Jordy Smith, the lone South African on the Championship Tour, missed five of 11 events in 2015 due to knee and back injuries. But the 28-year-old's return to competition has involved more than just physical healing.
Those months out of the water gave Smith ample time to ponder serious questions about his goals as a professional surfer. On the one hand his video parts are as impressive as ever: a stellar blend of powerful rail work and aerial wizardry. But on the other, he remains South Africa's greatest hope for a World Title as he comes to grips with his veteran status. Catching up with him in Hawaii, we were curious to know if his desire for the trophy is starting to outweighing his goals for the next great clip.
Daniel Jenks: How does it feel to be back in a jersey?
Jordy Smith: I'm feeling really good actually. It's been a long, long time. I don't think I would've walked down some of the paths that I've walked down, asked myself some of those questions. 'What do I want to see at the end of my career?' This whole Hawaii season is just going to be a warmup for me for next year. Practice what I've been working on.
DJ: Can you expand on that? What's the 'stuff' you've been working on in your time out of the water?
Smith: Mental. Mostly mental games. Really making the decisions Having it be black and white. [Between] competitive surfing and freesurfing I've been battling with myself for the last five or six years. Where I want to be, what I want to do. Obviously I want to win World Titles and I want to have great video parts. But I think if I can look back on my surfing. I definitely want to have World Title or two under my belt for sure.
DJ: Is it hard go from an injury back into a competitive mindset?
Smith: I think competing is one of those things, it's just in your blood. [To contextualize] when you step on a soccer field, you want to win, whether it's kicking the ball or running across the field. For every single person here [in Hawaii] the hardest part is just gathering your bearings, wave selection. Heat management is probably the hardest that I've found since I've been back. But that's something that you pick up after a couple more heats. It's a numbers game, you just have to get those heats going.
You start to question everything that you're doing.
DJ: Your wife seems to be your rock. Did it help to have that support during your first major injury?
Smit: She's pretty much 100 percent my rock. You know the closest ones to you take all the beatings -- metaphorically. So I have mad respect for her. So many ups and downs at one point. Probably two months into my recovery, I was pretty down because I couldn't see the light at that point and it gets really frustrating. At one point I was probably putting in six hours of treatment a day and whether that be body work, physical work. And when you don't see results straight away, you start to question everything that you're doing. That was really hard for her to see me go through and dealing with me at those times. But being 100% supportive the entire way. She just kept reminding me how good I am.
DJ: Looking ahead to next season, will you be taking any time off?
Smith: I've already had my relax time. Everybody else hasn't, so I think they'll be going into relax mode, but I'll be driving through.
DJ: Any big plans for the holidays?
Smith: Ya I want to go to New York actually. I've never been there and I've always wanted to go. They had a CT there, but funny enough I was injured when they had it. I want to go do the white Christmas and cruise in Central Park, ice skate and see New York. Eat some pizza!