Miguel Pupo was one of the first lightning strikes in the Brazilian storm that has changed the face of pro surfing over the last decade. He qualified for the Championship Tour midway through the 2011 season alongside Gabriel Medina, to build a star-studded crew that would put their nation on the surfing map globally. Adriano De Souza, Alejo Muniz and Jadson Andre completed the A-team that led to the first World Title for Brazil.
Seven years on, the Sao Paulo surfer is facing a little hurdle on his way to surfing greatness. Last season Miguel failed to stay in the CT's Top 22 and is now back to the proving grounds of the Qualifying series. The very first event of 2018 is now unfolding in Netanya, Israel, so we caught up with him about his current state of mind and aspirations for the season.
*WSL: You've been on the CT for a while, now off tour and full time back on the QS, what keeps you going?
Miguel Pupo "Well, I've done it before you know, re-qualifying through the QS. I thought it was going to be really hard to go back to smaller waves in beach breaks, but the past few days I've realized just how much I love surfing anything. I'll probably have to lose a few pounds to surf lighter but I love these conditions, that's what I grew up surfing."
I think it'll actually be good for me to miss it this year, when you're on tour for a while, you kind of forget how hard it is to get there.
You're also traveling to smaller events with younger guys from Brazil, does that change the way you tackle competition?
"Definitely, I'm here in Israel with three other guys, all under 18. They're sort of putting me on a pedestal, but I'm trying to show them that we're exactly the same, I was in their shoes and it's the work and efforts I put in that got me where I am."
"I definitely feel like I'm the older brother. They want to surf all the time, they'll just eat bread all day and pizza at night and I'm laughing cause I was just like them a little while ago. My main message is don't waste your energy but rather put it in a heat. After you lose it doesn't matter, you can enjoy yourself, go party or do whatever you like, but until then just focus on your job of making heats."
Speaking of being the older brother, your little brother Samuel is starting to make a name for himself. Are you helping him out or letting him do his own thing?
"I'm going to be traveling with him this year, he's 17 now and it's probably going to be his first full year so I want to help him out like the older guys did it for me. He signed with Rip Curl for another three years and they really want to focus on him, that's a big deal for us to have a Brazilian as number one in an Australian brand. Hopefully the both of us make the tour next year, that way they lost a Pupo but got back with two!"
You also recently became a dad, how did that affect your career?
"When I first made the tour I was only 18, and I wasn't focused at all, just having fun all the time, luckily I was good enough to keep my spot every year. The last few years, people have started asking me questions like ‘you've been here for a while and not winning anything,' so like basically what are you doing there? That's when the pressure hit me and I realized I had to do something. Being a dad helped me channel that and made me more responsible, I now have to care for a family, a house, a wife and kid."
So we're early 2018 and you're starting your re-qualifying effort in … Israel ? How did that come about and what did you expect coming here?
"I've never been here in Israel and it's an amazing country, I look forward to exploring it a little bit, but definitely after the comp! Coming here I thought it would just be a lot of guns in the streets and things would be messy, because that's the only side of things you see in the news. I couldn't be more wrong, everything's well organized, people speak English everywhere and I was surprised with the waves too, they're super fun."
With 3,000 points up for grabs at the Seat Pro Netanya pres by Reef, this week won't exactly be a make-or-break deal for Miguel but a great way to kickstart his season.