Your contract was recently up for renewal just when brands are cutting back wherever they can. Are you happy with the new deal you just inked? 

Hell yeah, I just renewed with Volcom for another three years. It was all quite straight-forward and easy. I should actually have a little more budget for video sections and online clips.

Photo: Christie

Any talk of a bonus incentive if you manage to qualify for the tour?

Ha! Obviously they’d love that but at the same time Volcom has never been massive about the contest scene so for now there’s no real pressure to qualify, in fact no real pressure at all…

A new French Connexion clip is due to drop any time…

Yep, I recently spent some time in Guadeloupe and shot some stuff with Charly [Martin]. Unfortunately Marco couldn’t make it. With this one it was a little bit different as I actually got to have a say in the editing of the footage. I got to chose those waves I wanted to see in there, and for once not have any stuff that I wasn’t fully satisfied with.

Like what kind of stuff?

What I’m really into at the moment are combo manoeuvres and not just one big crazy hit per wave, which is kind of what you see most of the time these days. From a viewer’s perspective I think it’s much more interesting to watch and from a surfer’s perspective it’s something that you can really work at too. For this latest clip, we also decided to include a little more lifestyle footage, us just having a blast out there in the Caribbean basically!

Right now you’re in Hossegor, it’s cold, howling onshore with massive storm surf. What do you do to stay busy?

It's tough! I get pretty antsy and tend to just focus on my fitness programme. Right now I’m so tired I probably couldn’t even surf if there were waves. I’ve been working on my abs, upper body and legs with exercises my dad showed me. I never thought I’d say this but being fit really does help. At least that’s what I was doing when I picked up my best result at J-Bay last year. It’s actually also a way of preparing yourself mentally for what is always a really long season of travelling round the world and competing. Apart from that I also had to get some rest following ear surgery I had. In the past I’ve never really been patient enough so this time I want the operation to heal properly.

Joan following his biggest mistake but strongest result last year as runner-up at J-Bay to Adriano. Photo: Cestari/ASP

About J-Bay, do you still have nightmares about losing in the last two minutes to Adriano despite having priority?

I’m not going to say it wasn’t a mistake but at the same time I’ve never really been one to sit on others and froth in comps… although maybe that will change now, ha! I was just focused on catching the waves I wanted and didn’t want to have to change my game plan to his. In fact that’s how Adriano wins a lot of his heats. Nevertheless I should have no doubt blocked him. It’s a lesson learned. Guys like Adriano never ever give up until the hooter sounds.

Pick up any other tips in 2012?

I got off to a good start but just wasn’t consistent enough throughout the year. That’s all really. I secured some solid results during the first three months (the Fernando Prime event) but then just kind of ran out of steam. Before I knew it we were back in Hawaii and it was all too late again.

Photo: Christie

None of the Euro legs really went your way, uh?

Yeah, it’s really frustrating. I’m always so keen to perform well in front of my family, friends and home support. Plus I was counting on Europe to climb back up the ratings but it just didn’t happen. I either surfed badly, was unlucky or just lost stupidly!

Heats often come down to very narrow point differences. Do you ever get the feeling the judges are biased towards other nationalities?

When you’re in Australia, the Aussies are at an advantage, but the same goes for Brazil and Hawaii… You can kind of understand it. But what I don’t get is in Europe it never really seems to work that way. We are rarely ever given the benefit of the doubt. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe we’re a little too cliquey or not as patriotic when it comes to surfing. In the Azores, with a bunch of Euro judges on the panel, I scored a heat draw but still somehow lost. We’re going to need more Euros on tour before any of that changes though.

What are you ambitions for the Top 32 today?

To tell the truth I’m not even thinking about the World Tour at the moment but just trying to stay focused on the big WQS events. If I ever qualify then I’ll start to worry about it.

Which top guys do you look up to right now?

Slater of course, he’s clearly after another world title, not the kind of guy to go out on a loss. Then Julian Wilson and John John. Those guys are so well-rounded it's crazy. Medina too but I’m not sure he’s World Title material just yet.

What with Armstrong being in the news again recently, where’s surfing at these days now the ASP has introduced the anti-doping policy?

With cycling, you’ve got no choice but to go down the doping route if you want to win. With surfing it’s the opposite, the more you dabble the worse you surf ha ha! At least those who go out partying never seem to do to well from it…

Where does French Connexion stand with heavy nights out these days?

You’ll be happy learn we’ve all come a long way. None of us are getting any younger! A few years back Marco, Charly and I would be out on the town every opportunity we had but today we’re a little more chilled, more focused.

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