Craig Jarvis asks what Jordy has to do to take the title to South Africa.
It was a great year for Jordy Smith. He was in the lead for a while, wearing the Jeep Leaderboard Yellow Jersey for a while, and had some great results. The best were his win at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, his win at the Ballito Pro, a third at the Billabong Pro Tahiti and a runner-up position at the Hurley Pro Trestles.
He also placed 5th at the Corona Open JBay, and scored an impressive perfect heat score of 20 points, but was a bit flummoxed by the tail end of that contest, having to endure two resurfs in one day, due to a wave of Connor Coffin being missed, and then because a shark cruised through the lineup during the surfing. He looked like he was heading for a win at that event, his favourite, but it wasn't to be.
Going into the European leg, a segment of the Championship Tour that Smith enjoys, he was lying in second place behind John John and the world was talking about the fact that a South African could win a world title exactly forty years after Shaun Tomson’s world title in 1977.
It was not to be, and Smith’s run in Europe was disastrous, with pocket 13th place finishes for the Quiksilver Pro France and for Meo Rip Curl Pro Portugal, which saw him slip down the rankings. There were mathematical possibilities for all the top four surfers going into Pipe, but Jordy finished off with his third 1th place in a row, and finished the year in fourth place. A top five result is a massive achievement, but it is literally miles away from a world title.
So what could be different for Jordy in 2018?
The one thing that Jordy seemed to pick up over the year’s competition this year was that there is definitely a bigger picture at play, and words like fate and destiny were mentioned during the year from the Jordy camp. This shows that there is definitely resilience to bad luck and possibly doubtful judging decisions, and it’s nice to see a general Zen-like mind-set from the camp that has been known in the past, and with all due respect, to get a little emotional.
The other aspect is that Jordy is a mature competitor, a happily married man, and a provider. He is always going to be highly competitive and lives for surfing heats, but maybe he knows that the bigger picture, of being one of the most successful surfers in the world at any given moment, is a very good place to be. This sort of acknowledgement might just be the piece in the puzzle that finally kicks in to show him to surf for himself, on every wave, and not stress too much about final results. It’s the kind of approach that worked for Occy – to not think was the best way of thinking a heat – and it might see Jordy eradicate that little bit of emotion and self-imposed stress that might have risen to the surface over the last two years.
Then there’s the fact that Kelly is going to be back in the mix next year. There is no wordage from that side that he won’t be competing, so we can assume that the man with whom Jordy shares a birthdate – 11 February – will be back in the fold and has shown that there’s no rush, and that you can still be competing at 46 years old. So Jordy, who is only turning 30 next year, still has plenty of time in the game.