Hall is a real thorn in the side of opponents who would like to simply roll by lower-ranked or non-Tour surfers. But the competitive veteran proved stubborn at the most recent Tour stop, knocking out Michel Bourez (PYF) and having the highest single-wave score of the heat when he was, ultimately, beaten by 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater (USA).
Hall explains what all this means as he steps into stop No. 4 of 11 of the ASP World Championship Tour.
You had a strong showing at Bells Beach beating Michel Bourez (PYF) in Round 2 and putting together a strong performance against Kelly Slater (USA) in Round 3. How important was that outing in terms of your confidence?
I definitely took a lot of confidence out of Bells knowing I can still compete and make good decisions under pressure. I think that was the biggest positive for me. I surfed a good smart heat against Michel, then gave myself a chance against Kelly. I just needed another set at the end of the heat, but it didn't come. There were some great positives in there, but I'm not getting carried away. I only made Round 3. But I'm far from 100 percent so I suppose as my back keeps improving my results can improve too.
With one event down, do you feel like you have a little momentum going into Rio?
I wouldn't say I have a great deal of momentum but I am going into the event more confident than I did at Bells. I still have a lot of improving to do in terms of fitness, strength and flexibility, which obviously relates to surfing better. But I'm moving forward and hope to improve with each event.
Now that you have a few heats under your belt, how is your back feeling? What's your warmup process like to get your back loose for a heat?
It's still sore. I just had some cortisone injections in the joints in my back so hopefully they work to release some pain. It was real hit and hope down at Bells. I went into the event having no idea how I would hold up. I had been surfing a little bit but hadn't really been pushing it much at all. I had about four freesurfs down at Bells in the days leading up to event then didn't freesurf once the rest of the time I was there. I pulled up pretty sore after Round 1 which was strange considering I only caught a few waves and then in Round 2 I was more active and pulled up okay. It's weird.
At Bells I was really trying to take it all in and learn what worked for me. How to warm up best, how to warm down, how much I can freesurf. My heat with Michel was the first heat of the day so it was hard to get moving. I got up at 4 a.m. to stretch, go through my exercises, and loosen up. I just have to be more strict with my preparation and warm up routine these days.
The alternate position definitely puts you in tough draws in the early rounds. This year, you've got little bit of a rematch against Joel Parkinson (AUS) and then Jeremy Flores (FRA) in Round 1. How do you approach those opening heats against a top seed?
The alternate spot isn't anything like having a permanent spot on the Tour for the year. You end up with a low seed and because you haven't surfed all the events and you are always behind on points. So it's definitely harder to breakthrough. I don't really have a set way to approach the top seeds other than to try to have good wave selection. I try to be in good waves to maximize my opportunities.
You had a standout performance in Rio last year, taking your Round 1 win over Julian Wilson (AUS) and Travis Logie (ZAF) and then beating Parko in Round 3. What do you think it is about Rio that allows you to shine?
Last year in Rio I felt like I had go the ball rolling when I got ninth and beat a few top seeds. That result got me in a better position on the ratings to give me a better seed for the rest of the year. Obviously the ball hit a brick wall in the next event in Fiji.
Rio is a tough place to surf, it's wobbly and backwashy and lots of different options in the lineup. I like it when it's like that. The harder the better. It's hard for everyone and I feel like if you look closely and study the waves you can sometimes see something that others aren't.
What's it going to take to post another strong result in Brazil again this year?
I'm just going to keep learning what works for me physically as far as my back goes. I'm getting to Brazil four days early to loosen up after the flight and try to be as prepared as possible. I'm just trying to do all the little things really well to make up for what I'm lacking. Be well prepared, confident in my equipment, make good decisions, just be on top of all the things I can control.