The 2x Pipe Master speaks to us about his career and life on the WSL.
Between two rounds of the surf world championship, we met one of the best French surfers. Jeremy Flores had just arrived from Rio and was leaving the next day for Bali but thanks to the Olivia Payerne Agency and Quiksilver, we were able to talk for a few moments with the French star of surfing. Current 16th world top surfers, Jeremy looks back on his career, his new role as a father, the controversy of sharks in Reunion island (of which he is native) and many other topics such as the future of surfing at the Olympic Games or artificial waves. Here is his interview:
Can you remind our readers when and how you started surfing?
I started surfing, I was about 3 or 4 years old in Reunion Island. My dad was a surfer so that helped.
In Rio, were you satisfied with your result?
No, not satisfied at all, but for once we got good waves. We got some good barrels. I think I lost an opportunity. I made a big mistake, but that’s how it is. I’ll try to do better in the next one.
How did you feel about the change of venue in Rio. (On day 2 of the contest the WSL had sense to change the venue to the right in Saquarema)
It’s pretty good man, it’s different. Rio was pretty crazy with 40,000 people on the beach screaming. Saquarema is a small village. I think the waves are better in Saquarema than they were in Rio.
Looked fun out there for you guys.
Yeah, yeah it was.
Bali is just around the corner, what are your goals for Keramas?
Now every time I enter an event I want to win. My goal is to win Keramas, that is for sure. I feel that if the waves are good I’m capable of beating the best guys, so hopefully we get good waves.
You are known as one of the best barrel riders in the world. We hope to see you do well.
I hope so too (laughing). The level of surfing now is amazing. You can win or lose to anyone so it’s just anyone’s game, whoever catches the best wave and then you have to do the job once you get it.
What do you think of the 2018 season so far?
2018 season has been kind of weird for me because I had the birth of my baby about a month and a half ago so I had to miss Margaret River and the event prior to that was Bells Beach and I was stressing of missing the birth of my little girl so my head wasn’t all there I still managed to make a few heats but it’s been strange I think my year should be starting from now on.
In terms of being a father, has that changed the way your looking now at surfing?
I think it’s a bit early to see because I went to Rio so I’ve been away from my baby girl for 3 weeks. It’s super hard, its been very difficult to be away. Hopefully in the next few months I’ll start traveling with my family. It should be better having her on the beach while I surf could be really motivating.
At 18 you became one of the youngest surfers ever to join the elite level of the world tour, in 2007 you also won Rookie of the Year. What made this so special, what clicked for you? Or did anything click?
Well I qualified really early against expectations, I didn’t expect to qualify at all coming from a little rock in the middle of the ocean – Reunion Island. It was a dream come true. Once I qualified I end up 8th in the world my first year, rookie of the year and then after that I was like Ok, everything escalated pretty quickly, but I now I gotta keep improving. I try and surf the best I can every time I enter the water. I try to improve my sufing a lot. I’ve been on tour for 12 years man, it’s a long time I didn’t know I’d be on tour that long you know. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs and now I feel like I’m a lot more experienced and I’ve won 3 events – 2 Pipe Masters and the Tahiti event. I mean that’s a huge accomplishment for me.
Did you feel that when you came in with the amount of expectation winning Rookie of the Year. Was it almost a little harder to continue because of that pressure?
Yes, yes it was at one point I felt the pressure but I like that kind of pressure. At the same time I like the pressure of being an underdog, I like when people don’t expect me to do well. That’s when I want to do well. As when they say “Jeremy’s gonna win 100%” that kinda messes up my head. And I have a hard time dealing with that.
You like coming in below the radar ?
I like being the underdog and surfing against the top guys and having a go at them.
You mentioned that you were twice a Pipe-Master (contest winner) and a winner at Teahupoo which is an incredible feat in such heavy conditions, what do these waves mean to you? These heavy waves- it’s almost like your secretly Hawaiian – your just crushing it in heavy left barrels.
Well you know I spent a lot of time in Hawaii. The locals have always been really kind to me. Ive always been respectful and loved the place. I think when you love the place you have this special energy and everything comes together. I think Hawaii is one of those places. At one point I was spending 3-4 months in Hawaii every year. You know, there’s no secret – you train , you train and you get out there and you respect and get humbled by the waves and how it breaks and the locals who are the best surfers out there and it payed off by winnng 2 Pipe Masters. The Pipe Masters is the one event everyone dreams of winning. I won it 10 years ago and to win it again 10 years after, that’s really special. For me it’s you know if I had to choose one day which event I’d like to win it’d be Pipe, the Pipe Masters and the Teahupoo event and I’ve made that happen so it’s a dream come true.
You are of surfing against some of these top level guys Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning, Andy– is there anyone that you look up to?
I respect all of them you know. Kelly Slater Mick Fanning but at one point I was really looking up to Andy Irons because the way he surfed obviously but even his character I think he had something that looked up to. I liked his way of thinking, I liked his way of, kinda don’t give a shit attitude, you know. I respect that. I think he was the one guy doing turns, manoeuvring in the biggest stuff. To this day no one Is doing it. Other than that I mean John John, all of these guys are amazing, I’m a huge fan of all of them.
Having said that – did that make you feel better when you won the Andy Irons Award at Teahupoo?
Yeah, that was amazing, that was probably one of my best accomplishments. The waves of that event were some of the best waves I’ve ever seen in a surfing event, probably the biggest stuff that I’ve had. And you know I had a lot to prove. It was some of my first few years on tour and people knew my skills in normal waves but no one really knew I could surf bigger stuff and I had a lot to prove. That was my shot and I took it. And to win the AI award that was really humbling epecailly after having Ai as an idol and winning the Andy Irons award at Teahupoo… that was priceless.
You look so comfortable out there in big conditions. Is there something you do in your mind that makes you feel comfortable or do you think it is repetitiveness of being in those conditions?
Yeah you know, theres a lot of training there of course. You know when you have a special connection with places I think everything comes naturally. I love Tahiti it’s my favourite place in the world I have a lot of friends there and I just love the culture and I love everything about Tahiti. So I think when you respect the place it gives back. I’ve had a lot of punishment out there too because it is one of the heaviest waves in the world. But at the end of the day I’ve had a lot more good times there than anything.
In terms of being at that high level is there anything that you can say to the younger guys especially to get to that level if they want to achieve that?
I think that for the young guys, you want to be able to… You know the hardest thing sometimes is to leave your home. A lot of guys have a hard time they go for a trip and surf and then want to come home, come back see their friends their family. I think if you want to succeed you want to love being away. That’s, that’s the secret and it’s hard man. You know. It shouldn’t be a problem being 6 months away. Coming back for a little and leaving again. That’s the experience and that’s the secret to succeeding. And you know, just believe in your dreams. But the main sacrifice I think is to be away from home.
Where your from has obviously had some problems (shark attacks) the past few years. What do you think about your home (Reunion Island) and surfing there again? Is it going to be possible?
What’s been happening in Reunion is a complete nightmare. It’s like a horror movie. What’s happening there it hasn’t happened anywhere else in the world, the aggressiveness of the sharks attacks are like no others. It is very sad, I’ve lost some really close friends and it’s a delicate subject. But you know I hope soon we will find a way to live together and find a solution. Living on an island and not being able to go in the ocean is impossible. It’s just impossible man. It’s like being in jail.
Especially with the quality of surf there.
Exactly, I mean we live a place where if you can’t go in the ocean I’m sure a lot of the younger generation, I’m sure it’s already happening, will start to do stupid stuff on the street. I mean the ocean is a way of respecting and learning about the environment, it’s humbling. We need that, it’s a way of living. There’s a lot of political problems that’s in it and unfortunately theres a lot of money problems too. A lot of people are taking a lot of profit off it, out of this crisis that we have in Reunion and that’s very sad because at the end of the day we lost some kids, some swimmers, surfers and they’re gone forever. We hope to find a solution very soon.
The Olympics, 2020 what do you think about surfing in the Olympics? Is it something you ever thought would happen or did it even cross your mind?
Yeah I didn’t know obviously I thought it was pretty, it was a joke that surfing wasn’t in the Olympics. I’ve seen all the other pretty funny sports in the Olympics and I was like man you know, it’s pretty crazy. Having surfing in the Olympics is amazing but at the same time it’s going to be new, a new experience. I can’t wait to see how it goes I think its probably my last goal as a surfer in my career, to be at the Olympics so hopefully that happens in 2 years. Hopefully I’m fit enough, hopefully I’m good enough. That would be amazing to win a medal for your country , that’s priceless.
That brings up the nest subject – wave pools – what are your thoughts?
Man wave pools, they’re cool but I think its still new, new technologies. It has a lot to improve, so far its been fun but I think its still not to that level of a normal ocean wave. There’s potential, I think its going to open a whole new wave for people that are not lucky enough to be near the ocean. There’s so many passionate surfers people that love surfing and they maybe have a shot on going on a surf trip maybe once a year imagine having a wave pool somewhere like New York, here in Paris, I mean not New York, it’s not far from the ocean but you know a big city. I know people would give anything to catch 3 waves a week because that’s passion. So I think that’s going to give opportunity to people that are not lucky as I was when I was growing up. And I think its also going to be a good option when the waves are flat, when we are at an event and the waves are flat because it’s the ocean, its mother nature we don’t control it and sometimes we’re at an event and its only 1 foot, terrible waves. I think its good to have an option at a wave pool event because its going to be better than surfing a mediocre wave. I think it has a lot to improve but I cant wait to see how it goes. In the next few years theres going to be some 6foot perfect waves. That’s gonna be cool to see.
Well I have to ask and you don’t have to answer but Kelly’s pool or Waco?
I haven’t tried the new Waco park I cant judge, if one day I try it I’ll for sure let you know but Kelly’s wave pool was pretty cool.
You have anything to say to the kids? Especially here in France?
Surfing even if your not a professional or you don’t want to be a professional and you don’t have the talent I think surfing is a great way to refresh. Once you get into the ocean it’s like no matter what kind of day you having, shitty day or bad time in your life I know when you paddle out and you go sit on your board and catch a few waves you come in as a better person. I think it’s a good wave a living a good lifestyle. And I think it teaches you respect. That’s the good part of surfing . Of course now there are a lot of surfers in the world and the respect is kinda lost but you get out there get in the ocean and I swear your feel better.
Ok last question – top 5 surf spots in the world.
I’m going to definitely say Teahupoo, Pipeline, I want to say Saint-Leu in Reunion, and uhhh I like macaronis in Indo, West Point in Oz.
Thanks to Ryan for the interview
Photos © WSL, ISA, FFSurf