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Jordy Smith: “Tour’s #1 safety surfer!”

Longtom

by Longtom

Writer analyses every single scoring wave of Jordy Smith at J-Bay. The results will shock!

This was supposed to happen the next day but I ran into an old friend in the carpark and a few shots of spiced rums later there we went again, no sober analysis.

Then, the local point was falling out of the sky over the weekend and the sober analysis got kicked to the kerb.

But this one is real.

Straight up, there were five or six surfers in the draw who, theoretically, could have done what Filipe did. And I include Italo, Gabby, and reluctantly Kolohe in that list, but only one other likely to do it in a heat, that being John John Florence.

But while John could have done it but didn’t, Filipe did. Not once, but twice.

John didn’t because he has been trained, both by his own hand and by his coach, to restrict the performance envelope. This is what pro surfing does. It penalises mistakes so heavily because of the format that a certain amount of conservatism is mandatory. John has learnt to surf at a lesser level than his peak best, as has every other member of the top ten. The only exception to this rule being Kelly Slater, who has learnt to surf better in competition than he does in free surfs.

Or had.

Any quasi-competent recreational surfer could ride J-Bay as beautiful as it gets and stitch together a pair of threes on best-ever rides. Any competent pointbreak surfer can ride the tube at Supers. The pro’s are expected to exploit that canvas to reach hitherto unseen levels of performance.

That is what makes Filipe’s wave, his overall performance, despite some stylistic flaws, the best in pro surfing history. The fact that he was so easily able and willing to overcome the inherent conservatism of a man-on-man heat and the pro surfing format in general.

Mick Fanning said the wave (J-Bay) is the star and we are just here to do nothing and make the wave look good.

Au contraire Michael.

Any quasi-competent recreational surfer could ride J-Bay as beautiful as it gets and stitch together a pair of threes on best-ever rides. Any competent pointbreak surfer can ride the tube at Supers. The pro’s are expected to exploit that canvas to reach hitherto unseen levels of performance.

And, by and large, they didn’t.

When you consider Andy Irons opened the final at Barra in Mexico in 2006, more than 10 years ago, with a lofty straight air as an opening move. A section connector. And you consider what Filipe did, you realise how much music has been left unplayed.

Jordy Smith is the worst safety surfer on tour. Did you notice after the Grit bought numerical analysis to the game that the WSL cribbed it? I did. This time an analysis of Jordy turn-by-turn was done. I went through every single one of his scoring waves and gave every turn a number from 1-10. Ten was the highest-risk turn, the most radical and zero was, well, falling off or doing nothing.

Jordy’s camp can rail against this and shoot the messenger or they can do the analysis themselves and face the reality. Absent an angry, belligerent Jordy, what we get is safe, low energy surfing.

As a reference point, Jordy’s standard top-turn wrap, a turn he can do with zero risk 99.99% of the time, was assigned a five. This was painstaking, tedious work. Out of 85 counted turns, 17 scored in the excellent range (eight and above) and eight of those came in a single heat (round five resurf against Conner Coffin, Jordy’s best heat by a mile).

Jordy’s average turn score came in at a very safe 6.22. That is, safe surfing.

Jordy’s camp can rail against this and shoot the messenger or they can do the analysis themselves and face the reality. Absent an angry, belligerent Jordy, what we get is safe, low energy surfing.

Sad, yes. Inevitable, no.

Nothing lights up the proud surfwriter more than going sloppy fourths on a subject. On the tens there is only one conclusion we can reach and it is well supported by the science of psychology.

A mass abrogation of executive function bought on by a sustained period of emotional over-excitement and subsequent discharge.

Translated: Judges lost their marbles after viewing too many perfect waves. You can Google all this Richie Porta. Type executive function, human decision making, effects of emotion, cognitive bias, flaws in decision making etc.

It’s all there. No blame, no judgement. What’s astounding is not when judges freak out but how often they get it right. We can wait until the next iteration of pro surfing before judging changes.

We can wait.

Until then, see you at Teahupoo.