jeremy Flores finished runner-up and Miky Picon equal 3rd) or in Australia (Jeremy Flores placed equal 3rd) is something the younger guys can look forward to. On the other hand, if they qualify for the Dream Tour, they will have more pressure to better us but this is sport in general and competition. I feel like a big brother for all the new generation and I hope I can help them, give them all experience I can.

10. What is your plan for 2009? How comfortable do you feel amongst the best surfers in the world?

Eventhough I am glad to see the next generation coming up, I am focused on my thing and so motivated on making it to the top. There is a lot of things coming up and after such a hard year on both tours, I want to have a different approach. Next year I am going to do like Miky did in 2008, focus on the Dream Tour and keep all my energy for these ten events.

Talking on good I feel on tour, I must say we are having a great time and there is a lot of respect between each of us on tour. Europe is a melting pot of so many cultures and I feel like the rest of the guys are always interested and happy when they are going there. Coming from the Old Continent and being a rising nation on tour is a great thing. There is a lot of respect and friendship with the rest of the surfers.

NB. This interview was made before we knew Marlon Lipke and Aritz Aranburu were qualified for next year's Dream Tour

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Gregoire Puget 

Team - Surfersvillage


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