Michel Bourez’s contribution to the evolution of backhand tuberiding.
Over the last couple of decades, backhand tuberiding has been steadily evolving. From its humble, rail-groped beginnings, the pig-dog has morphed into an art form where all manner of body parts are routinely jammed into the wall in order to score more tube time, from the fundamental leading hand to the front knee to the full-on booty drags of Jamie O, JJF, the Irons Bros and the like. Now Michel Bourez has added another variation of the backside tube-stall to the equation, and boy, didn’t it catch us off guard when he unveiled it.
Needing a 7.97 in the latter stages of his first round heat at the Outerknown Fiji Pro, the sturdily-built Tahitian pulled into a Cloudbreak screamer and then proceeded to slow down for the second section by … wait for it … lifting his back foot off the board and dragging it deftly along behind him. It was bold, ballsy and way out of left field, and not only did it earn him another few seconds behind the curtain, but a 9.17 and the win to go with it. It also left the newly aligned commentary duo of Ronnie and Rosie fairly well gobsmacked.
‘What was that? stammered the Ron-Dogster upon witnessing Bourez’s unusual feat (or foot). ‘I am just speechless right now,’ replied Rosie, clearly lying.
They weren’t the only ones tripping. I, too, was left wondering what the hell had just happened. It was so different at a time in our sport when everything is so radical yet so homogenous. It was like some kind of soully, expressionistic 70s manoeuvre made functional by an elite athlete. And where did it come from? Was is it just instinct and reaction? A secret weapon the Spartan’s been developing at home at Chopes? Had anyone ever done it before?
I emailed Michel, and with good-natured stoke and grace, he explained the intricacies behind his unconventional choice of stall.
‘I actually did it naturally. I was going full speed so I needed to stop as quick as I could to make the second section,’ he said. ‘I’ve actually been doing it at home for years surfing by myself or with my brothers. I remember when I was a kid hearing stories of surfers doing it in other islands of French Polynesia.’
So there you have it, something old, something new, something borrowed etc. Bloody cool, either way, and something I hope we get to see more of when competition resumes at the famed Fijian lefthander.
A couple of post scripts.
Keen observers of the webcast will recall Ronnie referencing 90s Gold Coast tube-hound Neal Purchase Jnr in the froth-fest that followed Bourez’s 9.17. Purchase Jnr of course being a goofy-footer who literally spent years parked inside barrels on the Gold Coast points, refining his pig-dogging efforts to such a level that his name has become almost synonymous with the form. Well, I thought I’d email him too, ask him for his take on Bourez’s foot-drag and whether he’s ever experimented with such a technique. Always elusive, his reply was simply: ‘It was a gnarly stretch!’ Which could mean anything, but given the kind words he wrote on Bourez’s Instagram post of the said stall, one gets the sense the Gold Coast guru was indeed a fan.
Interestingly, too, Bourez said in his reply to my email: ‘You should try it. It’s pretty easy!’
Which, again, could mean anything. The world’s best aren’t exactly great judges of what’s easy for the rest of us.