So I’m sitting in the Vida in Camps Bay waiting to interview the undisputed heavyweight of South African surfing, Jordy Smith. He’s late, I’ve been here 45 minutes already. My phone rings and that latte’s left me feeling gassy and bloated. It’s Craig Jarvis, Jordy’s de facto media manager. “He’s not coming bru,” is all he says. I feel like I’m in a spy movie. “He doesn’t want to do the interview.” OK, so there’s a bit of backstory here. The first time I met Jordy Smith, he was a sparkly-eyed 15 year old surfing prodigy radiating stoke to the universe in the parking lot at Supers. The sky being the limit, but the fame and the hype hadn’t really landed. About 4 years later, I met him at a signing and asked him to write: ‘I love cougars’ on my poster. He reacted frostily and told me to fuck off. We still managed to get a terse little interview done, (Jordy’s a professsional) but the rapport was gone. About a year later, Warwick Wok Wright invited me to a private little surf competition Jordy was hosting at Llandudno, between two of his closest mates. With Wok as my guide (a poor idea to begin with) I wrote a little burner of what went down. Andy Davis on the burning bridges tour, once again. Invariably, his best mate, Steve “Laces” Michelsen came off looking a bit kak. What I suspect happened in Camps Bay, that left me hanging at the Vida, was that Jordy announced to his entourage that he had an interview with this Andy Davis cat lined up and Steve-o tuned him not to do it. “Nought hey Jord… Fuck that poes!”
So as long stories go, I left Camps Bay deflated and reached out to Steve, trying to make things right. After apologising for any trouble my original Laces Invitational article may have created for him, the mood improved and now, on the eve of the Billabong Pro in Rio, with two events down and eight to go, and Jordy occupying 5th place in the World Title rankings, we finally got to do our interview… Thar she blows!
Mahala: 2012 is a big year for you. You did really well in 2010 when you almost won the Championship and finished second. Then last year you got injured and a whole bunch of new blood arrived (Owen Wright, Gabriel Medina) on the tour. And this year looks like it’s going to be even more competitive with John-John Florence and Taj and Parko still pushing for the number one spot. Not to mention the constant threat of old man Slater. How do you feel about your chances?
Jordy Smith: I feel good this year. It really boils down to what I can control and i’m not worrying what everyone else is doing I’m just focusing on me.
In retrospect 2010, was a golden opportunity for you to win the World Title. Do you lie awake and think about that? Do you regret anything. Given another chance to live that year, would you do anything differently?
No not at all. I think things turned out the way they did for a reason. I don’t think coming second in the world is anything to be ashamed of or regret.
How do you stay motivated. You’ve basically made more money, by the time you’re 24, than most people do in their lifetime. You could quite easily quit everything, get married, have a family, travel the world and surf and do what you like everyday. From your position, how do you motivate yourself to go and win a World Title?
Well money is not everything in a person’s life and a world title is all I’ve wanted ever since I was a little kid. It’s been my number one priority, always. And when I wake up every morning and see fun waves out my window it’s pretty hard not to be motivated as all I want to do is go out and surf good waves… One day of course I want to get married and have a family but right now I know what I want and I’m doing it.
How do you deal with the celebrity of being South Africa’s number one surfer? Does it freak you out sometimes, or do you just learn to roll with it?
I dont deal with it. It’s not something I think about.
The media hasn’t always been kind to you. Stab burned you on that Joys of Sex piece a few years back (the one about cougars and anal, which Stab subsequently deleted) and then there was the whole Jordy’s nipples are too close together meme. How do you deal with gratuitous shit like that? Does it get you upset, or do you just brush it off?
To be honest I don’t really care what people write/say/think about me. The people that know me, know exactly who I am and what I’m like. If you’re in the public eye it just comes with the territory.
How did you feel when Dane Reynolds tweeted that he thought John-John Florence was the best surfer in the world right now? Was it like, hey dude, what about me?
Every person is entitled to their own opinion and no I wasn’t, like, “hey dude what about me?” To me Kelly Slater is the best surfer in the world… different opinions… we are allowed to have them.
You’re in a relationship with Lyndall Jarvis, a successful fashion model, winner of FHM’s sexiest woman in South Africa. I reckon you probably wouldn’t change that for the world, but does this relationship distract you from focussing on your surfing and winning the World Title? Or does it help keep you focussed and primed? If so, how?
It definitely keeps me focused and grounded. Traveling the world can be lonely, so I appreciate having Lyndall around. Experiencing all these things around the world is way more exciting when you get to share it with someone.
There was a stage just before you made the CT, when there were a lot of rumours circulating that you might immigrate to Australia. What was the story there? Did the Aussies try and lure you with the big bucks? Or was that story totally blown out of proportion?
Yes it’s true and I thought about it for my family, but South Africa is home. And it’s the only country I want to ride for! We haven’t had a world champion for a long time and I want to be the person that brings home the title.
Do you still enjoy surfing? Because when something becomes your full time “job”, no matter what it is, that always takes some of the enjoyment out of it.
Yes, every single surf, good or bad. It’s more than a lifestyle for me. It has become my religion.
How do you keep your stoke for surfing alive?
I dont have to keep it alive, it’s always there, it will never go away. It’s never the same, the conditions are always different, no two waves are alike, therefore it’s always a challenge.
Are you doing any interesting / innovative training for the tour this year?
Not really. I’m just focusing on the things I can control like equipment, my diet and flexibility. The rest is just about going out there and having fun.
Who do you see as your biggest threat for the crown this year?
All 44 of them! Everyone is gunning for the same thing. There are always the usual suspects that stand out and then there are a few newcomers that are pretty good… I’m just focusing on me.
When your career is over, how do you want to be remembered?
As someone who pushed the sport of surfing to new levels and someone who kids can look up to. A good role model!
What’s the one thing nobody ever asks in these interviews that you think they should?
What’s my favorite colour? Its blue, by the way… HA HA HA.