There’s a big South-African paw knocking on the front door of Rio De Janeiro and that paw belongs to Jordy Smith. Stab ain’t ever seen the 25-year-old looking this hungry, or prepared. That Bells performance put a tingle in your spine? It did ours. Now he rolls into Brazil, a beautiful mess of generous (and poorly-covered) kickers, tropical sun, plunging green valleys, funk carioca and skewered meat. In a few hours’ time, as of writing, opening day at the Billabong Pro, Rio becomes real. Jordy dances in heat 10 on a Channel Islands Rookie and with a spring in his giddy-up. Since Stab is such an excitable collective, we had Jordy fill the gaps on a pro-surfer-in-Rio questionnaire…
Interview, by Craig Jarvis, continued below.
Stab: Describe the contest venue.
Jordy: The main site, Barra Da Tijuca, sits between two little islands. It breaks out the back, comes in like a wedge and you can go left or right. Sometimes it barrels, most of the time you can fit in a solid turn outside, then there’s an air section. The backup spot, Arpoador, is a really soft left. You have to catch it off this rock and it breaks out to sea. It’s soft, so you can’t really bash the lips that hard. Then the wave dumps on the inside. You have the chance for a last floater or hit. The floaters are sketchy. Eighty percent of the time you don’t make them because the wave goes super weird when it closes out.
What’s the main site remind you of? It definitely has a Durban vibe to it, but the waves run in Durban, and this wave doesn’t run. It sucks up real hollow, so you have to bash straight away and do an air or something, or you can get a little barrel and then a floater. There’s no real carves going down. It doesn’t break very far out, either. It’s really close to the beach. Arpoador reminds me of Long Beach in Cape Town.
What’s good in Rio? Each time I go there I have a very different experience. Last year we scored good waves. This year I think will be different again. The waves obviously play a big part and I think the surf will be super fun. I’ve also got good boards, which I’m frothing on, actually. My equipment is so dialled for the Rio leg. I’ve never had that anywhere near to this extent before.
You’re on some kinky CI Rookies, right? Yep, wide-tailed Rookies with a little flip in the tail. I’ve never had so much confidence in my boards before. In years prior I’ve had a few problems with my boards, but now I have that all figured out. I’ve got five magic boards that I’m gonna use for the whole year.
D’you dig the culture? The people of Brazil are so patriotic. They live and die for Brazil. I’m sure that other countries do the same, but just more so in Brazil. They’re passionate about surfing and its Brazilian fans. Surfing is a massive sport in Brazil. It gets a lot of coverage. It gets pretty intense y’know, you can’t leave your hotel room without getting loads of attention, and even if you just go to the store it gets crazy, but its really cool to see their involvement in and love for the sport.
Do you get instantly recognized? Yes. There’s usually loads of people outside the hotel wanting to get stuff signed. I slip out at 5am for a quick morning surf to avoid them, but then I get stuck into signings during the day.
Anything not-so-hot about Rio? No, it’s a good place. The accommodation isn’t the best, but you just gotta work around it.
Good eaten’? There’s good food to be found. It’s not in your face and easy to find, but we’ve been going there for so many years now we know good spots to eat.
With John John out, who are the danger men in Rio? Gabriel. He’s going to stand out. A lot of the waves are lefts, or there’s lefts in the mix, and he’s lethal frontside. He’s so top-end consistent. If he needs a nine he goes and gets that nine. Also, he’s Brazilian and is going to get that little Brazilian push.
Does JJF’s absence make any difference to your game? No. I don’t focus on other people. I used to do it more in the past. I’d go, “No way! He’s out of the comp! That’s so heavy! What’s going on?” But everyone goes through their injuries, y’know? Now I’m just worried about my own stuff and I’m going to stick to my own deal.