SD - You’ve been widely regarded as the best surfer here in this event for the past three years now. How much pressure does that put on you to turn that into trophies?
TB - No, not much really. I mean, I still really wanted to win that event but it doesn’t make a huge difference to me because in the early days of my career I used to think you had to be the best surfer in the event to win it, but over the years I’ve learned that you don’t have to be, you’ve just got to get the job done each heat. I heard a few people say that they thought I was the form surfer, and I had been for a couple of years, but that doesn’t mean I was ever going to win. The best surfer rarely does win if you ask me. I just really wanted to win it after finishing runner-up last year and I really like the wave, so I definitely wanted it.
Your heat with Dane Reynolds in round two… can you tell me about the moment you realised you’d drawn him?
That was pretty funny. I was with Jake Pato and maybe Tommy Whits, and we were watching all the heats unfold and I saw Dane lose and I saw Joel lose and I was looking at the draw giggling, going, “Parko’s got Dane, it’s going to be the sickest heat!” And I thought I’d worked it out right and me and Snake were laughing about it, then as I was in my car leaving Snapper Snake texted me and said, “Dude, we worked it out wrong, Parko’s got Garrett… you’ve got Dane!” I just went, oh, you’re kidding! Then I thought, oh well, let’s do it. So it was pretty funny and we both had a laugh about it. Instantly I went from happy, bubbly, laughing about it to just… I’ve got to put my game face on and I hardly slept that night, thinking, I’ve got to be serious now.
Does it change the way you have to surf a heat when you draw a guy like Dane? Do you have to out-Reynolds, Reynolds?
To be honest, I like those heats because you don’t hesitate through any of your turns and that’s when you surf your best. Anytime any kind of doubt comes into your mind and you start thinking, okay, don’t go too mad at the end of this wave, just finish it, if you even think too much about a certain turn you blow it and I can’t operate that way. When you know you have to go all out it’s almost a better feeling. You relax and go mad and I kind of like that approach more because you just go for it. But in saying that I always planned to get on the best waves and finish ‘em.
You’ve got a real ability – and we saw it at Snapper – to win high-scoring heats and find another gear when it becomes a shootout with eights and nines.
I just feel like if I’m catching a lot of waves in a heat and getting a roll on I kind of gain momentum. It’s the inconsistent heats that scare me. But when lots of waves come and I get the right waves I always feel like I can get whatever score I need to get.
What was the vibe in the water like when you were out there with Dane?
It was real mellow. We’re friends and Dane’s similar to me in that I don’t like to hassle and he really doesn’t like to hassle. He’ll never get involved whereas I’ll hassle only if I have to, but I’d rather not get involved and force it. But I liked that heat because it was pretty cruisy in the water and we were taking turns. It was funny actually, because Dane gave me one of my best waves. He had priority and I was on the inside and took off on this wave and I could see him looking at me kinda strange, and then he looked down the line and realised it was kind of a good one, and he was pivoting around on his board, looking at me, looking down the line, looking at me. And he’s so non-aggressive he kind of shrugged his shoulders and was like, no worries, I’ll just get the next one. And it ended up being one of my best scores. I paddled back out and he was like, “I just gave you your two best waves, didn’t I?” I was like, “Yeah… and they were pretty good!”
The decision to ride Mayhems in this event?
I don’t know what they did in particular; they just felt like good boards. Matt (Biolos) has made me a few boards over the years and the latest batch were exceptional. I was just chopping and changing between Mayhems and Firewires for a while and at Snapper I was just going to ride whatever felt best under my feet. The Mayhems felt really good on those little rights, they felt fast and responsive and I felt loose and free on them. But nothing in particular, they just felt like great boards.
You dodged a bullet with that quarter with Ace Buchan when you won it in the dying seconds.
Yeah, I kind of did. That was a scary heat. Ace just did his thing and selected me to death and found two eights. I had a 7.9 and needed an eight at the death and I couldn’t believe I was in that position. I was kind of terrified because I really wanted to win that event and I was pretty spooked, but I was just trying to hunt down a wave. It was a really good feeling in the dying seconds when this little wave came that wasn’t much on take-off, but grew into this perfect little wall and I did three or four big turns. Halfway through my third turn I felt like I was going to get the score and then I finished it off clean and I knew I had the score. It was a pretty incredible feeling and I knew I was onto something and might be headed for the final because there was a lot of pressure on me in that situation.
Were you sensing a Kelly rematch at this stage? Would you have liked another final with Kelly after losing here to him last year?
Not particularly. Kelly and Adriano were probably the two guys I’d least likely face in the final. Adriano’s hard to beat, and Kelly’s extra hard to beat. Anyone at this stage was going to be hard to beat, but I think… I dunno, I was probably more scared against Adriano. I just didn’t want to lose to him because he beat me last time in Brazil. But no matter who it was going to be I had to take it out of my head and not worry about who I was surfing against. But I was thinking it could have been Kelly and me for sure, which would have been interesting.
Were you getting rattled in the final when you had that slow start? Were you having flashbacks of last year’s final?
Yeah, I was pretty freaked. Adriano started with a bang. Doing an air on your first wave is really making a big statement and I was like, whoah, this is the final, I better kick into gear. He surfed the final like I like to; he surfed lots of waves and put the pressure on me. It took me a long time to get the waves and I was just thrilled that I didn’t buckle under pressure.
That was a full Rio crowd on the beach at Snapper. That must have been heavy?
The crowd was heavy. Like, I appreciate them being fanatical and passionate about surfing, but the Brazilian crowd was full-on. I heard them roaring for his waves, but I also heard the locals roaring for my waves. It was intense but it was cool as well. I just knew I had to feed off the energy. As I was going through the turns on my nine I could hear the roar of the crowd and it was an incredible feeling. It was pretty wild, but it was cool – there’s a lot of people who love the sport, which is a good thing.
Adriano’s wave in the dying seconds… those last few minutes must have been pretty heavy waiting to find out if you’d won or not?
It was awful. I was surrounded by the whole crowd on the beach, with the security guards around me and everyone was cheering, and I was like, “Did I win?” It was so loud down amongst the crowd that I couldn’t hear. They read out the score but I couldn’t hear a thing. I was so confused and people were looking at me cheering but I had no idea if they were cheering for me or him. I was looking up at the box and I saw Snake (Jake Paterson) stick his head out and he was fist pumping and I’m like, “Is it me? Is it me? Did I win?” And he’s nodding and pointing at me going, “Yes! You got it, you got it!” And it was the most incredible feeling.
It was one of those ones that could have gone either way. It was super close and could have gone either way, and when I got confirmation and was getting chaired up the beach I still wasn’t 100 per cent sure. I felt like I was in Zoolander collecting the trophy thinking I’d won when I’d actually lost. I’m going, “Before you pick me up and carry me up the beach, are you sure I actually won?”
It took people about 15 minutes before they started talking about world titles. Does that bother you?
I see all the support online and I love that side of it that much, like, “Go TB in 2012”, and I love that side of it that much, but I don’t want to get too involved thinking about it because it’s pretty silly after one event. I just want to stay in the same frame of mind I had in this event. The rest falls into place. But I love the fact people are talking about it… it’s way better than me being 20th on the ratings and them not talking about it.
And finally, your thoughts on the surfing you saw at Snapper and what it means for the tour this year?
Incredible. It was such hi-fi surfing, and if you watch too much of it it’s almost overwhelming. It’s like, “I’ve got to surf that good to win this thing?” It can really mess with your head. I just appreciate the good surfing, but when it came to me surfing I couldn’t think about what I’d seen, I just focused on what I was doing. You see guys putting together 16 or 18-point heats and thinking, I’ve got to do that too. It’s not the case all the time, but its becoming more regular. But in terms of this year, it’s incredible, and the judges are going to have a hard time. You’ve got really good conventional carving along with all these really technical airs and grabs, sometimes on the same wave. They did a really good job I thought of weighing up the two at Snapper. But there are no more easy heats on tour. When you get Dane Reynolds in round two it’s telling you something.