After breaking his hand and a vertebra at Teahupo'o in May, Michel Bourez (PYF) is still on the road to recovery. He missed the Oi Rio Pro, and had to withdraw again from the next event, the Fiji Pro. Before the men's action got going in Fiji, he spoke about how he's doing, what he's doing, and his plan to get back in the water.
World Surf League: You've been out of the water for about a month. What have you been up to?
Michel Bourez: I'm exhausted. I've been doing physical training for four weeks. I just want to do something else.
WSL: How did you hurt yourself at Teahupo'o?
MB: There were just a couple locals out and I decided to jump in with my little brother and we went out there and caught some medium-sized waves. When I got enough confidence and had caught a couple good, fun ones I told myself the next big one that comes through I was going to go for it. When that one came I turned and paddled into it.
I have a smaller board so it's easier for me to tag the wave under the lip. This one was really hollow and I made a few mistakes during the takeoff. My board was too short, it took a nosedive in the wave and everything went wrong. The wave took me back and threw me straight on the reef and I landed on my hand and the back of my head hit the reef. I broke my hand and vertebra. I'm still really sore.
WSL: Where does that rank in your list of wipeouts?
MB: It was the worst wipeout I ever had for sure. It's the first time in my life I've ever broken a bone. I expect to get cut but never breaking a bone or something really major. I guess it's part of searching for the momentum and that's what happens when the momentum doesn't come in the right way. There's one way I could make it and one I couldn't and that's what happened.
WSL: What was the initial prognosis?
MB: My hand was cut so the doctors said they needed to do an X-ray. That's when I saw that three bones were broken. They had to operate [and put in a metal rod].
A week ago I went to see the doctors again and get another X-ray to see how my fingers were healing. I saw that nothing is healing, so I can't do anything else. Now they need to take out the rod in the finger and I feel like in four more weeks I'll be ready.
WSL: What are you doing in the meantime?
MB: Not much. I can't surf because of my back. I can't paddle. I'm walking a little but I can't run. I tried to jog a couple days ago and my back was sore still. I just told myself to lay down and wait for everything to heal.
I take care of the business I have here, paperwork and just take care of my family. I just been a dad. It's probably the first time since I surfed that I can teach him and not even think about surfing and just think about everything else.
WSL: You had to bow out of Rio, an event you won last year, and now Fiji, an event where you made the Semifinals last year. What does that do to your mindset?
MB: I've just been bummed about not making the drop this whole time. That's what I tell my partner. I'd rather make the drop and get smashed in the barrel because I'm too deep and still break my hand. That would have been better. I don't think about contests too much. I think about healing first and then I'll get back and be ready for J-Bay. I just want to be ready.
WSL: What does that look like, getting ready for J-Bay after missing two events?
MB: I think the hardest part for me will be to feel fully prepared. J-Bay is really cold and you need to put a big wetsuit on, which means being physically prepared. I need to work in cardio for the next couple weeks. I just can't wait to get to the point where I won't even think about my hand and my back.
Alejo Muniz (BRA) will be surfing with the Top 34 as Bourez's injury replacement for the Fiji Pro. The contest kicks off June 7 at 7:30 a.m. (June 6 at 12:30 p.m./PDT) and will broadcast LIVE here and on the WSL app.