What if there were no Americans on the WCT? That’s what happened to Europe when they lost Great Britain’s Russell Winter in 2000. Over the next here years, several names would arise as being most likely to take up the continent’s cause — Portugal’s Tiago Pires, France’s Mickey Picon, everyone except the one surfer to finally succeed. Meet Eric Rebiere, a two-time European champ and 25 year-old Frenchman who, outside his backyard and the WQS, is known for one thing: being completely unknown.
[Conducted on the North Shore over two pre-noon Budweisers as Rebiere inspected a quiver of new Maurice Coles.]
SURFING MAGAZINE: What’s interesting about you is a lot of people aren’t familiar with you. At least in America?
Who is this guy?! Where’d he come from?! [laughs]
Well . . ?
Well, I’m half Brazilian, half French, in fact. My father’s French and my mother’s from Brazil. My father moved to Brazil 40 years ago, met my mother and I was in Brazil until 17 and then I move to France. It was good for me to grow up in Brazil.
Was it easier in Europe or harder?
The thing is there’s a lot of good surfers in Brazil and not many in Europe. Like there’s good surfers, but not many like in Brazil. Like maybe ten good surfers that could make the tour. In Brazil it’s a lot. But I think that in France, there aren’t many but they have really good support. They surf better waves, they have more permission to do the tour. We are not many in Europe, but we have good sponsors
When did you know you were going to make it this year?
Well, I got 2nd in Durban, a second in Newquay, a quarters at home, but it was in Japan I go over 8000 points, and that's when I was like, ‘oh, that’s good.” [laughs]
Describe what it’s like doing the WQS. Is it just one bad event to the other?
F–k. I hate small wave shit. I think everyone — well, maybe not everyone. Maybe when I was young I’d like it small because I spent so much time in Brazil surfing shitty waves. But now I spend all winter in Hawaii, and you prefer bigger waves. Maybe not big, big, big, but eight- to ten-foot I think is the best for everyone. What changed this year so you made the tour?
I think that I didn’t have pressure. My sponsor was not like, “you have to do this.” And I put in my head that, “If I don’t make it, I’m still doing what I want, and what I like. So if I don't make the tour, I still come here to Hawaii and surf big waves with my friends and pull into some barrels.” I do what I like, whether or not I make it on the tour. But for France it’s really great. Europe had Russell Winter before me, but for France it’s really great because we have big companies there. For a long time we don't have anyone anymore on the tour. We have big companies, a big economy, big surfing, and we don’t have anyone to say, “That guy’s from here.” And it’s weird. Everyone coming there knows we have good waves, good everything, and no surfer on the ‘CT. It’s weird for us. It’s like “F–k, why you don’t make?”
But I know Haleiwa is going to be good waves. And I figure all the media around the world is here too. Couple guys see that a surfer is not Australian, or American or Hawaiian, he doesn’t surf big waves good, so for us we do it to show everyone around the world that we can do it. Like Didier Piter is a really tubie rider, is someone people know is good. Tiago Pires has gotten good result here too. But I want to show the world that I can do good in big waves. For me. Not for anyone, for me. Not for my sponsor, for me. I want people say, “F–k he’s doing good in good conditions.” [laughs]
Is that part of the allure of the ‘CT? Being able to prove yourself at Pipe, Cloudbreak , Teahupo’o . . .
F–k, that’s all I want to do. I’ll be flying out, I’ve got a couple friends in Tahiti and I’m going to go out a month before and hang out with the boys there and have fun and if I could get big result.
You know Danilo Costa? He got third last year. I know him very well. And he stayed there one month and he said go before. Because guys like Andy and Kelly, they don't’ need it. Just has it in his blood, you know? They know any wave is going to do like this or that, they know how to put inside. But if you didn’t grow up in Hawaii or come here young, you should come before. For me, I think I need it. [laughs] So I go a month early to Tahiti, and Andy can go one night before. And he may do better than me.
The Brazilians, Australians, and Americans have a super tight support group. Is it tough not having the same push?
We have only a few guys. But we have a good unit. We’re together on tour. But you have a huge nation to surf, so we watch what you guys do and try to do a little bit the same, because you have more . .. more .. . know-how. And everything. So we just try to do the same, but in the end we can’t do the same. We must find a different way to do the same.
There’s a lot of good surfers can’t crack the ‘CT, what do you think ...?
Because the ‘QS! The ‘QS it f–k you! I think they should do the ‘QS in the same spots as the ‘CT. Like you do all these shitty waves,and then you do good waves? Why? They should do the ‘QS the week before the ‘CT. That’s the best thing to do. The guy who makes it in the ‘QS will have a good result on the ‘CT. Like Bruce said, the ‘QS hold surf like a monkey because it’s shitty, then only a monkey is going to make it. You change your surfing for the ‘QS to make it, and then you have to change your surfing for the ‘CT.
Are you happier to finally be surfing the ‘CT or to finally not be surfing the ‘QS?
Both! I’m happy to surf on the ‘CT. but I think I’m going to be surfing some ‘QS too. Because I never surf the ‘CT and I don’t know how I’m going to do this year. I think a guy like Bruce is going to make for sure. He’s like Andy, he grew up surfing good waves. He doesn’t need the ‘QS anymore. I don’t know. That’s what I told before. I need to do a different wave, I think the best way is to grow up in a wave like this.
So what’s your plan for making sure you don’t have to go through it again?
I heard there may be some 7-star ‘QS in some spots that are a little better. I think I’m going to do all these, and try to only go to the ‘QS for the Maldives, and here, and Europe, it’s home! [laughs] Just go there. My public and all my support is there, it’s good for me. I think it’s better to do both and then if I do good on the ‘CT I’ll stop doing the ‘QS.
What about next year? Do you have a strategy in place, or are there any waves or surfers you’re particularly worried about?
There are many waves that I don't’ know. Like Teahupo’o, I’ve never been there. Bells I’ve never been there. Fiji either. So those places I’d like to come a little bit before and see how it is. But I’ve been many, many times to Indonesia and here. And it’s a little bit the same. About boards you know. Because it’s so bad when you go to a place and you don’t know what boards to use. Like Teahupo’o, you’re not going to bring a fat board for Teahupo’o, you should bring a board like Pipe. But even, I go before. [laughs]
Is that where having a shaper like Maurice comes in handy? He probably knows these spots better than you do.
Oh yeah! This year I was in Australia, he said, I want someone in Europe and i want to help you prepare for good waves. I want you much go to Hawaii, I want you to progress. I said, perfect for me. And then he made different board for me. Some not too much on the rail, like –boom, boom, boom” like shit waves ‘QS. And then he do some boards more like rail, more carvin’, and channel a little more my surf. Which is good, because he’s putting his know-how to channel my surf. And that’s what I told him to, ‘I say, I’m going to somewhere. You know what to do” [laughs] I don’t be like, “F–k, what I’m going to use.”
Sounds like instead of having 20 guys in your corner, you’ve guy in every corner.
Yeah[laughs].. Like in Australia I have Maurice to support me there. In Tahiti, f–k, I have many, many Tahitian boys who I like and they like me. Every year they say, “Come home, come home, come home!” Now I’m going home. Now I’m really going home. [laughs] That’s cool. That’s cool to say home like everywhere.
There’s a guy here who did a long time the tour as a judge. And the was one of the guys who said, “F–k man, how you going to make the tour if you don’t go to Hawaii and stay? Hawaii is the place, it has the big waves, the best surf, everything. And if you want to do good, you should put Hawaii like your home too.” [pauses] F–k, yeah. [laughs] Maybe it’s not my home, but it should feel like a home.
Are you proud in some ways to be the first European on tour?
Ahhh, French. European was winter. I think that everyone was looking for more Mickey and then I made, I think it’s being weird for people in France. Like, f–k, how he make and Mickey doesn’t make?” But I think they can make too. I mean, maybe I can be stoked to be the first, but I don’t think I’m going to be the only one. Because they have everything to make: they’re surfing good, they’ve got money to do the tour, it’s not like they need results to have money. I’m stoked to be the first, but I think they gonna make too. I hope so.
Do you feel like a dark horse coming onto the ‘CT. do you think that’ll work to your advantage?
I think they doesn’t expect me that much because I did the European tour that was my focus. And then last year I decided to stay out the winter here in Hawaii and I decided to foucs more on the ‘QS. I think maybe staying in Hawaii you get stronger. You almost die many times [laughs]. You start thinking that anything can be possible. You get stronger. I think that’ s maybe why Andy and these Hawaiian guys are. They get so many good waves, they feel stronger to beat anyone. I think that’s what happens.
But do you think that. Let me put it this way: when Bruce has his first heat next year, anyone who draws them knows what to expect . .
Well, I think Bruce is going to have more pressure than me. Because everyone in the world knows Bruce and knows he’s surfing good. But the European media will be like “What’s going to do?” too. I don’t know. I hope they don’t watch me that much. [laughs]
Do you feel pressure from back home?
The only thing is I’m not going to be back home anymore. I don't think I go to France until June, from here. I don’t know what’s going to happen there, I don’t know if the magazine say, “Eric is going to beat someone” or not. I don’t know [laughs]. I’ll be okay, but it’s different when you’re home and it’s like, “Where you going tomorrow? F–kl, do good, huh?!” I’m not, I’m here in Hawaii, then I go straight to Australia and then I go so people cannot say, “Come on do something!” I just do it because I want to do it.
What about the the title? Are you thinking about it all?
I don’t know [laughs]. F–k, those guys on tour have so much know-how, I don’t know if I could beat them. I think I need to do the ‘CT before and know how it’s going on. Maybe next year you ask me and I say, ” I want to be world champ.” But I cannot say this today, because I don’t know what’s going to happen next year. I need training before and then say, if I change, I can be. How can you say you’re going to be world champion if you’ve never been to the place there is a contest.? [laughs] F–k, The only thing I want is to stay in the ‘CT. I do not want to do the ‘QS. . [laughs]. F—k it’s so bad. I just want to say on the ‘CT. I think everyone’s like this.
So how do you respond to all those people who say, “Who is Eric Rebiere?
Uhh, I don’t know. Just a French guy that wants . . . want to do good in the surf. Like want to become a really good surfer in good conditions. I don't want people saying that, “That guy grew up in Brazil, moved to France, and do some airs or some snaps.” I want them to say, “That guy have attitude. That guy know how to do.” That’s all I would like. — Matt Walker