J-Flo knows how to place a pie in the Chopes oven at any size. Photo: ASP/Robertson
A guide to mini-Chopes, with Jeremy Flores
He's so Frenchy, so chic, so opinionated and so excellent. Last year at the Billabong Pro, Teahupoo, Jeremy Flores regained the love of everyone in surfing (after a brief hiatus) by putting himself in some very unsafe situations, of which he emerged all rosy and glorious. I refer, of course, to the perfect 20-point heat total, which led to an Andy Irons award and praise from all angles.
Jeremy's run in the 2012 Chopes event has thus far been kinda decent. In round one he beat Freddy P, but lost to CJ Hobgood (who Jeremy says he least likes to draw out there). Then in round two, he eliminated a just-returned Dusty Payne with 17.50 points. Since Jeremy spends so much time in Tahiti every year, and since the swell outlook is rather dull at present, Stab figured he'd be the man to provide a small wave Chopes guide for us.
Stab: How does big Chopes differ from little Chopes?
Jeremy: Obviously when it's bigger it's heavy water, because after the reef it goes really deep straight away, so it's a huge amount of water that explodes on the reef, which is why it's so hollow and so gnarly, and the lip is so thick. But when it's smaller it's not like that, it's more like a perfect barrel. The way the wave turns in the barrel, it's pretty similar when it's small to when it's big. When you're inside the barrel, you kinda have to take a line that's pointing to the land.
Are the west bowls still the best ones? I think when it's small, there's way more potential to go deeper. You can go into the shallow, deeper part of the reef, which is more hollow. I think that's how some guys were getting big scores. I got this one wave in one of my heats, I didn't come out, but that thing was so perfect. It was so hollow, and it wasn't a west one, it was a deep one. I think the west ones are gnarly when it's big, but not when it's smaller. In my second round heat against Dusty, I got two waves that were more west, so they were more like long, easy barrels. But the one that Dusty got, it was a lot more hollow because he took off deeper. His barrel was way more gnarly, way more hollow and way more difficult than mine.
Who's at an advantage when it's small like this? When it's smaller, the goofy-footers have an advantage, but when it's bigger, I think the natural-footers have the advantage. When it's bigger, on your frontside you have to make the takeoff and then kinda do a bottom turn into the barrel, but backside you pretty much drop straight into the barrel. But when it's smaller, the barrel is tighter and it's more tricky, which is easier if you're goofy. You can really drag you arm straight away, then readjust your speed in the barrel.
What kinda turns do you wanna be aiming for when it's that small? If it's the size it was on the first two days of the event, I wouldn't bother doing a turn. But, I'm sure a guy like John John is gonna do a backflip or whatever, and I think that's the only way you should be getting points (outside the barrel). Doing turns when there's hollow barrels? It's sick if you get a good barrel then after you come out, do a big roundhouse cutback in the shallow end of the wave. Like, I remember Andy (Irons) doing that, coming out of a barrel and doing the sickest, driving carve, then hitting the lip. I don't think anyone else can do them like that. That should be rewarded. But in general, unless it's a big air, I don't think most turns should be rewarded well out there.
It's not the Chopes we all hope for, but so far we've seen perfection by the standards of most other spots. Knowing how good Teahupoo can get, and knowing how good it was last year during the event, I mean, from my memory, I don't think any event has gotten as critical or dangerous as it did last year. So, it's always a bummer not to get the same waves, because it's so special – you can get the kinda wave in a heat that you'd remember for your whole life – but then Teahupoo at four or five feet, it's still a perfect barreling wave. Everyone would say the same thing. Out of every event we have on the world tour, even four foot Teahupoo is still the best.
It's unfortunate that it's not the same this year, but does it make last year all the more special? For sure. Last year was really special because there were some crazy, perfect big barrels, but some heats weren't even perfect, it was just dangerous. Just stupid dangerous. That's what makes it so special. People will remember that event for a long time. But it's hard, that's the way mother nature goes. We all hope to get it the same size, but I don't think it would be special if the swell was like that every year.
Who d'you think's gonna win it? Anything can happen at this size at Teahupoo. Nowadays, everyone's so good in the barrel, everyone has such good technique and is really technical inside the barrel. Even the top five surfers who were always the favourites before, I think nowadays they're nowhere near as far in front of the pack. The person who's 25th in the world right now could win this event. It's competition, so strategy comes into it, but technically speaking, anyone can win at Teahupoo, I think. – Elliot Struck