The New Normal: Michel Bourez On Getting Prison-Ripped And Why He Willingly Forwent Perfect Teahupo'o
"The WSL should try to fit as many events as possible in the back half of the year. Because this is work for us. This is our job. We all need to make money.”
Michel Bourez is a mountain of a man, chiseled from Polynesian lava rock and with a stunning smile to boot.
For these reasons and more, he's also extremely well-respected in his community, which is how Michel was able to convince all the frothing locals to forgo the first major swell of the year Teahupo'o due to the coronavirus.
A few days back, we caught up with Michel to hear how things are going in Tahiti and what he's been up to during his time in quarantine.
My girlfriend—a zealous proponent of power surfing and therefore Michel—was in the room when I recorded this interview, and she said that it made her like Michel even more. This would be extremely concerning if she wasn't legally stuck with me some 10,000 miles away from Tahiti for the foreseeable future.
Never thought I'd say this, but thank you bat-eater-guy for the plague!
Onto the chat.
Stab: Hey Michel, can you give me an idea of what it's like in Tahiti right now?
Michel Bourez: Last I heard, there are 25 people that got infected by the virus. That’s the ones we know of. So everybody's stuck in the house and we're not allowed to, you know, just cruise or go outside and stuff. We have to stay home and take one for the team—is that how you say it? Yeah, we have to take one for the team to protect the members of our community, particularly those who are a little older.
So basically we’re only allowed to go to the grocery store, and only one person from each family. Or if you should have another person that you take care of, like your parents or whatever, you're allowed to go to their home. Or if you're split with your wife, you’re allowed to go get the kids and stuff. But that's it.
You have to have the paper with you and an ID wherever you go. So whenever the cops stops you, you can give them proof that you’re supposed to be out of the house.
Got it. Sounds pretty intense. Are these French laws being placed upon you, or did Tahiti make these decisions on their own accord?
This is basically like a French way to sit and do to do it, but our government made the final decision to implement these rules. I think it should be this way worldwide though. We are currently in stage three right now, so we still can move a little, but if we go to stage four, the government said we would not be allowed to go anywhere. We’d just stay in the house.
Right. Okay. Got it. And I saw your Instagram post about not surfing Teahupo’o on the first swell of the season. Very mature of you. Did anybody go surfing that day?
Uh, I don't think so. Maybe one or two guys, but most of the locals that I talked to all agreed to stay home
Was that before you were officially on lockdown?
Yeah. A day before. We didn't know it at the time when I put the message out…that we would be in quarantine two days later.
So what made you make that decision?
Basically, it’s just about being conscious and taking the disease seriously. On a good day at Teahupo’o, with all the taxi boats and stuff, there’d be more than a hundred people out there. We know that. So to me as a surfer, I didn't want to be the guy that brings that many people out. But it’s hard because…we want to get big waves. Like the waves were pumping, as good as it gets. And it’s been so long since we’ve had those kinds of waves, but I knew not going out was the right decision. I didn't want to bring anybody from town ‘cause there's a lot of tourists that go there during that time, and I didn't want to bring the virus here, you know?
Does that mean nobody in the little town at the end of the road has the virus?
No, not from what I heard.
Well, that's great to hear! So who are you quarantining with?
Just my family—my wife and my two kids.
What have you guys been doing to occupy your time?
I've just been, uh…it's crazy. You know with my job I’m always traveling, and you always tell yourself, ‘Oh I'm going to do this one day,’ you know, but now you have time to do it. And, there's so many things do around the house. So I’ve been using this time to rebuild, fix some things, and make the house nicer. And, and you know, just work on the business life too. Like for the future. I have so many ideas that I didn't have time to put on paper, and now I actually have time to do it, which is great. So I use this time for that. But we also teach our kids and give them lessons from school, for three or four hours every day. Which is great for them, so they don't get lost when they go back to class.
And what have you been doing to keep your body moving? Are you maintaining some sort of workout regime?
Yeah, yeah. Every day. At least an hour and a half minimum. I've been doing some cardio, some stretching, strength training, I do workouts with my wife too. It all depends on what I’m feeling that day.
What have you been eating mainly?
We’ve been eating really healthy. We’ve been cooking at home with a lot of veggies and a lot of fruits for the kids as well. You know, I want them to be strong. I want their immune systems to be strong. I don't want them to be sick during this time. So, yeah. More fish, less meat.
Can you still go fishing?
No, we not allowed to. Only the fishermen are allowed to go fishing.
And what would you say are the three non-food essentials for the quarantine with your family?
The wifi, for sure that [laughs], then just electricity and happiness. Yeah, that's it.
So obviously you’ve heard that the Olympics have been postponed. How do you feel about that?
I feel it's great. I kind of knew that they were going to do that, ‘cause the athletes are not prepared. You know, they’re gonna lose months of training because of quarantine. Just staying at home for two weeks, they lose so much. Not only surfers, but all the athletes. If you want to be 100% going into the Olympics, like we do, you will need more time to prepare, you know? So that's a good thing.
As for the World Tour, do you think that they're going to be able to run any events this year? Should they?
I'm pretty sure they're gonna run a few events. I think the WSL should try to fit as many events as possible in the back half of the year. Because this is work for us. This is our job. We all need to make money. Like, find a place where we can run three contests in a row. I'm willing to do that, you know, like, just spend time overseas.
Can I get you to tell me your average daily screen time on your phone?
Wow. Wow. That's a lot. ‘Cause I watch movies on my phone too, you know, so it's maybe, let's say like, I'm not gonna lie, maybe at least five hours.
If you could do this whole quarantine over again, what would you have done differently?
I would have bought more training gear.
Like...for like working out?
Yeah. Yeah. Just get prison ripped [laughs]. We’re already locked up anyway.