I thought it was interesting that this was the first time you rode a quad in competition and you ended up winning the event. What made you decide that this was the time to give it a go?
I’ve been playing around with quads for the last eighteen months. I like to keep an eye on what everyone is riding, so I’m well aware that Kelly has been riding a lot of quads. Mick [Fanning] and Joel [Parkinson] both rode them at Teahupoo last year also. I’ve been experimenting a little bit this year with 5-plug setups, so I can go thruster or quad, and the board I was riding on the last day was a 6’0″ five-plug. I caught a couple waves on it as a quad in a few freesurfs before the final day, and it felt really good. I actually had a couple waves that I didn’t quite make, but I was really surprised by how close I got to making them. When I rocked up on the final day, the swell was a little bigger than we thought it was going to be and I knew I’d ride that 6’0″, and since it felt good those days before, and my first heat was the no losers round, I figured it was as good a time as any to try the quad out in competition.
So you surfed that board from Round 4 on?
Yeah, I actually got second to John John in that heat, but the board felt really good and I got a 9 on a wave. I felt like I could manipulate the board to find that speed when I really needed it. I used the board again in the next heat against Jordy [Smith], but I put in bigger front fins because I could tell that I needed a little more grip to really lay it on rail after the barrel. It made a big difference, and those bigger fins might have even helped me with that really late drop in the Final. With my equipment, it was one of those events where I just made instinctive decisions. I think riding a quad and changing those fins played a part.
In those kinds of waves, what would you say are the biggest differences between thrusters and quads?
The thing that I found was that it was easier to generate speed in a straight line from A to B. When it’s that size at Teahupoo, you are trying to get as deep as you can, as opposed to bigger days when it’s just about survival. The final day was at the size where you want to be as deep as you can, but you’re going to need to generate a lot of speed to come out. I found that the quad allowed me to stall and accelerate really quickly. For me, I feel like thrusters give me more constant speed, while the quad gave me bursts of speed when I really needed it.
Are quads going to be your go-to in those kinds of waves now?
Yeah. Obviously it has really opened up a whole new door of possibilities. Everyone has been trying quads. Kelly even rides them when the waves aren’t barreling. CJ [Hobgood] rides them quite a bit too, and they definitely played a part in Joel’s run last year. I was experimenting a little, but Teahupoo was the place I said to myself, “OK, this is where I am going to give it a go.” I think when the conditions are like that, a quad will probably be my go-to now. But I feel like I need to put in a little more time in the water with them in waves that call for a combination of turns and barrels. I’m excited for Portugal and France because they can be similar to Teahupoo in a way. They are both sick barrels where you have to put yourself deep and find that speed. I think having the quad option will be valuable over there.
When you do well on a board in an event, does that board get set aside for special circumstances?
Yeah definitely, you’ve got to hang on to the good ones. I’ll bring it to France and Portugal and maybe even Hawaii in case the waves call for it in an event. At some point you kind of retire it and keep it as a memento. I feel like there are some good days ahead for that board and I want to keep riding it. Look at Kelly, who had that Simon he rode for a couple of years and the pintail Merrick that had the handprints on it. If you can find a magic board you feel comfortable on, you don’t even think of it as a board anymore but as an extension of your body and you can just do whatever you want. I’ll be hanging onto that one from Teahupoo, and if the conditions are right I will pull it out again.