From Stab Issue 50: The Inevitable Explosion of Jordy Smith
How hot is Jordy Smith? Let’s examine the facts: A podium finish is a given at every event, his sponsors shovel a mother lode of gold into his account every month and, recently, he took up with South Africa’s most eligible bachelorette, dancing his fingertips down her perfect spinal cord and whispering tenderly into her ear […]
How hot is Jordy Smith? Let’s examine the facts: A podium finish is a given at every event, his sponsors shovel a mother lode of gold into his account every month and, recently, he took up with South Africa’s most eligible bachelorette, dancing his fingertips down her perfect spinal cord and whispering tenderly into her ear every single night. His electric spark quickens any limpness. Join Stab as we attempt to learn more about the 23-year-old South African superstar via 52 random questions.
The following interviews took place in Cape Town, South Africa, and Bondi, Australia.
Jordan Michael Smith, born February 11, 1988, breakfasted during interview one and tap-tap-tapped his fingers in the second, 30 minutes prior to a day spa appointment with his girl.
Interviews by Derek Rielly
Stab: First of all, and above everything else, describe where you live.
Jordy: It’s a private beach at Llandudo, Cape Town. The house has two stories, overlooking a white beach, a pretty beach with a wedging barrel at the beginning and a punt section immediately afterward. The wave’s really fun and the water’s super, super blue. There’s a massive mountain behind it, Table Mountain.
Five years ago, you were 18, and you started to get the taste of being labeled the New Kelly, the Next Big Thing, whatevs. Talk to me about it. I didn’t get much, especially not from this side. I only got onto the international scene when I was 19 or 20. I wasn’t exposed to the same pressures as Kolohe or John John, who had covers at 10 years old.
Has there been one surfer who has influenced you more than anyone? There’s been two, Justin Matteson and Joe Crimo. My dad had the South African license for Lost so when they came out, I’d watch them all day. Crimo was doing shrink-wraps when people weren’t even thinking of doing that. It looked like he was dancing on water.
Did they recognise your burgeoning talent? I don’t think they recognised too much. They were partying up a storm.
Do you surf every day if possible? Some days I’ll surf all day long, other days I won’t surf. I average eight surfs a week and my average session is one-and-half hours.
How many waves in an average session? Do you motor around catching shit or are you selective? At my lil home spot, it’s super consistent so in an hour of surfing you’ll catch 50 to 70 waves. They’re not long rides. You take off, pull in, come out and do a punt. And, there’s never crowds.
What has been your longest continuous surf session? Seven hours when I was 11 years old at New Pier, Durban. After the fourth or fifth hour I remember sitting and talking for the next couple of hours. I wanted to surf through the low-tide and into the high tide.
Do you like the nickname Man Bear Pig? That came from Mitch Coleborn or Dion Agius. It happened because one day I was especially hungry, went, screw this, and tore into anything I could find. Everyone looked at me and went, JORDY HUNGRY! Like I was a caveman.
Dion enjoys the fact you don’t care about opinion about you, that you’re immune to the barbs… It’s true! It’s true!
Who are your closest friends? I have five really close friends: Steve Nicholson, Travis Logie, Warwick Wright, Damien Fahrenfort, Chad Du Toit.
What separates you, as a world title contender, from the tour strugglers? Just the results.
It’s more than that. There is a fundamental difference. Can you tell me what it is? Well, the guys who are more familiar with sticking the bigger airs and stuff will be at the high end.
Would pro surfing go to hell if Kelly and Dane quit? No. Cause there’s still Mick, Taj, Joel and everybody else.
Are you influenced by Dane? It sucks me up. I love watching him surf. Without competition, what fun would there be? It makes me want to do my thing.
Does his surfing compel you to entertain the crowd in a similar manner? Sometimes you just think, fuck the score, I’m doing this for the crowd.
What’s the most competitive thing anyone has ever done to you in a heat? Four years ago in Western Australia with Dan Ross and somebody else. They hassled me the whole heat and I ended up catching one wave and I got an interference on it. I was like, sheepers, give me some room to breathe! Turned out, no room.
Are you a board puncher? I used to be, but I grew out of it. I hurt my knuckle and then I started punching the grip because it didn’t hurt as much. And then I stopped. It was a gradual decline in fury at my board.
What’s the kindest thing someone has done for you on the tour? Years back I was at a four-star on the Central Coast, at Soldiers Beach. I was sleeping in my boardbag under the contest tower and Red Bull’s Andy King took me in and gave me a place to stay and food to eat. I ended up winning the contest.
What’s the unkindest thing anyone has ever done on tour? No one does any big favours for you, to be honest.
I remember at the Globe event in Fiji seeing rookies Cansdell and Durbidge walk into the eating area and all the heads would bow, no one was willing to invite these two sweet kids to their table. They ended up sitting with the judges, status-wise the lowest table. It’s very High School Musical on tour. That’s spot on. My first year was pretty shittty. Everyone was like, aaay, new rookie, all the hype, let’s see what he’s got. I sucked and got 26th.
Was that because you didn’t feel welcome? There were a bunch of reasons. I didn’t know where I was at. I was all over the place. I’d take new boards to heats. I was never prepared.
In all your travels, have you ever shared a bedroom with Dane? Like, two single beds, side-by-side, whispering to each other at night? One time I shared a room with him in Western Australia, on a trip with Shagga and Matt Gye. There were about a thousand people on that trip, but we shared and it was fun.
Did you whisper secrets? Did you share confidences? (Thinking I’m alluding to some of kind of homosexual spark) No! None of that!
Dane is very competitive, although he won’t allow himself to admit it. Discuss. Yeah, of course he is! He wouldn’t be sitting fifth or fourth in the world last year if he wasn’t. He wants to win as much as everyone else. You can see when he takes off, he’s super amped. At Trestles, his boards are going mach 10 before he even stands up.
What is the one thing in your career that you’re most proud of? The fact that I’m living the dream I always wanted to live. Doing it for my Dad at the same time as doing it for myself.
What’s the best thing your dad has done for you? He used to buy me a lot of McDonalds. My mom would have home-cooked meals and then he’d always buy me Maccas.
What’s the best thing your mom has done for you? When I was at school she used to do all of my homework.
What’s your happiest memory? The day I met my chick. Gay to say it, but I think so. I met her at a horse racing event. I wasn’t very slick, I was more hammered than anything and she shut me down straight away. I was like can I get your number and she was like, nah, I don’t think that’s possible. I said, I’d like to take you out sometime and she said, nah, uhhhh, not that, either.
How did you switch it? Shit, I don’t even know. I just got more drunk.
How did you make her fall under your spell, the fact that you just roamed the Opera House forecourt and, in thirty minutes, you’ll be side-by-side in a Bondi health spa indicates powerful emotions… Just by being myself. I am a nice guy.
What are the qualities to be a world title contender? I’m still trying to figure it out. The main thing is dedication. After that, talent. And, at the same time, doing it with a smile on your face because when you get something like that not a lot of people get to do it.
What are you willing to sacrifice? Anything that gets in the way.
What aren’t you willing to sacrifice? My family, my loved ones, anyone that I care about.
What was the stupidest thing you did back when you were a kook? My very first contest, I thought I was the man, I thought, I’m going to win this thing. I went to the opening function the night before and I remember the guy saying, get three waves to the beach and, you’re only allowed three scoring waves, but you can catch a maximum of 10. And, I thought, this surfing thing sounds fucking easy. And the next morning, I went, the hooter blew and I ran out and caught the three quickest shorey waves on the sand, turned around and ran up the beach, and came running in screaming, ‘I WON! I WON! I WON!’ I was wondering why the other guys were paddling out the back for. My dad was like, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ I was, like, ‘Nah, I’ve got my three waves, I got in first, I’ve won!’ My dad was screaming, ‘YOU FLIPPING HAVE TO GET THE THREE BEST WAVES! IT’S NOT A RACE.’ I felt like the biggest idiot ever.
Do you practise moves in blocks? For example, rodeos, finners, whatevs at the exclusion of everything else. I don’t ever think about what I’m going to do. I see a section and I do what I feel. Sometimes it looks terrible, of course.
Talk to me about the backhand superman. I’ve been trying them for years. I got them down just before Modern Collective and I did one at Lakeys I was stoked on that. I don’t think anyone had seen something like that before. I took it to the contests but the judges don’t know how to score it yet.
Perhaps because it’s so froglike. Ha! That’s what Kai Neville was saying. Me and Dion Agius were saying at Lakeys, it’s look like a Froggie. I was, like, sure, we can call it a Froggie.
What has been your defining move, in your opinion, that has elevated you above the pack. Your rodeo at Maccas? That or the one I did in Hawaii when I was 17. The one at Maccas, that went global instantly, it was on the cover of Yahoo. That was definitely a defining moment. I had people calling me up that I hadn’t seen for years, young school friends, people who never replied to my emails, it took me to another level.
Whose surfing do you watch for pleasure? I like watching old school surfing. My dad is really into fucking ’50s and ’60s surfing. I was impressed by Dino Morrison’s new movie. He gets a lot of barrels.
Are there any heats you won’t miss? I don’t like to structure myself to the contest. I go as a tourist when I get to the location. Surfing is just one
part of the holiday.
Tell me something about your technique that people wouldn’t be aware of? I get really frothy when I paddle into a wave. I stand up, get my froth on, and I get really amped if there’s a big section coming, like at Keramas in Bali where you can do a big hack or a punt. Or barrels. Barrels come and go. But, after Jamie’s movie, I don’t want to put a barrel in a movie.
Why? Too many? Every barrel was like a 10-point ride so I’m not going to put a five-foot barrel in there, it won’t even compare.
Do you have night thoughts about winning 300k at the new contest in New York? Oh… god… yes. That would be some injection. I haven’t had any dreams yet but I’m waiting for it, I’m hoping for it. I hope it comes true. The other day I was talking about it. It’s tough to get your head around an event in New York but, goddamn, it would be nice to win that.
Who would have the best victory party? Anyone who won. But, probably not Kelly. He’d charge you at the door to come in.
Have you ever been frightened for your life? A couple of times, being robbed at gunpoint in South Africa. I was walking home after school one day in Durban and I got mugged and stabbed on my right side at the bottom of the kidney. They rattled my pockets, put a gun to my head and that was it. They don’t ask, ‘Can we have your money?’ They stick the knife in and take. It’s, like, ‘Get on the floor, we’re robbing you.’ I was bleeding and crying at the same time. I ran to the hospital and got stitched up.
Durban can be a tough town. It has its fricken moments, f’sure.
Did the spectre of death frighten you? I’m not afraid of death but it crosses your mind. Like, oh my god, there’s a gun and if he pulls the trigger, I’m dead. You don’t think about the physical act of dying, you think about how you’re not going to live and how you’re not going to see your family.
What does it feel like to be stabbed? It was a burning pain. I got such an adrenalin hit I started running and I felt my side and pushed my finger inside.
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