10 Photos Of Jordy Smith Testing The World’s Best Surfboards
Appetizers are rarely better than the entree.
By now, you’ve heard, Stab in the Dark 2017, launches tomorrow night in the US (or on Friday morning in Oz). We’ve been shouting it from laptops. We’re wagging our tails, chins tilted up like proud terriers. And, as this has been a labour of love, undertaken with Corona Extra, O’Neill and Surfstitch, frankly, we’re thrilled to release the film starring World Number One, Sir Jordy Smith.
The submissions this year were gorgeous, blank surfboards sculpted with love and passion that no average surfer has ever dug their toes into. And, Jordy took to the task with evangelical fervour. He embraced the challenge. He was candid, delightfully critical and, at some points, potentially delirious. But 10 days on a boat with a bout of Bali Belly and the task to declare the world’s best surfboard is no easy feat.
Oh, and in case you’re new to this concept…
This is the third time we’ve done Stab in the Dark – our defective quest for the world’s finest high-performance surfboard. The inaugural venture starred surfing’s heartthrob, Julian Wilson in West Oz where he crowned Darren Handley of DHD as the winner. The sequel: Surfing’s cultural and progressive powerhouse, Messier Dane Reynolds in South Africa; he crowned Jon Pyzel champion. This year, due to some shaper’s complaints of not all boards getting a fair shot in good conditions, we wanted to cull such criticisms and took Jordy to the Mentawais. Again we set out to answer the question: Is it possible to call a surfboard, or a shaper, the best in the world?
So, we commissioned 12 of the world’s best shapers to deliver their best high-performance craft (sans any recognisable logos). We told them our talent would be world class. The catch, neither the shaper nor the surfer know the identity of the other. Short of delivering Jordy’s height and weight to each of our craftsmen, the rest was a guessing game.
And now, here are 10 photographs to oil your (or our) anticipation for the approaching digital premiere…
In Stab’s recent 18,000-respondent reader survey, there was a clear winner for favourite board manufacturer: the Carpinteria-based Channel Islands. And, you’ll probably wonder why CI wasn’t involved in this year’s Stab in the Dark. Well, we personally invited master craftsman Britt Merrick but the position was declined, despite Jordy being a team rider. The rationale was best probably best articulated by Dane last year: “I imagine if I win, it would look rigged. And if I said the board sucked, it probably wouldn’t be good for business.”
Here are the rules of Stab in the Dark, delivered to every single shaper.
1. Neither surfer nor shaper can know who the shaper nor surfer is.
2. The board is for a surfer of X height and Y weight.
3. If a board breaks, there can be no replacement, sorry.
4. The board must have a stringer, must be PU in construction with no distinguishable markings or branding.
5. And yes, the surfer could be Owen Wright, Jordy Smith or Jay Davies, but no, we can’t confirm nor deny any suggested name.
6. But, as a shaper, there will be no commercial transaction associated with entering a surfboard in Stab in the Dark. It’s free.
7. We promise our surfer will be fair but we also encourage complete honesty from our surfer.
Last year we set up shop for Stab in the Dark in Durban, South Africa. We told the shapers that we were shooting there late April/early May and the types of waves our nameless talent would be riding: A perfect combination of sand bottom points and beach breaks. The surf would require your best all-round shape because, who knows, we might even sneak down to J-Bay, swell depending. While swell delivered, however, we never got to J-Bay. It just never turned on. Stab was criticised publicly by shaper Maurice Cole, who said: “I was promised J-Bay but given shitty beachbreaks.” And there was a truth to his gripe, the overriding feedback we received (obviously by the shapers who finished poorly) was that there was too much variance in surf conditions. That’s why this year, we moved to the Mentawai islands, where we found, however, that when you’re trying to give 12 surfboards a proper test in both lefts and rights, trying to find similar conditions for every board is virtually impossible.
Says Jordy on the challenges of testing surfboards: “Every board has its character, but more than anything, you really have to try to give the board a go. It doesn’t just take one wave and you go, ‘oh it’s done.’ It takes a little bit. There are a lot of other factors that go into it.”
“Like, How are the conditions that day?” he continues. “I know that I paddle out sometimes and I have a lot more energy in some surfs than I do in other surfs, so to try and give each board the equal amount of energy each time you paddle out, is probably the most important thing. And having that same amp every time you try a board, rather being dull and then amped the next surf.”
While Jordy certainly didn’t come from the streets, his childhood was very different to his life today. While he flies biz class, he’d never order an Uber black. Likewise, he prefers to do his grocery shopping at the very reasonable Trader Joe’s over, say, Whole Foods. But he’s financially stable and beyond his tour prize money, each sticker on his board represents a very-good-sum landing in his bank account every month. He laughs at the paradox of what fame brings, from pro surfers to stars in all walks of life. “It’s weird, the moment you get rich, you don’t have to pay for anything,” he says. “Everyone is trying to give you things. And, that’s when you don’t need it. You need it when you’re poor!”
For Stab, this project is one of the biggest of the year, and we need to tick off scenes to help tell the complete the story seamlessly. We were preparing for another setup shot, Jords prepared his white Red Bull hat on cue, all McDonalds red and yellow on a white. It dominated the fram, and we pushed Jordy to ditch, but to little avail. “Hey, Travis Pastrana, we’re ready to shoot,” we jabbed. Jordy pretended not to hear us and the hat remained. “Hey Ken Block, we’re ready to shoot.” Jordy smiled then burst out laughing, seeing the funny side of being compared to very thoroughly decaled stunt driver.
“Okay, I’m definitely not ditching the hat now!”
Stab in the Dark 2017 coming soon!
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