Ace, that drop on your first wave in the Final. Was it won then and there?
Maybe. I just wanted to leave it late, cause I wanted to get really deep. For a split second there I thought I’d left to too late and I was just freefalling, but luckily my fins caught and I just got up under it and it was a beautiful barrel and a good way to start the Final.
Your feelings right now?
I’m at a loss. It’s just incredible. I kept looking up at the mountains today trying to stay in the moment, then the sun came out with five minutes to go for the first time all day and it was kinda funny. I mean, to surf a Final with him, (Kelly was standing three feet away, and Ace lowers his voice and points in Kelly’s direction) someone who I idolized as a kid and someone who I surfed the Final with in France five years ago, and now to come out on top here at Teahupoo—it’s the gladiator pit of our sport, it’s our Coliseum. It wasn’t huge today and it wasn’t huge for the event, but it was thick and it was hollow and it was really high performance Teahupoo, and to come out as the top guy I can’t believe it.
You’ve got the perfect record against Kelly in finals now (2/2). Did you remind him of that on the way out?
Ha ha… we’ve had a lot of heats together over the years and I’ve managed to get him in those two finals, but he’s smashing me in the head-to-head. He’s an incredible competitor and an inspiration to me. I just turned 30 and he just turned 40 and for me to look at him and see what he’s been able to do with his body and his mind, he just seems so young. He’s young at heart and he manages to feed off the young guys on Tour and managed to get better every year and it’s a huge inspiration.
What does this result do for you in terms of 2013?
It’s huge. I wasn’t sitting in a spot where I was worried about requalification but I wasn’t happy where I was either. I couldn’t achieve what I wanted to achieve and I had a look at myself after Fiji and Bali, and said you know what? You’re not really what you could be. And I came here really believing I could win, and with every heat I won I believed in myself more and more, and by the time the Semis and the Final rolled around I didn’t have to think about anything. It was all automatic. I feel like I’m kind of floating. I’ve been standing up for eight hours today. I jumped in the boat at 6:30 a.m., which was 12 hours ago. It hasn’t sunk in, but it’s emotional and surreal and it’s an incredible day.
Was John John’s 10 on the opening wave of your Quarterfinal the rallying point for you?
Definitely. There are a few events you look back on and the winner is clear-cut but, you look back on a point where it’s Act 3, Scene 3 of Shakespeare, and it’s a crisis, a full crisis, and that was mine. He started with a 10 and—shit—I had my back up against the wall, but I like those situations. I’ve been able to feed off those, and I said to myself, you know what? There are plenty of waves like that out here, and you’ve just got to find two of them. I just broke it down like that and I found two really good waves and the later it got the more pressure he was under. He’s still young and he’s an incredible surfer, probably the most talented guy around in waves like that, and to have a heat against him was huge. And then to have a heat against Mick…we’ve developed a real friendship over the last three or four years. And to watch him win last year then to beat him this year was special.
Jordy, John John, Mick, Kelly… have you sat down and done an inventory on who you beat today?
It’s pretty incredible. I’m still kind of stunned. It’s the top four I think, beside Joel. But if you’re going to win an event, that’s how you want to do it.
For three or four years now you’ve been hovering in the teens in the ratings, not going up, not going down. Did something change recently?
I just I was in Fiji with Mick and Joel before the contest there and it’s a similar wave to this. It’s a heavy wave and I really feel like I compete with those guys in waves like this, and they did really well in that event and I lost in Fiji to Seabass in a freak heat. But I walked away from Fiji with a lot of confidence. I walked away thinking, those guys are talented and good in waves like this, but, you know, so am I. I felt comfortable in Fiji and I put that in my pocket and knew if I got here and stayed in the moment and did all the little things right each day and made the right decisions, I was in with a shot.
Did you have to put the foil helmet on against Kelly in the Final? Surely he was trying to get inside your head out there?
By that stage I’d assumed most guys would be surfing against a color, and I knew the color I was surfing against was Kelly. But we’ve had so many heats together and I feel I’ve learned a lot from them. Obviously the two finals are the ones everyone remembers (Ace has won both now) but no one remembers the other six or 10 or 20 or whatever it is, but we’ve had a lot of heats and I’ve had a fair bit of success against him and I didn’t feel like I had my back up against the wall when I paddled out. I just stuck to my task and went about doing it.
You’re in the mid-life point of your career and this win is a massive boost. What do you anticipate this might do for you?
When I won France [against Kelly in 2008] I was pretty young and still establishing myself on Tour. It was only my third year and I had a break that year and I beat Kelly and got other results at Pipe and Mundaka and I felt like I’d almost been near the top of the mountain I’d initially set out to climb. And I guess this is the culmination of the work I’ve done in the last three years. I’ve put a lot of hard work into my body and my mind and my equipment, and I’ve got a lot of people to thank for that—my family, my wife, JS. I rode a quad today for the first time ever in competition. That was huge for me.
What’s waiting for you back home in Avoca?
I actually planned a birthday party for me before I left for Trestles, but I guess we’re moving it forward now.