The Jordy Smith Interview By Shaun Tomson

jordy_square.jpg

Second Phase Burn-I go back a long way with Jordy Smith’s family - Jordy’s dad Graham got his start in the surfboard industry working for my father, making boards under the Tomson label in the late ’70s and early ’80s. He was a good surfer at our local spot, the Bay of Plenty, and after my dad passed away, Graham started his own label G-Force. I left South Africa in 1995, and a number of years later word started filtering back to me that Graham’s son had become a teenage prodigy, whom Graham was grooming to be the next big thing. I like to think that Graham saw the positive influence my father played on my life, and did the same with his young son.

I surfed with Jordy for the first time in 2005 at J-Bay, and was impressed with his speed, power, creativity and big carves. A couple of years later, Jordy had become the hottest prospect in surfing, and was involved in a fierce price war between his then-sponsor Billabong, and the entire industry – word was out that Nike had also thrown their hat in the ring. Ultimately he signed with O’Neill, and I caught up with Jordy at J-Bay in 2008, when he was making his debut on the ASP tour. Here is what I found then:

2008-Jordy Smith is in a room surrounded by over 20 boards shaped by the greatest shapers in the world. It is a confusing and alluring cocktail of attention for the hottest young surfer on the planet. There is a duality about Jordy Smith that is both complex and interesting. He is a cocky athlete on the exterior, almost like he is acting in a role that he is paid to play. He is the uber prodigy, the most highly compensated pro surfing rookie in history, with an ego to match, an image it seems he is trying to live up to. Flip the page and he is a big kid, just out of his teens, and there is an insecurity and uncertainty, deep inside the confidence of youth, and I can see him wrestle with it. Right now, Jordy has got a lot to learn, but he is impatient to realize his destiny. When you speak to him, he seems distracted, like he wants to be somewhere else – there are so many waves to catch, so many deals to do, so many contests to win, and so many new lines to carve. But I have come to know that the waves will be there tomorrow, and so will his future, so maybe he should take a breath, and look around, and slow down, because it is not always the swiftest that wins the race. When he eventually figures out all the minutiae of competition, I’ll say this to the world and all his competitors, and you can carve this prediction in stone: Watch out and take cover, because he is going to burn things down.

2015-A lot of things have happened since that day in 2008. Jordy came on strong like an army of one, and in a brilliant year, nearly wrestled the world title from Kelly’s intractable grasp. Since then, competitive success has gotten a lot more difficult for Jordy. Old names like Kelly, Mick, Taj and Joel have hung around, resiting any effort to displace them. New names like Gabriel Medina, John John Florence and Julian Wilson have burst on the scene, and Jordy is no longer the hot new kid with unlimited potential. He is now married and living in California and looking forward to the next phase.

This is the new Jordy that I found, on the eve of his departure for Australia, and the start of the World Surfing League Tour - relaxed, happy, stoked and quietly confident. He’s figured out a lot of things the hard way, and is in a good place right now, and the interview shows it - no youthful cockiness or arrogance, just desire, juice and stoke – and a feeling of gratefulness, too.

Maybe Jordy didn’t burn down the old order when he wanted to, but after listening to his thoughtful words, I can see that the fire of unrealized destiny is making his motivation burn even hotter now. However, this time it’s a controlled slow burn, on his terms. I can see that he has now shaken off the weight of great expectations, and is looking toward the future differently – with eagerness and stoke, rather than the desperation and stress of having to live up to the hype surrounding a prodigy. At this point in time, he has the boards, he has the knowledge, he has the patience, and more than any other surfer on tour, he has the raw, limitless power.

This is where he’s at, and this where he’s going:

S: Tell me about the Pipeline Masters injury.
J: I went right at Back Door; they call it an AC separation. Doctors generally say 6-8 weeks’ recovery. I am working with pretty good people. If I was a pitcher or ice hockey player, because these injuries are common in their sport, they would probably go ahead with the surgery. But with surfing, even though you are paddling a lot, you aren’t putting too much strain on it, just kinda gliding through the motions, so they opted for no surgery. I’ve been doing endless amounts of rehab every day for the last two months.

S: So what have you been doing?
J: My man that I go to, Mark Hazuki, has me doing a lot of plyometric and red-core training. It’s the first season I have ever trained properly, other than doing it myself. Been doing a lot of physiotherapy, basically to make sure all the muscles around are loose. That’s what I think has been the biggest help, making sure the other muscles aren’t going into a spasm.

S: How are you settling into Orange County, and where in OC are you living?
J: We’ve been back and forth from Newport for a couple years but then decided to make the full move to San Clemente. I think for the waves and for all the off time that I have mostly in the summer, when there’s a lot of south swells, being close to Trestles was a no-brainer.

S: Have you found someone to drop you off at the top?
J: My wife does the drive and drop most of the time, pretty much 90% of the time. (My wife is in the background and she says she does it ALL the time).

S: When you paddle out at these breaks now that you moved to California, and the groms see you, do they freak?
J: Yeah, sometimes they do. But I really don’t notice it until they speak out. I’m pretty focused on catching a lot of waves, I’m pretty much a hog. (chuckles).

S: How are you handling the crowd factor? Obviously it’s very different from South Africa where you can kind of get every wave you want?
J: It’s a HUGE change; it’s like night and day. If you go surfing with a friend, you want to try to get out there as early as you can to get minimal crowds. It’s also a good thing in a way, it keeps you hungry and fighting for waves. Surfing can put you into a relaxed mode. I think for what I do, in competive surfing, there’s probably no better place to do it other than here in the States or the Gold Coast, like Snapper Rocks, where there’s a feeding frenzy with a ton of people.

S: So when you surf in San Clemente, do you have sessions with Kolohe or do you go solo?
J: Most of the time I go solo. Brother has his schedule and his buddies to hang out with once he gets home. For sure we’ve had a few sessions, Salt Creek, whenever Creek is good. I think with the Internet these days it’s pretty easy to tell where the best waves are going to be, and most of the time we are looking for high performance surfing. In California and probably more in San Clemente, you will find high-performance waves more than the big wave spots that are hollow barrels. Nine times out of ten when you look at Surfline, you are going to find where the waves are going to be best, and can see Kolohe, the Gudangs and anyone from that crew will be out there.

S: How is it surfing Rincon?
J: Surfing Rincon was a stab in the dark. I always heard people putting it besides J Bay and really comparing it to J Bay, so I was really excited going up there. We left at 3 in the morning to get up there. We got there and the swell was there and it was extremely crowded. I don’t think I’ve EVER been dropped in on that many times in my life! I think it’s harder to get a wave out there than Pipeline.

S: How do you compare it to Superbank?
J: I feel like at Superbank, when you take off on a wave and if they see you coming down the line, and they see you can surf they’ll let you go. But in here, it’s like if he surfs, we’ll drop in. Every time I stood up on a wave at Rincon there was 2-5 people in front of me. After my first session I was so frustrated that my next five sessions I just accepted the fact that I was going to be dropped in on, and embraced it when it happened, and if I got lucky on a wave that was cool. It was a really big treat when you got a good section or a barrel or if no one dropped in. The waves have been really good the last three weeks, and the boys at Channel Islands have dialed me into a lot of spots.

S: You’ve been on CI boards for about three years now, and it seems like it has really given your surfing a big boost. Tell me about that.
J: It’s been one of the best things about hanging around with a brand. Before, I grew up surfing my dad’s boards, and I’ve always had a good relationship with him. I always used to chop and change and I still get a few here and there, but I eventually decided I need to start working with one shaper, and Al Merrick is the best in the world. If you want to get the best results, you need to start working with the best people. The first couple of years with them, I was immature and riding brand new boards in heats that I’ve never surfed before, and then last year for the first time I decided to ride the boards I knew. It just really helped out for me; at every spot I showed up my equipment was 100%, I didn’t have any doubts or second thoughts. Now I just make sure that every board I stand up on is known to me. I remember reading a quote of yours, Shaun, about you winning numerous contests on boards that you didn’t really like, and you just knew the board, and it doesn’t have to be 100% perfect, but you just made it work.

S: I think that the concept of “making it work” is really important. When you know what boards you are going to ride, it seems like it has given you more confidence.
J: Definitely, I think it’s the difference between getting 9’s and 6’s.

S: What model and dimensions are you riding?
J: My standard stock is called a G Rabbit. It’s a 6’2 1/5”, 19 1/4W”, 2 9/16” thick, rounded squash. A single to a slight double, with a lot of flip off the tail, just the last 6 inches because my boards are so much bigger than everyone else’s, and my boards really need to fit in the tight pocket. The shorter boards that Kelly Slater or Filipe Toledo ride don’t allow me to fit into the tight pocket in a 2’-3’ wave. So you have to add a lot more rocker, especially on the tail, which allows you to turn tighter in those smaller, critical sections. I can ride my stock board throughout the whole year at J Bay, Snapper, Bells, Brazil beach breaks, France and Portugal.

S: What’s your weight right now, and are you on any special diet?
J: I go in and out of diets. I wouldn’t necessarily call them diets, I would call it just how you live your life. It’s about balance for me. I eat generally pretty healthy but I definitely love a cheeseburger every now and then, and I don’t turn them down very often. My weight is around 87 kilos; I’m a little bit low at the moment. I like to be around 88-89 kilos, but I’ll probably pick that up at the beginning of the season with all the surfing that I’ll be doing.

S: That’s about 193-194 lbs.

S: On the tour, you and Dane Reynolds have similar approaches, full power carves, really spontaneous, exciting and uncontained surfing. How is your relationship with Dane?
J: Through the years now, we have started talking a bit more. I’ve always been the BIGGEST fan and I don’t think I’d be where I am without Dane. He has pushed my level of surfing farther than anyone. I’m always curious to see what he is doing and what I can be doing. We have become closer over the past 6-8 months. I’ve been doing a lot of sessions up in Santa Barbara where we get to chat. He took some time off to do the free surf thing and is trying to find his way back. I’ve always wanted him on the tour because he pushes me. I want to get him in heats because he makes me a better person and surfer. He is one of the best surfers in the world.

S: You were seventh last year, four WSL wins…Any new approaches to the tour this year?
J: It’s probably the first year I’m really relaxed going into it. Years before, I felt so anxious to get it going. Now I think I am allowing it to come to me and not rushing it down. I think that’s been my downfall. My best results have come when I’ve been relaxed and just enjoyed the journey.

S: With Gabriel winning the World Title and Julian winning the Pipeline Masters, that must get you real fired up.
J: For sure. Hats off to Gabriel, he’s had an incredible year. You don’t just win a World Title by fluke. It’s a lot of hard work, fun, and ups and downs. It’s such a long year that these days, it comes down to never giving up until someone is deemed World Champion. Gabriel and Jilian have got me more fired up to spend more time out there and make sure all my equipment is dialed in.

S: Besides your focus on the World Tour, do you have any side projects?
J: For the first time, it is my primary focus. Years before I would have video parts going on and it’s so hard to juggle everything. For sure I’m going on trips, but they are not for me, or me producing. I just have to surf. For instance, after Snapper, I am going on a boat trip with John John and Dane. We’ll have to see how that plans out. I’m really excited about it. This is a very exciting time for me; I don’t think I’ve had my best yet.

S: Where is the first 720 in the competition going to come from?
J: Probably going to come from a right-hander. There are probably five people off the top of my head that I think could do it. Something with a lot of wind blowing up the face.

S: What’s better, free surfing or contests?
J: Contests, all day long. They have brought me everything in my life.

S: Airs or tubes?
J: All depends if you are getting head dips! I have seen a lot of barrels at Pipe, but to be able to do what Kelly did was pretty insane. For fun factor, it’s probably barrels.

S: How long have you been married, and does your wife travel with you all the time?
J: We just celebrated our first anniversary in February. Most of the contests we travel together. It really helps me relax and feel at home. She makes incredible food and is extremely supportive.

S: With the new WSL, how is it working for you?
J: It seems to be really good. Everything seems to be a bit more professional and organized.

S: Tell me which upcoming events are the best for you to showcase your style of surfing. Give me an A or B on each event.
J: Quicky Pro: A; Bells: A; Margaret River: A; Rio: A; Fiji: A; J Bay: A; Teahupoo, A; Hurley Pro: A; Quicky Pro: A; Portugal: A; Pipe Masters: A.

S: I love that. All A’s.
J: If I didn’t name them all, I shouldn’t be at that contest.

S: I’ll be watching you. I wish you the best.
J: Thanks, Shaun, I appreciate that.


Posted by: ghetto juiceghetto juice at: 23 Mar 2015 17:03




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Second Phase Burn-I go back a long way with Jordy Smith’s family - Jordy’s dad Graham got his start in the surfboard industry working for my father, making boards under the Tomson label in the late ’70s and early ’80s. He was a good surfer at our local spot, the Bay of Plenty, and after my dad passed away, Graham started his own label G-Force. I left South Africa in 1995, and a number of years later word started filtering back to me that Graham’s son had become a teenage prodigy, whom Graham was grooming to be the next big thing. I like to think that Graham saw the positive influence my father played on my life, and did the same with his young son.

I surfed with Jordy for the first time in 2005 at J-Bay, and was impressed with his speed, power, creativity and big carves. A couple of years later, Jordy had become the hottest prospect in surfing, and was involved in a fierce price war between his then-sponsor Billabong, and the entire industry – word was out that Nike had also thrown their hat in the ring. Ultimately he signed with O’Neill, and I caught up with Jordy at J-Bay in 2008, when he was making his debut on the ASP tour. Here is what I found then:

2008-Jordy Smith is in a room surrounded by over 20 boards shaped by the greatest shapers in the world. It is a confusing and alluring cocktail of attention for the hottest young surfer on the planet. There is a duality about Jordy Smith that is both complex and interesting. He is a cocky athlete on the exterior, almost like he is acting in a role that he is paid to play. He is the uber prodigy, the most highly compensated pro surfing rookie in history, with an ego to match, an image it seems he is trying to live up to. Flip the page and he is a big kid, just out of his teens, and there is an insecurity and uncertainty, deep inside the confidence of youth, and I can see him wrestle with it. Right now, Jordy has got a lot to learn, but he is impatient to realize his destiny. When you speak to him, he seems distracted, like he wants to be somewhere else – there are so many waves to catch, so many deals to do, so many contests to win, and so many new lines to carve. But I have come to know that the waves will be there tomorrow, and so will his future, so maybe he should take a breath, and look around, and slow down, because it is not always the swiftest that wins the race. When he eventually figures out all the minutiae of competition, I’ll say this to the world and all his competitors, and you can carve this prediction in stone: Watch out and take cover, because he is going to burn things down.

2015-A lot of things have happened since that day in 2008. Jordy came on strong like an army of one, and in a brilliant year, nearly wrestled the world title from Kelly’s intractable grasp. Since then, competitive success has gotten a lot more difficult for Jordy. Old names like Kelly, Mick, Taj and Joel have hung around, resiting any effort to displace them. New names like Gabriel Medina, John John Florence and Julian Wilson have burst on the scene, and Jordy is no longer the hot new kid with unlimited potential. He is now married and living in California and looking forward to the next phase.

This is the new Jordy that I found, on the eve of his departure for Australia, and the start of the World Surfing League Tour - relaxed, happy, stoked and quietly confident. He’s figured out a lot of things the hard way, and is in a good place right now, and the interview shows it - no youthful cockiness or arrogance, just desire, juice and stoke – and a feeling of gratefulness, too.

Maybe Jordy didn’t burn down the old order when he wanted to, but after listening to his thoughtful words, I can see that the fire of unrealized destiny is making his motivation burn even hotter now. However, this time it’s a controlled slow burn, on his terms. I can see that he has now shaken off the weight of great expectations, and is looking toward the future differently – with eagerness and stoke, rather than the desperation and stress of having to live up to the hype surrounding a prodigy. At this point in time, he has the boards, he has the knowledge, he has the patience, and more than any other surfer on tour, he has the raw, limitless power.

This is where he’s at, and this where he’s going:

S: Tell me about the Pipeline Masters injury.
J: I went right at Back Door; they call it an AC separation. Doctors generally say 6-8 weeks’ recovery. I am working with pretty good people. If I was a pitcher or ice hockey player, because these injuries are common in their sport, they would probably go ahead with the surgery. But with surfing, even though you are paddling a lot, you aren’t putting too much strain on it, just kinda gliding through the motions, so they opted for no surgery. I’ve been doing endless amounts of rehab every day for the last two months.

S: So what have you been doing?
J: My man that I go to, Mark Hazuki, has me doing a lot of plyometric and red-core training. It’s the first season I have ever trained properly, other than doing it myself. Been doing a lot of physiotherapy, basically to make sure all the muscles around are loose. That’s what I think has been the biggest help, making sure the other muscles aren’t going into a spasm.

S: How are you settling into Orange County, and where in OC are you living?
J: We’ve been back and forth from Newport for a couple years but then decided to make the full move to San Clemente. I think for the waves and for all the off time that I have mostly in the summer, when there’s a lot of south swells, being close to Trestles was a no-brainer.

S: Have you found someone to drop you off at the top?
J: My wife does the drive and drop most of the time, pretty much 90% of the time. (My wife is in the background and she says she does it ALL the time).

S: When you paddle out at these breaks now that you moved to California, and the groms see you, do they freak?
J: Yeah, sometimes they do. But I really don’t notice it until they speak out. I’m pretty focused on catching a lot of waves, I’m pretty much a hog. (chuckles).

S: How are you handling the crowd factor? Obviously it’s very different from South Africa where you can kind of get every wave you want?
J: It’s a HUGE change; it’s like night and day. If you go surfing with a friend, you want to try to get out there as early as you can to get minimal crowds. It’s also a good thing in a way, it keeps you hungry and fighting for waves. Surfing can put you into a relaxed mode. I think for what I do, in competive surfing, there’s probably no better place to do it other than here in the States or the Gold Coast, like Snapper Rocks, where there’s a feeding frenzy with a ton of people.

S: So when you surf in San Clemente, do you have sessions with Kolohe or do you go solo?
J: Most of the time I go solo. Brother has his schedule and his buddies to hang out with once he gets home. For sure we’ve had a few sessions, Salt Creek, whenever Creek is good. I think with the Internet these days it’s pretty easy to tell where the best waves are going to be, and most of the time we are looking for high performance surfing. In California and probably more in San Clemente, you will find high-performance waves more than the big wave spots that are hollow barrels. Nine times out of ten when you look at Surfline, you are going to find where the waves are going to be best, and can see Kolohe, the Gudangs and anyone from that crew will be out there.

S: How is it surfing Rincon?
J: Surfing Rincon was a stab in the dark. I always heard people putting it besides J Bay and really comparing it to J Bay, so I was really excited going up there. We left at 3 in the morning to get up there. We got there and the swell was there and it was extremely crowded. I don’t think I’ve EVER been dropped in on that many times in my life! I think it’s harder to get a wave out there than Pipeline.

S: How do you compare it to Superbank?
J: I feel like at Superbank, when you take off on a wave and if they see you coming down the line, and they see you can surf they’ll let you go. But in here, it’s like if he surfs, we’ll drop in. Every time I stood up on a wave at Rincon there was 2-5 people in front of me. After my first session I was so frustrated that my next five sessions I just accepted the fact that I was going to be dropped in on, and embraced it when it happened, and if I got lucky on a wave that was cool. It was a really big treat when you got a good section or a barrel or if no one dropped in. The waves have been really good the last three weeks, and the boys at Channel Islands have dialed me into a lot of spots.

S: You’ve been on CI boards for about three years now, and it seems like it has really given your surfing a big boost. Tell me about that.
J: It’s been one of the best things about hanging around with a brand. Before, I grew up surfing my dad’s boards, and I’ve always had a good relationship with him. I always used to chop and change and I still get a few here and there, but I eventually decided I need to start working with one shaper, and Al Merrick is the best in the world. If you want to get the best results, you need to start working with the best people. The first couple of years with them, I was immature and riding brand new boards in heats that I’ve never surfed before, and then last year for the first time I decided to ride the boards I knew. It just really helped out for me; at every spot I showed up my equipment was 100%, I didn’t have any doubts or second thoughts. Now I just make sure that every board I stand up on is known to me. I remember reading a quote of yours, Shaun, about you winning numerous contests on boards that you didn’t really like, and you just knew the board, and it doesn’t have to be 100% perfect, but you just made it work.

S: I think that the concept of “making it work” is really important. When you know what boards you are going to ride, it seems like it has given you more confidence.
J: Definitely, I think it’s the difference between getting 9’s and 6’s.

S: What model and dimensions are you riding?
J: My standard stock is called a G Rabbit. It’s a 6’2 1/5”, 19 1/4W”, 2 9/16” thick, rounded squash. A single to a slight double, with a lot of flip off the tail, just the last 6 inches because my boards are so much bigger than everyone else’s, and my boards really need to fit in the tight pocket. The shorter boards that Kelly Slater or Filipe Toledo ride don’t allow me to fit into the tight pocket in a 2’-3’ wave. So you have to add a lot more rocker, especially on the tail, which allows you to turn tighter in those smaller, critical sections. I can ride my stock board throughout the whole year at J Bay, Snapper, Bells, Brazil beach breaks, France and Portugal.

S: What’s your weight right now, and are you on any special diet?
J: I go in and out of diets. I wouldn’t necessarily call them diets, I would call it just how you live your life. It’s about balance for me. I eat generally pretty healthy but I definitely love a cheeseburger every now and then, and I don’t turn them down very often. My weight is around 87 kilos; I’m a little bit low at the moment. I like to be around 88-89 kilos, but I’ll probably pick that up at the beginning of the season with all the surfing that I’ll be doing.

S: That’s about 193-194 lbs.

S: On the tour, you and Dane Reynolds have similar approaches, full power carves, really spontaneous, exciting and uncontained surfing. How is your relationship with Dane?
J: Through the years now, we have started talking a bit more. I’ve always been the BIGGEST fan and I don’t think I’d be where I am without Dane. He has pushed my level of surfing farther than anyone. I’m always curious to see what he is doing and what I can be doing. We have become closer over the past 6-8 months. I’ve been doing a lot of sessions up in Santa Barbara where we get to chat. He took some time off to do the free surf thing and is trying to find his way back. I’ve always wanted him on the tour because he pushes me. I want to get him in heats because he makes me a better person and surfer. He is one of the best surfers in the world.

S: You were seventh last year, four WSL wins…Any new approaches to the tour this year?
J: It’s probably the first year I’m really relaxed going into it. Years before, I felt so anxious to get it going. Now I think I am allowing it to come to me and not rushing it down. I think that’s been my downfall. My best results have come when I’ve been relaxed and just enjoyed the journey.

S: With Gabriel winning the World Title and Julian winning the Pipeline Masters, that must get you real fired up.
J: For sure. Hats off to Gabriel, he’s had an incredible year. You don’t just win a World Title by fluke. It’s a lot of hard work, fun, and ups and downs. It’s such a long year that these days, it comes down to never giving up until someone is deemed World Champion. Gabriel and Jilian have got me more fired up to spend more time out there and make sure all my equipment is dialed in.

S: Besides your focus on the World Tour, do you have any side projects?
J: For the first time, it is my primary focus. Years before I would have video parts going on and it’s so hard to juggle everything. For sure I’m going on trips, but they are not for me, or me producing. I just have to surf. For instance, after Snapper, I am going on a boat trip with John John and Dane. We’ll have to see how that plans out. I’m really excited about it. This is a very exciting time for me; I don’t think I’ve had my best yet.

S: Where is the first 720 in the competition going to come from?
J: Probably going to come from a right-hander. There are probably five people off the top of my head that I think could do it. Something with a lot of wind blowing up the face.

S: What’s better, free surfing or contests?
J: Contests, all day long. They have brought me everything in my life.

S: Airs or tubes?
J: All depends if you are getting head dips! I have seen a lot of barrels at Pipe, but to be able to do what Kelly did was pretty insane. For fun factor, it’s probably barrels.

S: How long have you been married, and does your wife travel with you all the time?
J: We just celebrated our first anniversary in February. Most of the contests we travel together. It really helps me relax and feel at home. She makes incredible food and is extremely supportive.

S: With the new WSL, how is it working for you?
J: It seems to be really good. Everything seems to be a bit more professional and organized.

S: Tell me which upcoming events are the best for you to showcase your style of surfing. Give me an A or B on each event.
J: Quicky Pro: A; Bells: A; Margaret River: A; Rio: A; Fiji: A; J Bay: A; Teahupoo, A; Hurley Pro: A; Quicky Pro: A; Portugal: A; Pipe Masters: A.

S: I love that. All A’s.
J: If I didn’t name them all, I shouldn’t be at that contest.

S: I’ll be watching you. I wish you the best.
J: Thanks, Shaun, I appreciate that.

Image jordy_square.jpg