Alejo Muniz is hoping to get a break in 2016. The Brazilian has had a rough couple years, being forced to surf the QS in 2015, only to crack the CT and suffer an injury during the 2015 Quiksilver Pro France, where he was surfing a replacement for Taj Burrow. Just like that, his comeback plans were derailed...again. It was a painful blow considering he was earning nine-pointers right and left in 2015.
Muniz returned at the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro, where he spoke to us about battling back to fighting form, and what it will be like to compete on home turf at the Oi Rio Pro.
WSL: How has it been to be back in competition?
Alejo Muniz: It feels amazing, because I was out of the water for five months, and just came back to surfing two weeks ago. The feeling of winning a heat is amazing, but it was so much bigger to come back to water. It was an amazing feeling to surf again and paddle and standing up.
WSL: Having just requalified for the Championship Tour, what was it like getting injured and having to miss a few of the first events?
AM: It was a really personal battle, because I knew I could be there. To be at home watching the first two events of the year was hard, but you learn a lot from it. I tried to take it easy and have a good comeback.
WSL: Are you at 100 percent?
AM: I would say 70, maybe 80 percent still. I have a lot of pain still and my leg is kind of weak. I still do physical therapy every day, and I feel I'm getting better every day. I see that change and that improvement. So I think the next event I'll be 100 percent.
WSL: How are you feeling about Rio? Will there be pressure with a huge hometown crowd? Are you worried about it?
AM: If I was 100 percent, I would put pressure on myself. But because I'm coming back and I realized a lot of things in my life, I think differently now and I think it's going to be great. I've been living in Rio for the past two years so I know the place very well. Maybe that will be my 100 percent contest coming back.
WSL: Will a lot of your friends and family be there? Is there pressure from the hometown crowd?
AM: Yeah, there will be a lot of friends and family who will be there. I think that puts more pressure on than the crowd! [laughs] Because they're always by your side and telling you that you're going to do well. But everyone knows I'm coming back from my injury, so I will try to do my best.
WSL: What was the mental battle like, in terms of considering coming back to competition?
AM: That was a big challenge, because you're at home. Sometimes I was stuck in traffic in São Paulo, and watching the comp live on my phone. It was really painful to watch that. But I'm coming back, I know what I have to do, I know what I'm capable of doing. But it's good to learn, when you're outside of competition you learn a lot. You see a lot of different things. So maybe I'm more prepared than before.
WSL: What did you do during your downtime?
AM: I watched a lot of movies, sometimes of people who got hurt and came back better than before. I read a lot, but mostly I spent my time in physical therapy. I would go at 7 a.m. and come back at 7 p.m. every day of the week for the past five months. So every time now I think of that, it makes me feel stronger.
WSL: Who was supporting you during that time?
AM: I have a few guys that were really important. But my girlfriend and her family let me stay at their house and treated me like real family, it was close to my physio-therapist. I spent five months there and they were always positive and helping me a lot. I owe a lot to that family.
WSL: Knowing that you missed the first two events and you're still not 100 percent, what are your personal goals this season?
AM: My main goal will be to make a lot of heats, try to get my leg to 100 percent. That's what I feel I need right now. Because I qualified last year through the QS last year and got a wildcard for a few CT events, at J-Bay I did really well, I made the quarters. So I feel like I need to make more heats and prove to myself that I can beat those guys.
Catch Muniz and more of the world's best live daily at the Oi Rio Pro, May 10-21 local time.