Photo: Greg Panas

Tituoan Puyo leading the pack at the 2015 ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championships in Sayulita, Mexico. Photo: Greg Panas

Core Commentary | Titouan Puyo

Age: 24 | New Caledonia

Titouan Puyo was born on a small island in the South Pacific and lived on a boat sailing the world in his early, formative years. That's why the New Caledonian has made such an impact in downwind and distance: he was raised reading the water. He’s won both distance races at the French National Championships and the ISA Worlds (2014) and put on strong performances during the Euro Tour this summer. Still, he'd drop everything to surf a deserted reef pass near home with his friends.

Talk about New Caledonia.
I live near a beautiful lagoon on the World Heritage list. It offers a great playing field. The trade winds are always blowing so downwinders are easy to organize, safe and super-consistent. The coast is almost in the same axis as the wind. Surfing is more complicated but really good. There are passes with a right- and a left-hand break, but far away from the coast. There's only one beach break, two-hours drive from the capital city, Nouméa.

So your upbringing was pretty unique?
I was born on a small island in French Polynesia. I lived on a boat, sailed with my family in the Pacific Ocean and when we lived in a house the sea was never far away. But I learned what I know about ocean sports in New Caledonia. I started competing young, but in va’a (an outrigger canoe with no rudder). It kept me from hanging around the neighborhood and allowed for travel. I started standup paddling in late 2012, at the beginning for fun and to complement my va’a training. It all started when I won the French championship in late 2013. Today I'm more SUP, but when I’m in NC I go back to paddling va’a.

You have to travel all over the world to race. What are your thoughts on where the sport's at?
It goes too much in all directions. I'm new to it, but already feel a 13-foot board length would be better instead of 14' and 12’6". It would be much clearer. And there are many events. There are times when I don't know where to go. But that’s normal, like us athletes, the organizers learn and grow with the sport. One day we will be in the Olympics.

Okay, offseason, run us through your perfect day in New Caledonia.
It's never the same. I wake up, eat breakfast, train by swimming or jogging and get on the computer (to talk to friends in France). When I’m in NC I often eat lunch with my mother. In the afternoon, when the wind picks up, I’m downwinding. In the evening I join the boys for training va’a. And if my buddy calls, and the surfing at the pass is on, everything is canceled so I can spend the day surfing. But that doesn't happen often enough.

This feature originally ran in the Fall 2015 issue.

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