Welcome to the 8th episode of the 5th series of our podcast.
Today with us, from France, four times European Champion and now surf coach, Didier Piter.
We discussed with him about surf, surf coaching, Olympic Games and much more!
You can find the episode in all major podcast platforms or read the transcribed version on our website!
(please forgive us of spelling mistakes)
TTOS: Aloha Didier, welcome to the show, where are you today?
I'm in Hossegor, it's pretty good, it's the end of the season here…. it's really back to a better rhythm, because the rhythm of summer was crazy without waves….and now it's like the reward of the hot season, good sessions, a lot of good time, what you call “La Dolce Vita” is right now for us in France.
TTOS: <Laugh> yeah, I mean for the Italians, the Dolce Vita is really not doing anything, you know, and I guess you are busy, you have good waves and you work a lot…..
I was actually coaching a cool guy from Italy, his name is Danilo La Mantia, he has a surf school in the Isola beach in Sicily, I was coaching him, even if he is a coach, but he's also a student…. we all should learn all our lives, you know what I mean? I like his approach, we never stop learning! We always grow, we've always a better wave and another wave and a better way to surf it…it's forever.
TTOS: It's forever, I agree with you….and we all deal with something that is the ocean that is unpredictable, you know, not like the surf pools where one wave is equal to the other one… we have to deal with unpredictable things.
that's, what's magic about it too. Huh? That's maybe the, the swimming pools will come to that level of creating surprise, creating uncertainty. I think that's the future of pools, you know, to be able to surprise a bit and put the surfers on that spontaneous mode and get the spontaneity of them, that would be amazing.
TTOS: In your opinion, what is the most important thing in surfing?
I think the wave, it is where all starts and that's where all ends, you know, it's the relationship with the wave, like in love, is the exchange with your partner.
I think, with the wave you have a lot of job, you need to understand, to feel , and it's the main actor of surfing, some people think they are the actors, they are the main guy, like surfers that have a lot of ego or something like that, but they are wrong……they have to put the wave in the priority of things if they want to be a good surfer.
TTOS: what is your relationship with the wave, how would you define it?
Oh, for me, it's a partnership for life, I think the ocean it's a true friend that I try to understand and I try to respect the maximum as I can and learn from it. I really love all the waves I try to love give unconditional love, you know, I don't try to, to say, ah, I prefer this wave of those waves, I really want to be adaptive, get the most of each situation and that's all with the edge, I try to evolve while I go surfing. I always try to find whatever I can take and there's always a presence that I can get from any condition… I'm into that state of mind now, I try to get very intimate with the ocean, try to understand it, even if I can't foresee the unexpected, but I can reduce for sure the uncertainty and anticipate on some things with the tides, the change, and as we become a better surfer, we can all learn how to anticipate on those little details and that's how you get more reward, more love from him… he can give you love too.
TTOS: The relationship with the wave is something that evolves together with the time, maybe when you are young, you want to catch every single wave and you have the power…..
That's natural, believe me, I wanna catch a lot of waves too, when you're a surf coach and you don't surf every day while watching the ocean, you still get some energy….you want surf. When I go surf, I get that that fire, I want to get those waves…. you have to become smart to get more waves and not miss any opportunity, there are so many opportunities missed when I'm on the beach and I watch that, I try to not miss them.
TTOS: What was your first proper surfboard and do you still have it?
Unfortunately, I didn't think to keep it at that time, I should have kept that one. It was about twin fin, Roger Cooper, he was a good shaper from the seventies probably, I remember exactly the board, it was trashed and it was for my brother….. there were no surfboards in Senegal, there was no surf shop. I watched that board for six months before I could even surf it, cause my brother didn't have another board, I could not surf it…. when the new Christmas arrived, he had a new board and I got this one, as I said, it was trashed, there was holes, there was water levels…every time I surfed, there was water in the board and I was making holes to empty it and fix it again. It was such a good board, twin fin. The twin fins gives you a lot of good feelings, it goes fast and it's wide, so forgiving.
TTOS: what was the most important moment of your career as a surfer?
Well, there are so many moments and I like all of them, it's really hard to say, I could say all the moments were good, but there was a special moment where I felt in the state of grace was in Teahupoo during a competition, I was really thinking…. that's when I pushed myself the most into heavy waves, you know, it was 10 to 12 feet in Teahupoo, it was the moment I wanted to be better, I was surfing Pipeline and trying to get waves, but it's really hard to get waves in pipeline , but then Teahupoo arrived and there was more room to get the right waves, the bombs, the heavy barrels and I really felt I wanted to go in that direction.
Finally, I got my opportunity, because I did the trials in Teahupoo, I got that wild card, the perfect day that I always waited came on the first round of the Tahiti Pro….. I said to myself “this is the day I'm gonna do it”, I didn't think about the competition. I just wanted my wave, my perfect 10 to end my road, my personal road as a barrel charger. I think I got a really heavy drop there, I almost got that 10 points.
I didn't get it, I got another wave 9.7 and you know, I really felt in a state of grace, like a hunter, you know, like an instinctive animal in that heat, I was watching waves, I was not scared….I was “this is the one” and I didn't pull back on any wave. I went big and I was really happy, I lost the heat because I went too big <laugh>, but it was really big moment….the state of the state of grace.
TTOS: we were talking about Teahupoo, Tahiti… 2024, the Olympic games will come to France, your country, how do you live this?
Actually, a lot of people are looking into going to Tahiti because it's a specific wave, you know, and there's not many waves that can reproduce the perfection and the power of Teahupoo. You have Pipeline, you have couple of similar waves, but not the same. A lot of people are gonna try and get to Tahiti to adapt, learn about the wave and really get confidence, because it's all about confidence. You see guys like Medina, for example, the first time he went there in one of the events …. you have to believe in your skills and be in that state of mind that really wants to do it. I'm sure some people are going to have a lot of problems, some of the competitors are going to have problems if it's big because you can't really cheat in those waves.
You have to go with your heart or you're not going to end up well, you know, we'll see what happens…. Definitely a lot of people that have the Olympic in the mind should go there and train and try to learn about the wave, learn about their equipment. The critical moment is the takeoff, be able to paddle into it and knife into the wave, then there's not really a lot of maneuvers involved, it's a takeoff and a line. You need to be there to understand “oh, it's gonna happen”. I'm gonna be training a lot of guys to go there, you know, and I think I'm thinking about one guy that I trained, Leon Glatzer, he's been in Olympics this year, he qualified, he was like an underdog, but he really believed in it and he made it.
I've seen him surf and paddle and the paddling is something really important for Teahupoo, the way you be able to paddle and be faster than that big mass, be faster to get into it.
TTOS: What would be your advice for surfing Teahupoo?
Go with your heart, don't think too much….
They are all going to be good surfers, it's about you know, that relationship with the wave, once again, you know, love the wave, try to love and respect the wave and go step by step to see how that relationship goes. You cannot cheat, you cannot go there and say,it's not gonna happen.
I think it's about you see the wave and to understand it and believe in your skills to surf it.
I think when you go back to it, as I told you, it's paddling, it's just a good paddle and an entry with a technique for that moment where you enter the wave. A lot of people have that confidence and they don't think too much in the moment, they have something inside of them, a kind of instinct of preservation…. if they're not a hundred percent, they will get stuck, they won't get inside, they will be late and they will go to the lips. It's really about something being intuitive, something inside you and you have to click it.
Difficult how to explain, really hard, but, I would say… loving the wave, trusting your skills and going step by step, you know, and into the main things that matter there.
TTOS: In your career, you met and train, you coach so many surfers, was there a meeting with one surfer that was particularly meaningful for you?
Yes, I would say there are three surfers that had a really good connection.
The first one was (x) Comar , he was a up and coming kid from Hossegor, I was the old champ (sort of) retiring and going into coaching. He was the one really willing to learn and I was willing to progress in my coaching skills, I think we did an unreal job and for some reasons we had to stop that job a bit earlier, when he was 16, because he went to Quiksilver and I was working with Volcom… stuff like that, you know, it was sad that it didn't go further, I think we could have gone further.
The second guy was William Angotti, he's a guy from Saint Martin, he was doing some rollers, so, and some wind, some motorbike when he was young, so not scared of jumping, when he came to surfing, he was just taking speed and jumping, really in advance for his time, he didn't have lines, didn't have the full bag of tricks….. we really connected and the way I see surfing, he really absorbed and I thought that it was a very good success to work together, we had a really good synergy.
The last one is my son, of course, because we have that relationship father and son, we've done so much together. Especially as a coach, I could see from the beginning, you know, all my mistakes and all my learnings, I could coach him from his first wave and this is a very precious thing. With all the right intentions, all the knowledge that I picked up…. that relationship was unreal, when you push your son like that and you see him grow, it's a very good reward. He's actually surfing really well today, I can say that we did a good job together!
You know, I wrote a book on surfing and I never put a chapter father and son and I think that's the thing I would like to write about, from the first wave to all the little details…it's so important actually,
TTOS: What is the most important thing in coaching?
For coaching? Yeah, the wave! <laugh>, of course. It's about putting the wave in the big picture. Once the wave is in the big picture, it's gonna give you all the answers. The key of coaching is to adapt to the level of the surfer, you have and put yourself in his level and project into the next level when you analyze… a lot of coaches think it's about themselves <laugh>, but I think it's not about the coach it's about the wave and it's about how to put the surf today to learn how to adapt. In every coaching session we are going to learn something, everyday there are different waves. I try to make him meet the wave and develop the relationship and give of course really good useful technical tips to get more into the understanding of the wave.
I usually proceed by this…. I full zoom, a wide angle, like a photograph on the wave, the understanding of the ocean today, where we are, what's happening, then I go on the lines of the wave, it's not the ocean, is the wave, and then the surfer, There are three levels of analyze, three levels of interaction, we try to work on that and correct any problem that puts the surfer away from the wave.
TTOS: I understand, I picture what you were talking about…. let's talk about the “Equipe de France” of surfing, a lot of young, upcoming talents … who, in your opinion, are the key of the future of surfing in France?
Right now we have Kauli Vaast, from Tahiti, he's a very, very talented focused surfer, he's been living in a preserved environment, you know, with his family, just surfing there and going to school with his father. The kid has a really good drive, a really good direction, and he has talent, and he has the love of Teahupoo, he is local there, he can take a lot of anxiety, he's got everything, he has got a very good maturity and confidence in him, I think he's one of the guys that we gonna count for sure, in the following years. And then we have other than that, there is the generation of my son, you know, Sam and then Killianga… those guys. I think there's a lot of potential there too, because they have a lot of information, they have a lot of opportunities given to them with the sponsors where they live and I think they can present a good progression.
TTOS: It's quite difficult today, you know, being a surfer on tour that competes… the sponsors are not like before….
Right, the industry really reduced everything, every help…. it's a problem, but in the end, the WSL also changed, it's only in Europe now, there's less traveling. I think there are a lot of surfers that need more help for that goal to go all the wave, you know, to the WCT. I remember when it was Leonard Fioravanti Quiksilver was sending him to every event, he was surfing with the best guys, and there was all that learning process that Quiksilver helped to build, nowadays the brands have to put money on the guys they believe in, you know, let's say Kauli, for instance, they should do the same with him, you know, put the maximum on the guy, if they believe can do it.
TTOS: You keep yourself very busy, right? a lot of a lot of things going on, do you have any future projects planned?
It has been on standby, but I've been working on wave pools, to really develop the next level of coaching and surfing as well for the kids. I can't go anymore to Texas, I used to go there every year since the beginning, I think I was the first coach to go there….I think it's super important to develop really clear projects as a coach and, of course, I wanted to develop a new version of my book, including the chapter of the father and sons and more progressive surfing as well. Surfing has evolved since I rode it in 2010, and I've learned a lot, you know, more practical things.
Now there are a lot of coaches that come to me and I really want to go on that level as well, to help the coaches develop some content.
I've been working with that Italian guy, but not only for his surfing, but for his coaching, we develop on a different view of the coaching and give him a practical key at practical tips. I think it's a road where I should go…be a coach of coaches because there's a lot of coaches now, I think that would serve something, I need to serve a purpose, that's something I could see myself, serve the surfing.
TTOS: we are going to finish our interview with a short Q/A session, please answer first team that comes up to your mind.
The best surfboard you ever ridden
It’s an Al Merrick by Rob Machado that he sold to me.
TTOS: Favorite shaper
I would say Eric Arakawa, he made me really good guns all along, he's a shaper from long time, he makes really good boards for Pipeline and Teahupoo.
TTOS: Personal question, your favorite song.
I don't really have a favorite song to tell you the truth, but I like I like the reggae vibes, you know, I think it comes from my childhood in Senegal and all my friends listening to reggae and my brother…
TTOS: Your favorite surf spot
Hossegor, in front of where I spend all my life coaching, butif you ask me in the world, I would say Teahupoo….
TTOS: favorite surfer of all times….
Andy Irons, no doubt about it.
He really brought to surfing free surf, he didn't adapt to the criterias, he kind of surfer and the criteria changed, he was the doing very unpredictable things, he was an unpredictable guy….he was doing airs, he had so much technical qualities, the surfing was just incredible….the style.
TTOS: Last question, your best relationship advice…..
The best relationship advice is to listen and adapt, if you wanna surf well, you have to listen to the wave and adapt to the wave. I think it's not about just you…it's about meeting points, it's about compromise with different things.