It's a lazy Wednesday in paradise, Michael, what have you been up to?
Had a quick surf out at Cloudy but it was a waste of time. There won't be anything out there until the new swell hits.
What are you hearing about the swell later in the week?
I'm hearing mixed reports. I think everyone wants to talk it up and get it massive. All the big wave dudes are coming.
Who are you hearing is on their way?
Mark Healey, Greg Long, Peter Mel, Hippo [Ryan Hipwood.]
Those guys don't show up by accident.
I still dunno about the swell. It'll be big, I'm just not sure how big. I'll wake up Friday morning and check it out.
It's like a repeat of four years ago when the contest was on here.
It is for sure. When Laird [Hamilton] and Koby [Abberton] and those guys showed up for that big swell in the middle of the contest. That was epic. But I don't know. If it's going to be that big it'll be amazing.
If you got the right conditions, anything that resembled that bluebird day they had here last year, do you think they'd put heats out at Cloudbreak? How big would it have to be before they sent you into Restaurants? Where would they draw the line?
That's the thing. In the past we'd just go straight to Restaurants when Cloudbreak got big. Whereas now I think it's a different realm. I think it'd still be considered surfable when it got that big. You could have hour-long heats. The definition of surfable has changed. I don't know where they're going to draw the line. The thing is, if you're on tour, you'd have to go if it got that big. No qualms.
Would you be happy to surf a heat at 12-foot plus Cloudbreak?
I'd be happy if I made it and if I lived. But the other thing to remember is you've got some of the best watermen in the world on the skis. That changes it. I remember the first year Bruce and Andy surfed the Eddie they said, with all that water safety you've got to go. It's the best opportunity to surf waves like that safely. I'd prefer to surf a day like Cloudbreak last year than what we surfed at Teahupoo last year in the contest. It'd be more forgiving. Maybe…
What will it take for a backsider to win this thing (with the exception of you know who (KS))?
Shit, I dunno. It's almost changed now. A lot of backsiders won the other day and I think that forehand versus backhand thing is a lot different now than what it was when we were back here years ago. It's different. Backside we were riding longer boards and you just couldn't fit in the wave. Personally I was like, shit, do I pull in here? Do I do a turn? I just didn't feel confident, whereas now I feel like I'm more confident than I've ever been in barreling lefts. I think the way backsiders move in the barrel now has evened it up a lot with the goofies. Then you throw in that freak John John and it feels a lot different to what it used to be like for sure—a lot more even.
How much did the Tour need this event? And, how much did it need this event to get waves?
I think it's great to be back here. You know, out of all the years on Tour, some of my best memories have been from staying on this island.
And some of the best stuff you've forgotten too.
True. But it brings everyone together this event, sitting here on the island telling stories. And you tend to mix in different groups, you spend a lot of time with guys you normally don't spend time with. Once you're on Tour in other places, everyone scatters. So that's a really good plus, having that camaraderie. I think that's a really cool thing. And coming here is great after the year we had last year—which some people thought was a really bad year. But all that drama created excitement. With all the beachbreaks on Tour now it's great to be back here and surfing this place. I remember my first year on Tour, and this South Pacific leg was so exciting. They're the waves you signed up for.
And you got to Fiji a week early and scored.
Yeah, we got pumping waves. Before we went to Brazil, Ace [Buchan] said, "What do you reckon about going to Fiji a few days early?" So I emailed Scotty [the owner of Namotu Island] and asked if there was any room on the island and we got lucky. The first day in was incredible—best I've ever seen here. Far out, the first five hours of the morning was just one barrel after another. And there weren't that many people here either. It was great to relearn it, because it is such a tricky wave. It's way harder to surf than it looks. But I've settled into island life pretty good.
What's the secret to surfing that wave well. Have you got your head around it?
I won't say yes, because then I'll have a shocker, but I think it's just patience and being patient on the wave. If there's a barrel, pull in, and if there's a turn section just hit it. But you have to be patient and let the wave present itself. If you rush it, the wave at Cloudbreak can make you look pretty bad, pretty quick. But that patience works for a few waves on Tour. Bells is a classic example.
Is there one guy left in the field who might surprise us?
There are a lot. I reckon Kelly and Joel have really hard heats with Freddy [Patacchia] and Mitch [Coleborn]. In barreling waves Freddy is one of the gnarliest guys. Of course the Hobgoods are just incredible here, and the way Ace surfed last week was incredible as well. I dunno. Who's not gnarly on Tour these days?
How are you feeling personally about your year on Tour and where you are on the ratings?
There are a fair number of people up the top of the ratings at the moment. For me, I'm not as serious with it all as I once was. I came into the year trying to be a lot more relaxed about it, but the first event I had an absolute brain fade. I lost and I was walking down the beach thinking, “what am I doing?” Just freaking out. You can't force yourself to relax. It has to happen organically. I think I had a lot of old habits going on from previous years on Tour and that loss at Snapper was a good wake up call. I wanted to change a bunch of things on Tour but then freaked out in the first event and went back to the old way. Losing was the slap in the face I needed.
It worked. [Mick won the next event at Bells]
It worked. My boards are really good and my body feels up for it, but mentally I'm way more relaxed and happy with life.
I'd be worried if you weren't happy with life out here on the island.
It's funny, I was speaking to Kaiborg [Kai Garcia] about it this morning and he asked how I was, and I said having that break at the end of last year was so good for me. And he said people don't realize it's actually bloody hard. It's not shoveling mud for a living but it comes with a lot of stresses. And when you're stressed out for 10 years, something has to give.
On that note, how hard is it to remember you're actually at a contest when you're here on the island? It's more like a surf trip.
That's the beauty of it. You can switch off pretty easily between your heats. You can go fishing, play ping-pong, talk shit with your mates. The NBA finals are on, so there are a lot of ways to switch off here, which is a really good thing. And that's the secret to the Tour: being able to switch on and off. If you can't switch off, you burn out.
Check out highlights from Mick’s Cloudbreak warm-up here.