By any measure -- including his own -- Jesse Mendes's first ever-ever contest as a member of the WSL Championship Tour (CT) didn't quite go as planned. At the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, the first event of the 2018 season, Mendes lost by a hair to fellow rookie Wade Carmichael in Round 2.
Yet, following the event, Mendes was optimistic about how his year began and his chances at CT stop No. 2, the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. Along with starting the next phase of his career this year, Mendes is also traveling full-time with his girlfriend, CT surfer Tatiana Weston-Webb. Before the Bells event gets going this week, this was his take on his rookie debut, road life with his partner, and his mindset moving forward.
World Surf League: As your rookie debut on the CT, how would you say this event went for you? Jesse Mendes: My results didn't go that well, but I felt pretty good, I felt like I surfed well, I just had a few mistakes. And it cost a lot. Yeah, I felt like my surfing was very good in the event, before and during, but there were a few rookie mistakes.
Were you nervous? After all these years, you have finally made it to the CT -- how did you feel when you got there?
Actually, I thought I would be more nervous, and that's why I thought my surfing was on point. I was actually maybe even over-confident, which is why I went too big on one of the waves. But, I lost track in the second heat, in the middle of it. I should have refocused and started over, reset and rethought what I should have done. But I felt very good, very light. When I'm nervous, my legs feel heavy. And I felt very good in this event. Obviously, I had all the butterflies in my stomach going into the heat, with the crowd there. Normal stuff, but I thought I was going to get way more nervous, I was concerned.
But you never know until you're in the moment.
After your heat, do you through everything with your coach? How do you analyze it, and then move on to the next thing?
I have my coach here to get his opinion from it and improve my surfing -- my coach is Paulo Kid, he's been with me since I started surfing. We have a very good relationship. He knows me very well, and I know him very well. So, usually the surfer already knows the mistake, but it's good to get reminded, and to have someone there to put you back in the game and refresh. You have to refocus. So we go through things, always. And even after the event finishes, we go through it a little more. Why I did this, or made those decisions. He gives his opinion.
You're of course coming in with a whole group of rookies from Brazil, and joining a handful that have been on it for a few years. Why do you think there's big group of you now?
Our generation, this one that is in right now, we had very strong amateur careers. We had a strong contest [structure], back-to-back, non-stop all year long. That made everyone develop a lot. Even [2014 World Title winner] Gabriel Medina, [current CT surfer] Filipe Toledo, [former CT surfer] Miguel Pupo -- they're all part of this as well. We grew up having so many competitions, and it developed us so much. SO that's why I think we have a big group of strong competitors on Tour right now, because of that base.
It's kind of bad right now, the amateur competitions in Brazil -- there are still a few, but not many -- but now they have a lot of guys to look up to, especially online.
Is that because of the economic downturn in Brazil? Is there less support?
I'd say there's less support, but the Brazilian Federation is going through a hard time, in my opinion, too.
Coming in with such a big group, does that impact how you feel coming into the CT in terms of comfort or familiarity?
Yeah, it's cool to have everyone on it, it was everyone's dream growing up, we all wanted to be on here, on the world tour. We dreamed about that, and would always say, ‘We hope we're there together.' And most of us actually made it. So, it's me, Gabe. Miguel -- I'm sure he'll come back -- Filipe as well, we all traveled together, to nationals and regionals [growing up]. We all had the same dream, we're all here now. It's pretty funny, it's seems like we're back in our amateur days.
Except, it's not amateur at all.
Yeah -- except that there's a lot of pressure.
You and Tati are of course on Tour together now, for the first time since you started dating almost four years ago. How are you figuring out to balance your relationship, traveling together, and your careers?
It's the first time that it's happening, so it's all new -- for me, not for her. It's new for her to have me there. We only used to have that on the QS [WSL Qualifying Series], which for her wasn't the same pressure that she has now. We stay together, but we're trying to understand the way the other works [professionally] and respect that. Like, ‘Oh you don't want to go surf now,' or, if I want to do it this way, that's fine. Because sometimes what works for me doesn't work for her, and vice versa. We're just trying to figure that out.
Like, maybe I need to go to the comp two heats before, but she needs to go five heats before. Little things like that. It's the same with people back home who have normal jobs, they all have different routines. At the same time, it's very good to have someone support you and be by you, and enjoy the road with you. That's the amazing part of it, enjoying it with someone so special. Not many people have that opportunity, so we're very blessed.
Are your parents coming out to any of your events?
My dad works, and it's very expensive, because Brazilian money is so bad. He has a business that makes any type of signs on windows or gates. But they're going to do Europe, with my mom, and Portugal, and the Saquarema [Rio] event. So those three. I'm trying to get them to come to Hawaii, too, but we'll see.
I have a brother, who's here. He does the QS as well. He just turned 20 and basically just started doing the QS this last year, but doesn't have a sponsor. He's young still, and learning how things work. He's very talented.
What's next, and how are you feeling about Bells?
I'm very excited for Bells, because it's such a special event, there's so much history behind it. Everyone talks about how they play the music before the contest starts when it's on, and you get to the point and see the waves breaking, it's an amazing wave. It's a special place for a surfer. I'm looking forward to it, I feel like it's a wave that fits my surfing well, and I have good boards under my feet, so everything's looking good.