"I'm not going to lie, there's extra pressure and it is always hard to focus on the heat," Michael Bourez said after his Round 1 win at the Tahiti Pro Teahupo'o. "With all the local interest and the cheering from the channel. However I've been doing it for ten years now. I'm used to it."
The 27-year-old is recognized by professional peers and local chargers as one of the best ever at Teahupo'o. Just a week before the competition started Bourez again proved his pedigree in the biggest swell to hit the famous reef break this year. Yet oddly his competitive record at the break is poor. Since joining the CT in 2009, Bourez has never made it as far as the Quarterfinals. Not only have the results been frustrating for Bourez and the local fans, but the lack of success here has been a major stumbling block in his sustained quest for a World Title.
With Round 3 around the corner, Bourez will be contemplating the best way to reconcile his poor competitive return with the affinity he has for Teahupo'o.
Finding that balance is obviously difficult. Even over the next 48 hours for example he will be grateful for the much needed time at home with his parents, friends, wife and children. For a surfer who travels nine months out of the year, any time at home is precious. When that home is a Polynesian paradise, perhaps even doubly so. On the flip side, focusing on the next heat for the current World No. 8 is paramount.
There are also extra pressures that come with being the sole Tahitian surfer on the Championship Tour. Over the years Bourez has played a key role in taking care of many of his Tour colleagues when they come to compete in Tahiti. The generosity of Bourez is legendary, but the time and effort required, from airport pick ups to lineup advice, could have consequences when it comes to contest preparation.
Another factor in his poor competitive return might be something simpler, yet far more intangible. "I really feel he needs some luck," says Joel Parkinson. "Sometimes he can be so unlucky. Often he can be the best surfer in a freesurf and the best surfer in the early rounds and then something happens beyond his control."
From the outside it seems like a complex set of problems that Bourez needs to solve as he waits for his next heat. Yet Bourez seems certain to stick to his Tahitian roots and stay true to himself.
"I don't really think about the result, I'm just trying to have fun, keep surfing and get barreled," he said after his Round 1 win, before flashing his all too familiar grin. After a ten-year wait, a few lays days at home in paradise is still a blessing. With that attitude and a bit of luck, 2018 could be the year that Bourez and Tahiti finally get the result his talent deserves.
Watch the Tahiti Pro Teahupo'o live daily August 10-21 on Worldsurfleague.com, app and Facebook.