Why the rest of the top 34 should be worried.
“I blew it!” yelled Jordy Smith as he marched into the post-heat media area displaying a dangerous mix of jubilation and anger. He was like a lion who’d been fed a favourite dish but wasn’t happy about the size of the portion. There was still something to roar about. “That wave was going to be a ten for sure … I can’t make that mistake again,” he told compatriot Rosy Hodge, who sounded a little timid in the company of a fang-bearing Jordy.
Jordy had just secured victory in round three against Sebastian Zietz with the performance of the round. Although he’d fallen on the final turn of his last wave, Jordy’s power output on the first two axe swings had been sufficient to warrant a 7.87 from the judges. Jordy was still a little upset though. He’d left the door open for Zietz and if Jordy hadn’t nailed the final ride, Seabass’s late nine would have been enough to poach a victory. The warning signs were there for the other surfers though. Jordy had won emphatically but still wasn’t happy. Dissatisfaction breeds success, so the adage goes. There was nothing complacent or self-satisfied about Jordy’s mood.
There are other reasons the rest of the field need to be worried about Jordy. To begin with he is in incredible form. His opening 9.57 was the highest wave-score of the contest at the time he posted it and the corresponding 17.44 heat total the biggest two-wave total of the event thus far. Jordy didn’t need anything particularly fancy to impress the judges and entertain the fans, he enthralled both parties with giant power arcs, holding the board on rail through extended crescent moon carves. The longer the board is on rail, the better the turn generally looks, particularly when those manoeuvres are sublimely timed and performed in the steepest sections.
Simon Anderson, a surfer who can definitely speak from experience about Bells and the nuances of big-man surfing, made it clear why Jordy’s size can also be an advantage at the bowl.“Being bigger can be an advantage. You can overpower the lip where smaller guys will struggle.”
Simon also felt compelled to draw comparisons between Jordy’s approach to Bells and that of three-times winner, Sunny Garcia. Sunny was capable of posting major scores with single power gouge turns in the bowl and Simon, in a tones full of typical gravitas, was suggesting Jordy in current form was capable of doing the same.
Jordy’s overall act in and out of the water also brought to mind another former world champion. Like Jordy a young Martin Potter was a potent mix of alpha-male drive, ruthlessness and raw ability. However, harnessing that volcanic energy always proved challenging for Pottz, whose surfing values were shaped in the same ‘no bullshit’ South African scene as Jordy’s. Pottz managed to tame the inner beast in 1989 for the most emphatic world title victory in history. While Jordy may have been a little slow out of the gates this year, there are definite signs that he is developing the self awareness that is essential to becoming a better person and a better competitor.
“I’m not much of a tactician. When it comes down to it I’m still learning quite a lot and I just prefer to get a lot of waves,” Jordy told Tracks after his round three power show. A younger, more arrogant Jordy would never have talked about himself in such honest and self-deprecating terms. Now part of team Mr and Mrs Smith after tying the knot with Lyndall Jarvis late last year, Jordy has made several statements about how much happier and focused he feels as a married man. Others have made the same observation.
In a major interview for June Tracks Jordy also stated plainly that he was ready to relinquish his free surfing aspirations to become a world title contender. “You can’t be one of the world’s best free surfers and a world champion,” Jordy stated on the record.
In or out of a singlet Jordy has definitely looked like the form surfer of the tournament and his peers have been happy to admit it. “He’s so good in these waves,” ushered Kai Otton reverentially as Jordy eviscerated a few Winki walls on dark last night. Out in the water Jordy had the aura of one who was hunting, but still found time to chat excitedly about the return of J-Bay to the tour. “It’s a good event for me, but I think everyone wanted it back,” he told me between waves. The return of J-Bay to the tour is definitely a major coup for Jordy, who has won the event twice. However, right now it’s his current form that matters and his latest victim, Sebastian Zietz, was the first to admit that Jordy is looking ominous. “He looks like the deadliest guy out there now, in a heat or free-surfing.” Early round momentum doesn’t always point to event victory, but if Jordy can maintain his current flow it’s going to take a substantial dam-wall to stop him.