Tiago ‘Saca’ Pires is one of your more articulate, frank and insightful surfers on tour. A student of the game, his raw passion for surfing is one of the reasons he’s such a major star in his home nation of Portugal. He can give interviews in a number of languages, and gives them in English better than many who claim it as their mother tongue. SE.com caught up with him this afternoon at Waimea to find out his thoughts going into the Pipe finale, an event where he shed a bit of blood last year in a brutal heat with Shane Dorian.
Looking back at 2010, talk us through the highs and lows Saca.
Well it’s been a different year for me. I’m more used to having more eventful seasons, making Semis in some events then having shockers in others. This year I’ve been more consistent, but haven’t had any big results. Right now I’m just making sense of it all, trying to get my head right and figure out what I need to do differently to get that big result. It’s been a good year overall, I’ve got the highest ranking in my career arriving here in Hawaii (=18th with Taylor Knox and Freddy P), but I feel I’ve got more in me, I feel I can do better.
Another disappointing showing at home in Portugal from your perspective back in October. How hard is it surfing in that event with all the extra pressure?
I’ve been finding it hard, for sure. The expectation, the pressure, it hasn’t helped me perform in that event so far. I feel super relaxed in the press conference and in the lead up, but when it comes to my heat I feel the pressure on me, anxiety. The moment I’m paddling out I’m feeling it setting in. This year the waves were better than when I lost last year, but I just got out-surfed. I’m trying to learn to deal with that expectation like I did on the WQS (where he won back to back hometown events in Ericeira). But it’s something that’s hard to train for in a way, you can’t simulate that crowd pressure, you get one shot per year and when you lose, it’s over.
Tell us where your head is at coming into Pipe.
Well the Pipemasters is certainly a pinnacle event for any surfer. It’s where careers and fates are decided, being the season finale. I’m not feeling expectation here as such, but at the same time I’d like to think I’m a good surfer out there on my day. I’m not especially nervous, I like to have high expectations on me as a barrel rider. Last year I think I tried too hard, I just needed a 5 to make it and couldn’t get it. I was getting too deep and not making the waves, thinking, going into it that I would need something special to beat a surfer like Dorian. But I’m always learning. The tough thing about Pipe is the lack of practice, wave selection can be tough when out there with one guy, you can be too selective. The Pipemasters is the place to be seen performing at your best. I think I just need to be more relaxed in my approach.
This is your third season among the elite. What’s your take of the new, reduced-field format?
I think pro surfing and the ASP needs to look to constantly improve, to make the product more exciting and better run. Over the last few years there have been a lot of surfers carried on the then-WCT that would never really make it through Rd3. The tour is stuck with those guys for a whole year, and with all due respect, they maybe didn’t really have the skills. I think the public, the fans want to see the best, you got to a tennis tournament you go to watch the top seeds. That’s who sells tickets, that’s who people pay to see perform. Surfing is like that too, we need to show the best guys in the world. At the same time the ASP is trying to improve with the Prime tour, they’ve almost doubled the prize money, even if you don’t make it you can still make a living. I don’t think we need 45 surfers going for the World Title, even if I’m ultimately speaking againt my own interests, I feel it’s better with less of us. After the cut (After Teahupoo in August), there’s no denying events have been more entertaining, more competitive, and made better use of the conditions. I really believe whoever deserves to be on tour will be, and is.
It’s not been the greatest Hawaiian season thus far. How have you been keeping?
When I got here I had one day at Backdoor at good 6-8ft, and got a feel for it. Since then there’s been pretty poor conditions. I try to have one or two surfs per day and keep active. On really flat days I’ve been SUPing here at Waimea, it’s actually the first time I ever did that stuff in my life. Also a bit of snorkelling, there’s a lot to do here in this bay. I haven’t been training overly here. After Puerto Rico I went home for a fortnight and put the hours in in the gym, and so far I feel really good. I don’t feel like I need to be training much, I just feel like I want to surf waves. I haven’t really surfed that many heats this year, in truth I’m a bit out of rhythm. So while I’m here on the North Shore my focus is really on surfing waves and on boards rather than working out.
Let’s look forward to 2011. What kind of goals do you have in mind?
Each year I feel like I’m living and learning, every year I feel like I’m progressing as a conpetitor and as a person. Life’s always changing, evolving. I still feel like I have a lot of fire inside me, I haven’t got to my best yet. So my plan is to come back next year and attack it, train and work as much as I can. I’d love to get a foot in the Top 10 of course, and see how that goes. Every year I feel like I’m comfortable with the venues, the judges, the way you have to surf heats on this tour. As a rookie you tend to over complicate things, with experience things get easier for you. I still haven’t fulfilled my expectations in surfing, I’m gonna keep fighting.