Off Season, No More: A Talk With Jordy Smith About Surfing, Marriage and Snapper
Jordy Smith has grown a lot in his six seasons on surfing’s grandest stage. He survived the hype of his rookie season (2008), has finished runner-up on the year-end rankings (2010), has twice won an event that’s being reintroduced to the WCT and released some of the most exciting movie projects (Modern Collective, Bending Colours, Now Now) in the modern era of the sport. And it’s only now that Jordy is wrapping his head around dedicating a full year to the Tour.
He’s a new man, or at least, as much of a new man as a man can become at 27 years old. After an injury-plagued end of the 2013 season, which included sitting out the Pipe Masters, all the negative energy and frustrations were wiped away in a single day: his wedding day in early February. Many expected a newfound pop in the burly South African’s step, but Round 2 of the Quiksilver Pro at Snapper Rocks came and Jordy was left befuddled by a dearth of waves and was eliminated. Not the start to the 2014 campaign that Jordy had hoped, but as he put it, the ASP season “is a marathon, not a sprint.” (Two days later he’d win the Expression Session, surfing the way we’d all come to expect.)
It is indeed early goings on the brand new Samsung Galaxy World Championship Tour. There’s still two more stops to come in Australia and later in the season, a return to his favorite wave in the world, Jeffreys Bay near his home in South Africa. After a super psychedelic photo shoot with the Heritage Collection eyewear, we sat down with Jordy to talk about his big off season and all that’s new in 2014.
What were your takeaways from your 2013 WCT campaign?
Definitely on a whole, I felt really good. To be honest, I thought it was a really successful year. I may not have had some of the results that I would have wanted, like in the start of the year, I started Snapper with a 17th or something – funny, I did the exact same result here, shit. But overall, I was happy. I had a whole new team of guys that I was working with, so I was figuring out everybody’s niche that they had, their hiccups, and that helped me relax a lot more. I was dialing in my equipment a bunch more; I never really spent a year where I rode the same boards consistently, so that was a big thing that I brought into this year, quite hugely, just trusting the boards I know and not jumping on the boards that are brand new all of a sudden. I used to be pretty famous for getting a brand new board and going out in my heat. So yeah, overall a great year: I made a movie, won an X Games gold meal (Real Surf), came in fourth in the world, I think I got sixth at surfer poll, so all up, it was a really good year and I was happy with everything.
Six years on Tour, runner-up in 2010 – are you happy with where you are in your career?
I am, actually, yeah. I don’t feel like I should have been doing more or something, because where I was at the time I was really enjoying myself. 2010 was a really good year for me, similar to last year, I went through the year, had a few good results, won J-Bay, everything worked out. I made Modern Collective; I felt like that was a big stepping stone in the surf video side of things, at the time. I was being 21 and 22 years old. Making video parts, doing contests, going out and having fun, just really enjoying myself, just not taking things too seriously. I think I needed that. I think if I’d come on [Tour] and been super serious straight away, I might have got to where I am now and felt like I missed out a bit. Where I’m at now, it’s world title 100 percent. It made it easier for me to want to reach my goal.
You had quite a momentous off season. Or, at least, one big day.
Yeah, starting off with an injury in Portugal and then the back of last year, coming out of that, three months of no surfing and rehab every day twice a day, training and it was just so much of a grind, so to then get to my wedding was the biggest relief ever. I had every single person that loves me in the world and everybody that I love in the world there, all under one roof and all there for us. It just made so much sense; it was a really great week, lots of relax time, catching up with friends, I just felt like it was perfectly timed and perfectly planned coming out of an injury because an injury can be so depressing, especially when you see swells going everywhere in the world. You just have to take it every day as it comes. The wedding was an incredible day and incredible week really, we haven’t gone on our honeymoon yet, but we’re going to save that for later in the year.
A man’s wedding day can be a bit of a blur, aside from seeing your wife (Lyndall) come down the aisle, what was the highlight?
Just me trying to stop crying was a highlight. Other than seeing my wife walk down the aisle and hanging out with her all night, it went by so fast. I got to the end of the night, it was like two in the morning and I got on the loudspeaker and was like ‘this can’t just end here, it’s gone too quickly,’ so I invited the entire wedding back to my house for a house-party until like seven in the morning. So that was pretty cool to celebrate with everybody on more of a personal level. It was a super fun day and a day I’ll remember forever.
What sort of energy did that provide heading into the new WCT season?
It made me more positive, probably made me focus a lot more. It’s like you’ve ticked the box so you can really walk on and move on and put your focus into some other things, like the Tour, and some surf spots, your training, or your boards, equipment or whatever, I just feel a lot more confident. I just ticked the box of finding my dream woman. There’s no real reason for me to be out there now. Off the market, ladies!
Thoughts on the new ASP?
So far, I think it’s been incredible. It’s so much more professional. The ASP has really stepped it up. You know, it’s small things that count, whether it’s the meetings we have, it’s the locker rooms, the event site, the commentary, all the little things, all the crumbs make a loaf of bread. They’ve really stepped it up and I’m happy how things are going.
And them adding back J-Bay?
Well, adding J-Bay back, I was starting to question myself how I was going to re-qualify!? No, I’m kidding. To me, it’s the best right-hand point in the world. For it not to be on the Tour is ludicrous. If you speak to anyone on Tour, they’ll tell you it’s the best wave on Tour and everybody enjoys going there so it’s a no-brainer. It’s about time they saw the light.
Mentally, when are you surfing at your best?
I think it’s the feeling inside my head, or the sight I have in my head. It’s definitely when I have a bit of confidence and I have that little pop in my step and that’s just when I’m at my best. Mostly, when I feel like my equipment is on point and the waves are semi-fun, I know that’s when I shine the most. It doesn’t take much. I always think to myself, I’m one turn away from being at my peak. Sometimes in surfing you can go a week and just not be feeling it that week, just battling a little bit, getting caught behind sections or whatever it may be, but it’s just that one turn that puts you in front and all of a sudden you have that pop back in your step and you’re good.
Snapper wasn’t the result you’d like (equal-25th). Does that mess with confidence a bit or make you hungrier?
To be honest, I don’t think it messes with your confidence, it’s just a speed bump. This is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s hard swallowing the pill for sure, but it just means I need to put more effort going into all the other events. I definitely don’t feel like my performance was lacking, I just didn’t have the opportunities that I wanted and the ocean just denied me that day. There’s nothing I can really do about that, you’ve got to accept that, and that’s the nature of the beast. You’ve got to really learn like, okay, what can I take out of that? I only caught like six waves the entire event in two heats and that definitely not like me, I catch six waves in half a heat. So that’s just something to take out of it and it definitely does fuel your fire a bit for the next events. I guess one of the great things about not getting a good result the first event is that the target is not on you. You know, you’re kind of slip-streaming, you don’t have the pressure of being no. 1, how does it feel, not that that is a bad thing, that’s a great thing, but I’m just looking at the positives right now.
Aside from the contest calendar, what’s coming up for you in 2014?
Nothing I’m really working on. I’ve got a few trips that I want to go on. I’ve got a few ideas with my equipment that I want to try. And then I really want to dedicate one year to the Tour and see how that goes. Obviously I’m still going to go on trips and film and produce clips but it’s not my 100 percent focus. I just want to work towards being the best competitor I can be.