Interview by Archi. Photos by Damien Poullenot
Joan Duru is 24 years old, and lives in Capbreton, France, in a house that he owns. In 2009, aged just 20, he finished equal 15th on the WQS (15 qualify), level on points with Blake Thornton, and missed out on the WCT by the slimmest of margins (nul points).
He wears mainly his sponsor Volcom’s clothes and quite often trainer socks. He is considered – by experts and lay people alike – to perhaps be Europe’s very finest surfer.
How’s your year been going so far?
At this point my ranking says it all … unfortunately I haven’t been getting the results I need. but I do my best to stay level-headed about it all even if it’s always frustrating to lose early on. When you lose, doubts start to creep in and you ask yourself all kinds of questions. What’s important for me right now is I’ve managed to regain my confidence. I feel good and I’ve been enjoying my time in the water.
There’re still a few big contests to go, Prime events still to come but if I’m unable to secure any good results before Hawaii, then I’m not sure I’ll go. I’d like to fully heal my ear drum which has been causing me problems and then use this winter to train hard for a fresh start for 2014. That way I’ll get to spend some time at home in Les Landes too.
Do you think your confidence levels suffered from coming so close to qualifying four years ago and then having to start over again?
Your rank is just a number on a piece of paper, a snap shot at a certain point in time and doesn’t necessarily reflect reality… Qualifying for the tour is still my main goal but my confidence levels aren’t solely based on my ranking. I take a lot of confidence from being physically prepared, for example. Everything can change so quickly, for both good or bad; The biggest challenge is being consistent. The fact that I nearly qualified four years ago taught me a lot and, in hindsight, I feel like everything happened very quickly. It felt like it was nearly too easy at a moment when I wasn’t even close to giving everything I had. For the last two years, I’ve been putting everything I have into my surfing and that’s what’s giving me confidence. Now that I’m well prepared, in a position where I can give everything and have no regrets, I feel totally ready.
What additional sacrifices would you be willing to make in order to make the tour?
Finding an even balance between work and personal life is key to me. I’m aware I need to train more and party less for example, but I’m not going to start overhauling my way of life. I’m not willing to sacrifice that for the tour. There’s no point in qualifying for the tour if you’re not going to be in a position where you can enjoy it.
When you start to notch up good results, start taking part in WCT events, you suddenly find yourself with lots of friends. but as soon as your results suffer, that’s when you find out who your real friends are… and I’d never be prepared to sacrifice who I am or turn my back on my mates in order to qualify.
Why try to qualify for the WCT when you could just opt for the free surf option?
With the WCT you get to surf amazing waves and measure up against the best surfers in the world. Deep down I’m a real competitor, I actually enjoy competing because if I didn’t I would have stopped a long time ago.
In the past I have stopped to weigh the advantages and disadvantages, but the fact is when I’m not on tour I miss competing. As long as I continue to make rounds then I’ll keep going… and that goes for the WCT and WQS. The big difference on the World Tour is that you get to surf better conditions and there’s less hassling in the water. Certain people question whether I’m really motivated enough, but those people clearly don’t really know me. I absolutely hate losing and my desire to qualify is stronger than ever.
Were you pissed off not to be invited to compete in this year’s Volcom Fiji Pro?
No… I’m confident I’ll surf on the WCT one day, in which case I won’t need any invitations haha… I’m all for earning your place on tour. That said if I were asked to compete in Fiji at some point then it’s not the kind of thing you’d turn down.
You recently told a journalist you don’t follow the World Tour. Any idea who’s number 1 on tour right now?
Phew! but by that I meant more that I don’t watch contests or webcasts. There are much better ways to spend an evening. Watching contests live is so boring… If I hear about a standout performance, like Kelly at Fiji for example, then I’ll always check the highlights. There’s some stuff you can’t not watch.
Do you watch videos at all?
Yep, videos I’m happy to watch, especially Dane and John John’s web clips. They’re the two to really push performance levels at the moment and a real inspiration. I’ll watch videos of upcoming talents too. The level isn’t always there but it’s a good way to keep up to date with what’s being done in the air and increasingly present in competition. Today airs are something you have to be confident with if you want to make it.
You’re not a fan of social networks, nor someone who works on his image much… but ideally how would you like to be perceived?
A lot of people have talked shit about me without really knowing me. but it doesn’t really bother me; it’s part of the game I guess. I know I have a reputation for partying but I’m not going to try to hide it. You’ll never see me pick up a bottle of water to give people or the media the wrong impression, which some people do. I have nothing to prove to anybody. I love surfing and enjoy competing. It’s as simple as that. The rest is my business. I need to be able to cut loose. It’s important for me to spend time with my friends. I like to go out and party when there’s a break in the contest calendar. But I’m when it comes to fitness training and putting in the hard work I’m as serious as anyone. I love sport. When I’m not surfing, I’m on the bike, playing tennis, paddling, I never stop. As far as my fitness and training programme goes, I don’t think there are many surfers out there who could keep up with my routine. I’m committed to everything I do, whether it’s having a good time or training and I don’t need anyone to babysit me.
I know I have a reputation for partying but I’m not going to try to hide it
You have a group of friends and lifestyle that differs widely from the surf dude stereotype… is that something you work on intentionally?
No it’s just who I am… I’m lucky to be well surrounded and it just happens that most of my friends have nothing to do with surfing, they’re people who tell me things straight and don’t feel the need to massage my ego.
Do you consider surfing as your job?
In truth, no. It’s first and foremost a passion… I think it must be one of the few sports in the world where you can have fun nearly every day. Up until now at least going surfing has never felt like a chore. So in a way I don’t really work but when I’m not surfing and need to find a way to stay busy. When you’re a pro surfer the days can really drag on ha ha! The aspect that most resembles work is travelling, and attending photo sessions and interviews when you don’t really feel like it. I figure it’s not so bad as far as jobs go, as long as your sponsors are happy. You need to be serious, or at least appear to be serious at contests and the rest of the time you can more or less just do as you please.
But there are aspects of your surfing that you continue to work on, no?
That’s true. When you get to the elite level it’s a question of making subtle adjustments and you do need to work at those. Lastly, and this also has to do with what I was saying about confidence, I’ve found some good boards thanks to Chilli. before, I had good boards but they’d never last. Today my quiver is much more reliable. When you know that your board is going to go, it’s one less thing to worry about and you can concentrate on the job at hand, your surfing.
In your Hidden Lives edit on surfeuropemag.com, Miky says you’re a time bomb waiting to go off… Any idea when that will be?
French surfers are improving all the time. Miky knows what he’s talking about. I’m ready, I’ve never been so ready… and what I’m hoping is the longer it takes for me to go off, the bigger the impact I’ll have.