Jordy Smith: one of the best all-around competitive surfers of all time

He is one of the greatest competitive athletes in the history of professional surfing who has not won a world title. Here's the story of Jordy Smith.

A powerful carver, a superb tube rider, a master aerialist, and an astute strategist are rare attributes to find in a professional surfer.

Jordan Michael Smith was born on February 11, 1988, in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, to teacher Luellen and surfboard shaper Graham Smith.

He has a younger sister called Casey, who also surfed competitively.

Jordy, as he is known in the surfing world, started surfing at the age of three at his favorite spot, New Pier Beach.

Coincidentally, when the youngster started riding his first wave, a fishing pier was built.

As a result, the accumulating sand around the pillars turned a once mediocre spot into the area's most reliable surf break.

In his first-ever surfing competition, something astonishing happened.

Smith thought the heat winner was the first surfer to catch three waves.

Consequently, "The hooter blew, and I ran out and caught the three quickest shorey waves on the sand. Then I turned around and ran up the beach screaming, 'I won! I won!'"

But the South African soon wondered why the other athletes were paddling out the back.

Meanwhile, Jordy's father was screaming. What was his son doing?

Nevertheless, Smith thought to himself, "No - I've got my three waves. I got in first. I've won!"

The awkward moment remained in the surfer's memory until today.

Graham and Jordy: father Smith was always an inspiration for the young gun | Photo: Jordy Smith Archive

An Obsession with Surfing

At 11 years of age, before attending Glenwood High School, he had the longest surf session of his life - 11 hours of wave riding in Durban waters.

"I wanted to surf through the low tide and into the high tide," Smith once revealed.

Jordy grew up admiring Justin Matteson and Joe Crimo's aerial antics, which inspired him to later perform some of the sport's most spectacular Superman, alley-oop, and rodeo flip moves.

The regular footer used to dislike Cape Town because of the cold water but now enjoys it.

Growing up in his father's workshop, he displayed a strong passion for surfing and the intricacies of surfboard creation.

In 1996, he won his Under 8 South African Surfing Championship title on a self-shaped surfboard.

Throughout his journey, Jordy Smith has collaborated with numerous esteemed shapers worldwide, deepening his expertise and skills, notably with Chris Gallagher from Hawaii.

Jordy's interest in surfboard design led to the creation of SMTH Shapes, a surfboard shaping company co-founded with his father, Graham, who once had the Lost Surfboards license in South Africa.

Jordy Smith: power surfer, superb aerialist, and experienced tube rider | Photo: Red Bull

G-Force

Graham Smith first held a surfboard on West Street, Durban, well before South African surfing overshadowed apartheid's issues.

From just 14, he immersed himself in Max Wetteland's board manufacturing workshop.

Wetteland, celebrated as the trailblazer of South African surfboard design, introduced innovative approaches to board shaping.

Observing and absorbing from this master shaper, Graham's talent in shaping took off.

Soon, surrounded by a wave-rich coastline, he became a leader in surfboard making.

In 1978, Graham Smith Surfboards (G-Force) came into existence, partnering with the world champion surfer Shaun Tomson.

Driven by his inquisitiveness, commitment, and artistic flair, Graham ventured to the dynamic beaches of Hawaii.

There, he exchanged insights with renowned shapers like Bill Barnfield and Craig Sugihara from Town and Country Surf.

Journeying through the Pacific, Graham absorbed lessons from an elite group of surfers.

By the time he departed Hawaii, he had a deep understanding of emerging surfing styles and board blueprints, keeping him at the forefront of evolving trends.

Jordy Smith: one of the most prolific and innovative surfing aerialists on the planet | Photo: Red Bull

Jordy Smith: A Consistent Performer

Jordy Smith is one of the most experienced surfers in the Championship Tour (CT) and a proud carrier of the South African flag and passport.

Interestingly, for many years, football (soccer) was his passion and a potential career, too.

Winning titles was only a matter of time.

He clinched the ISA World Junior Surfing Championship four times (2003, 2005, and 2006) in the Under 16 and Under 18 divisions, the ASP World Junior title (2006), and the ISA World Surfing Games (2006) in the Open Men's category.

In 2007, Smith won the ASP Qualifying Series (QS), and in 2008, he was enjoying his elite rookie year.

One year later, he took the Triple Crown of Surfing's Rookie of the Year award.

In 2010, the South African from Umbilo finished runner-up to Kelly Slater.

Three years later, Jordy Smith won the X Games Real Surf gold medal.

In 2016, the regular footer once again finished runner-up to John John Florence. He was close to fulfilling his childhood dream, but not quite.

Throughout his career, Smith collected several CT event wins, including the Billabong Pro J-Bay (2010 and 2011), the Billabong Rio Pro (2013), the Hurley Pro at Trestles (2014 and 2016), and the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach (2017).

He began riding for Billabong before getting a call from Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan pushing him to accept a multi-year contract with Nike.

However, the pro surfer ended up choosing O'Neill, with whom he has long-term sponsorship deals with O'Neill.

In 2015, the South African talent scored the 10th Perfect 20 in the history of competitive surfing and his first ever.

Jordy Smith: the athlete supports an NGO that empowers youngsters at risk in South Africa through surfing | Photo: Red Bull

An Olympic Surfer Active In and Out of the Water

In 2018, the South African landed an air inside a giant bin for "Let's Talk Trash" to raise awareness of plastic pollution in the world's oceans.

He is also the ambassador for "Surfers Not Street Children," a non-governmental organization that empowers youngsters at risk in South Africa.

Jordy Smith co-founded Heaps Normal, a non-alcoholic beer company, alongside Andy Miller and Ben Holdstock.

In 2019, Smith, a dawn patrol fan, bought a house on the North Shore of Oahu.

In the pandemic year of 2020, the always-traveling pro surfer spent the winter in South Africa for the first time in ten years.

Smith qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, but he missed the chance to represent his country due to a lateral collateral ligament (LCL) injury.

Fortunately, the South African secured a back-to-back Olympic ticket to Paris 2023 via the ISA World Surfing Games held in El Salvador.

Jordy Smith married South African model Lyndall Jarvis in 2016. The couple's first child, Ziggy Ray, was born in October 2020.

Smith is 6'3" (1,90 meters) and weighs around 194 pounds (88 kilograms).

The pro surfer loves sneakers, shoes, and red wine and is a massive fan of Michael Jordan.

Interestingly, Mozambique is one of my favorite traveling destinations.

Damien Fahrenfort is Jordy Smith's longtime manager and one of his best friends. He says the surfer is "one of the wittiest people I've ever met."

Mick Fanning used to call him "Joely Parkinsmith."

You can watch him getting airborne and power surfing in "Stepping Stones," "Bustin' Down the Door," "Modern Collective," "Bending Colors," and "Now Now," among other surf videos and movies.

Jordy also enjoys watching surf films from the 1950s and 1960s.

"My life goal has always been world champion," Smith once revealed. It's never too late for it.

Jordy Smith is on Facebook (@jordy.smith.surfing), Instagram (jordysmith88), Twitter (@jordysmith88), and TikTok (@jordysmith88).

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