Hawaii has been a little lackluster for the past week. The normal blue bombs haven't been exploding off the North Shore reefs like they normally do in December. This gave us an opportunity to talk with current ASP No. 2 surfer, Jordy Smith, of South Africa.
This year, Smith notched his first World Tour victory (the Billabong Pro South Africa) in front of his own countrymen, held the No. 1 slot for a time, and made the final of the Rip Curl Pro Portugal, putting himself within reach of a World Championship in only his third year on tour.
Where does a 22-year-old get that kind of maturity? What's pushing him? And just how intense was the title race with Kelly Slater for Smith. We talked to him to find out. Lord knows, he's had time to chat ...
ESPN.com: Not the best week on the North Shore. What's going on out there?
Smith: Basically, I'm just hanging around right now, just waiting for the swell to pick up a little bit and get those bigger boards out.
ESPN.com: The Triple Crown was been on hold for five straight days. What did you do during the down time?
Smith: There hasn't been too much going on -- I've been doing a little training -- soccer, tennis. I like to keep active. I also like to snorkel the reef out at Pipe to see what's happening and see where all the shallow bits are. It just kind of helps you to know your spot better and understand your line-ups. I have shave-ice every day, so that's really good (laughs.) It's so Hawaiian. There hasn't been waves, so I've just been cruising with family and hanging out.
Both you and Bobby Martinez have pointed out that the O'Neill team manager, Garth Tarlow, has been a big help this year.
I actually live with Garth. He's someone you can really trust when you're traveling and I'm sure he's helped everyone on the team -- Bobby and Roy (Powers) and the boys. It gets tough traveling all over the world, so it's good to have someone like that take care of everything. I've never actually really had a coach. My Dad has kind of coached me a bit, but I've just kind of done whatever, and that's kind of been the secret I guess.
You're very young to be in the position that you're in, consistently making it to final rounds and staying in the top five on tour. Why do you think that you've been able to figure out the intricacies of ASP competition quickly, where it takes other guys years to figure that out?
I think I've got a pretty good ability to adapt to different conditions, different breaks and wave sizes. I think that's the biggest key -- just adapting when conditions change. Mother Nature is never the same two days in a row, so you never know what you're going to get.
You're surfing with a level of maturity that's unusual for someone with just two seasons on tour. Where is that coming from?
I think it's just a matter of experience and getting to know the places that you're going to. My first two years, I put a lot of pressure on myself -- too much pressure maybe, and it led to bad results, getting upset, things like that. Now I've learned to relax. I think about things a little more and I guess that comes with maturity as well.
A couple years ago, when you were coming onto the tour with Dane Reynolds, there was all this hype around these two rookie standouts. It was recently leaked that Dane was considering not doing the tour after this year. Would that bum you out?
That's a riddler, eh? I'm pretty sure he's going to do the tour. At least from what I know and speaking to him, he's going to do it. It's all just creating media hype, I guess. We feed off each other a lot. I watch his heats all the time, and I get really psyched up to surf when he's out. So, he definitely makes it more fun.
How intense was it when you were actually in a world title race?
Pretty intense. It was a first for me, so I didn't really take too much neck to it, but publicity kind of goes through the roof. Everyone's just kind of in your face all the time, asking for interviews. But it's one of the things you have to deal with. But I actually don't mind it. I kind of liked it.
What was your least favorite part of that at the time?
That question over and over again, "Can we get an interview?" Just randoms trying to get in there. I was like "What? What's happening?" You just have to kind of suck it up at times. It is your job, and you just do them.