Photos by Eric Chauché
Not many people would be able to tell you how to get to the French town of Ondres. Nestled on the Atlantic coast, half way between Biarritz and Hossegor, Ondres is where Joan Duru grew up. Away from the nearby tourist traps, this is also where he carved out his raw and powerful surfing style. Not one keen to speak openly about his surfing ability, in the water the 2006 European Junior Champion’s potential is sure to take you by surprise. A quiet, yet dangerous opponent still just 18, Duru his sights firmly set on joining the rest of the European elite on the Dream Tour.
SE: Despite having several titles under your belt, a lot of people haven’t really heard much of you. Do you think it’s a case of you not getting enough media exposure?
JD: I dunno… I guess initially I found it quite hard to fit into that whole scene but I feel more comfortable with it now. I’m really enjoying my surfing right now and I think it shows.
How do you like living away from the main surf towns like Hossegor or Anglet, is it an advantage or inconvenience?
I’d say it’s more of an advantage. It means I often get to surf on my own. Plus in the winter I can quickly get to either the reef breaks in the Basque Country or hit up the Les Landes beachbreaks depending on the size of the swell.
Why did you go from training with the surf club to having a personal coach?
The club can only take your surfing to a certain level I think, especially when you’ve decided to make a pro career out of it. I was on my own for about two years and then at the end of last summer I realised I needed people around me to help me stay more focused. Now I travel with Philippe Malvaux and Didier Piter and also have a fitness trainer.
Fitness training seems to be more or less compulsory these days if you want to make a real go of it, how exactly does it help you?
Right now I work out four times a week. It’s helped me to lose a bit of weight as well as gain in flexibility and power. My whole training programme is specifically designed to help me with my surfing and you do really feel the benefits once you’re back in the water. More than anything getting fit has given me fresh motivation to go surf. It should really help for the WQS competitions where the waves are often small. I’ve been concentrating on surfing small conditions coz it’s definitely one of my weak points, and picking the right surfboards too. Christiaan at Euroglass who shapes for Al Merrick just made me two boards that go really well in small surf.
A lot of surfers go abroad to train during the winter. How come you stay put?
I used to go abroad when I was a little younger but now I have everything here, a gym to train in and pumping waves – the last few weeks in France have been epic, we’ve had some incredible waves.
Winter swells seem to suit your style of surfing, have you been working new moves into your surfing repertoire to suit the ASP’s evolving criteria?
Hollow, powerful waves are definitely what I enjoy most. I like to work at laying down big manoeuvres and busting innovative stuff too. When I broke my ankle I shied away from doing too much aerial stuff but now everything’s starting to come back and I feel more comfortable with airs again. I’ll surf sessions where I’ll do just airs coz they’re definitely becoming more important in competition. You can score an 8-point ride with just one air manoeuvre… I’ve definitely been giving them a go and really enjoy it so they’re starting to come naturally now.
There are photos of you surfing big Sunset last winter suggesting you feel confident in those kinds of conditions. From where do you get your desire to charge big surf?
I’ve always been into bigger waves and the challenge they represent. During that session I was with Michel Bourez and Romain Laulhé and we really pushed each other out there. And we often get hit by big conditions during the winter here, with good big wave spots to choose from like La Nord or La Digue and it’s all great training. Hawaii’s a totally different story of course coz of the power of the waves, but I’m hoping to go back there to gain more confidence and keep learning.
You don’t seem to say much. How do you balance that with being a pro sports personality, effectively a paid entertainer?
Answering simply, you don’t need to talk… being a surfer you have the chance to express yourself surfing and that’s a real bonus.
You’ve got impressive technique and power but on the WQS it’s important to have a good mental game, with 4 man heats, etc… do you think your shyness holds you back sometimes?
Surfing four man heats against guys that are all frothing to win can definitely be intimidating, especially when conditions are small and inconsistent… Finding the motivation to hassle for 1-foot dribble isn’t easy, but that’s competitive surfing and you’ve got to play the game. You forget about being shy or whatever when you really want to win!
Consistency in terms of form can be the key to doing well in the contests, how consistent a performer are you?
I dunno, you get guys like Tim Boal who are pretty consistent in heat situations – but also a very complete free surfer. So a guy like that would definitely be more consistent than me. I have to learn to stop falling. It’s just hard to get it into your head that you have to lower your surfing level to make it through heats sometimes. I find it hard to hold back, I just wanna go for broke.
Your dad is a former top-level athlete, do you think you gained anything from his experience?
Yeah, my dad used to compete professionally in judo and sambo, and he definitely gave me an early taste for exercise and sport. He’s always encouraged me but at the same time never put pressure on me to do more than I wanted, it all happened very naturally.
He continues to follow your progress today, do you find this helps? Other surfers have been know to struggle with it…
I surf with him and we have a laugh together, but that’s all. He’s always really encouraging without ever putting any pressure on me.
You were three-time champion of the Grommet Trophy at Capbreton, is that where you realised that you were pretty good at surfing?
Yeah, before that we just used to compete among ourselves but at that comp there were surfers who had come from abroad and I realised I could beat them. After that I started to travel and I saw I could make something of it. Since then I’ve spent a lot of hours working in the water…
How do you plan your time with you still going to school?
I actually dropped out of school last year. I want to focus all my time and energy on doing the WQS and my career. I’ve been training really hard to start off the season on the right foot, after not doing very well last year. I’m going to give everything I have, as I’m aiming to qualify for the WCT next year. I want to get on tour as fast as possible because if you don’t the WQS can quickly become a real slog.
That’s a big call… Have you got a different approach for your second year on the ’QS?
I’m going to focus on the stops I enjoy most. I won’t be going to all of them, I’ll be taking part in the big events and set some time aside to prepare properly here. All the big European WQS legs of course, Brazil to kick off the season strongly and Margaret River in West Oz as it’s a wave I love.
Which European surfer’s career has inspired you the most?
Miky – He’s managed to make it back to the top after injuring himself right when he was initially ready to qualify for the tour, that’s an amazing achievement. I think Sancho has had an amazing career too and is another great example to follow. He kills it in all types of conditions and is really impressive to watch when it gets big. And he’s super motivating to surf with.
The French seem to leading the Euro surf revolution, why is that? Is it simply due to having really good beachbreaks, or something else?
I think we are pretty lucky wave wise in France and even when it is too big or too cold, we have got quality escape route such as Mundaka, the Canary Islands and Morocco. Adding to that we’ve got pretty good competitive structures. I was lucky to start in the Hossegor Surf Club with the support of quality staff, a good team spirit and heathy internal competitiveness with guys like Marc Lacomare, Paul Loup Laborde etc.
Describe the vibe in the lineups in Les Landes, in Ondres. Would you say it’s a friendly place to surf?
Well in Ondres we always surf among ourselves, with only mates in the water especially this winter where he had classic conditions nearly every day. During travels you also learn to respect the locals so you end up respecting strangers when they come here too, although it is always tempting to drop in on them. But basically here there are plenty of waves for everyone, not like a lot of places we go to around the world where it is nearly impossible to surf quietly, like the Gold Coast for instance.
A lot of your generation seem to do more or less the same thing; surf good, train, watch dvd’s, hang out on the internet. Is there much individuality?
I don’t really know, but when you travel to all four corners of the world and you don’t have that much to do, you end up watching a lot of movies especially on planes… but what I enjoy the most is being outdoors, I can’t stand spending my day in front of the computer, so I am always up for a game of footie or other sports when there are no waves.
You and Jeremy are team mates of similar ages, are you rivals? How has his success affected you, inspired you?
We’re not really rivals, he got up to the WCT pretty quickly. In fact, he always motivated us since his arrival in France, with his already highly impressive level of surfing. He always has been truely motivating, and he still is.