Jordy Smith Can Win The Corona Open J-Bay And The World Title

Let’s get down to business, we’ve had five from five on the Men’s WCT. To the victor goes the spoils, but only one shall wear the crown. So who’s it to be? With J-Bay nearing, we asked our most fierce tactician, 2 x World Champion Damien Hardman for the inside scoop. Here’s what the Iceman makes of the race thus far…

“Jordy Smith is ripping right now. Ballito doesn’t have any bearing on the Title race, but anytime Jordy competes in South Africa he’s a force to be reckoned with. He’s in good form, he’s injury free and without a doubt he’s in my top 5 for J-Bay. I don’t see any reason why he couldn’t win the event.

On a performance level, Jordy’s been a title contender for the last six or seven years, but something always seems to derail him. He’s suffered injury, and has been guilty of losing focus at certain times, almost like he doesn’t enjoy the odd event, but I think he’s surfing as good as he ever has.

Jordy is looking like real title contender, as he was in 2016. Look at his Bells performance this year, from day one he was surfing at podium level, because he wins heats when he’s focussed and more importantly when he’s happy. As is the case for many elite athletes, but it’s particularly important for Jordy. In the right frame of mind he could win every event.

I’d still say Wilko is the underdog, but of course that’s when Wilko shines. As soon as he took the lead last year and realised that he actually had a shot at the World Title he started thinking too much, and had a woeful result at J-Bay 2016. Wilko is at his most dangerous when he has nothing to lose, and even though he’s in the yellow jersey, he needs to tap into that underdog attitude at J-Bay.

There’s a lot expected of John John as the crowd favourite, but I don’t think he’s feeling the heat. If anything he had more pressure on his shoulders last year to win his maiden Title. Now the monkey’s off his back and he doesn’t look as hungry, but he is certainly more relaxed. He doesn’t have that sense of urgency about him. Now it’s all about the waves. If the waves motivate him, he’s hard to beat. There was no one within cooee of him at Margaret River. It was John John first, and daylight second. If we get more waves like that, watch out!

As for Jordy, he can win anywhere but J-Bay and Trestles are his two best chances to close the gap on the title race. Any wave with a big open face will suit the guys who use power on rail, especially J-Bay. My sentimental favourite would have to be Mick, but I always bet with my head not my heart, so I’d expect to see Jordy or John John in that final. My darkhorse for the event is Owen Wright. If it’s good J-Bay and it doesn’t have too much north wind blowing up the face, it’s a great backhand wave, but if that devil wind puffs up it’s the worst. At the end of the day, the ocean has the last word.”

– Damien Hardman, 1987/91 World Champion.

Hugh Wyllie