Hugo Savalli, Dream Inn, Santa Cruz, final stop of the CWC Series. Photo: Cartier-Bresson
SE: Coming from the tropics, how have you found doing battle in O’Neill’s frigid water events?
Savalli: The first year it was really scary, I didn’t think I would be able to surf in booties, hat, thick wetsuit, all that stuff. But then after a while you get used to it, and even in some ways it’s easier, like for example your board is stuck to your boots, which helps. But it’s tough, especially in beach breaks like we had in Canada. At the reefs or points, like in Scotland, it’s more enjoyable for sure. But yeah, given the choice, I’d take boardshorts any day, just like everybody else.
Talk us through the events you surfed.
Tasmania was probably the wildest place ever for a contest. It’s full on wilderness, kangaroos everywhere, hardly any people, it’s like nobody lives there almost. We had a lot of waves, waves every day. The water wasn’t that cold actually (laughs) you could have surfed a 3/2mm for sure. Tasmania was beautiful, a highlight from the WQS for sure. Scotland I’ve been going for a few years now, that was the first time I ever went to a cold region. But I loved it right from the start, a real fun event and some crazy waves when it’s on. Canada was stunning, the best place ever for scenery and stuff, but we had pretty crap waves. It’s so wild there too, all the nature. You have those huge, giant trees right to the coast, lakes behind full of salmon, and bears running around eating them. Really a stunning place, even without epic surf.
Canada. Photo: O’Neill/Villalba
This is my first time in Santa Cruz, and we’ve had great waves. We surfed some really spots up north with hardly any people about. The water is real cold here, but I love the place. It’s a bit more hippy than I thought, it seems like quite a fashionable place too. We went to San Francisco for the day yesterday and met heaps of crew speaking French there, it’s really international. I wasn’t expecting that.
Hugo slots one in Tofino. Photo: O’Neill/Villalba
Do you feel it’s more sharky here than at home in Reunion?
It’s funny because everybody when they come to Reunion Island is thinking about sharks. I mean there’re a few places we surf that you think about sharks, but in general we never really worry about them. They’re there for sure, but we don’t see them. But then when we come here, we’re freaking out about Great Whites. Like the story of Evan Geiselman getting bumped by one and breaking his board today up the coast. That stuff scares me.
How do you reflect on the Europeans’ fortunes this year on the WQS?
It’s been different guys doing well this year, not the same as last year. It doesn’t seem like such a good year because their aren’t like 6 guys qualifying from the WQS, but if you look at the number of Euros in the Top 100 or Top 50, we’re still improving. Alain (Riou) for example, Romain (Cloitre) too. Those guys have stepped up loads, along with Gony and Jonathan. There are more Europeans in the Top 100 every season, and looking at the new guys coming up, that looks like it’s set to continue.