Did you know that Jordy Smith finished the 2016 season in second place on the Jeep Leaderboard? To be perfectly honest, I’d assumed Gabriel Medina had finished second until I looked at the rankings recently. Jordy’s fifth-place finish at Pipe actually saw him leapfrog the Brazilian in the final event of the season.
Last year was all about John John Florence. The best surfer on the planet finally put together the dream season we were all waiting for, making it easy to forget about anyone else. Look back to this time last year and Jordy Smith was kind of the forgotten man of the WCT. An injury-riddled 2015 campaign saw Smith finish 28thin the rankings, his worst finish since becoming a mainstay tour, and the Jordy world title talk seemed a distant memory of what might have been.
Smith was given an injury wild card for the 2016 season, but there was not much chatter about him as the Australian leg of the tour began. A 25th at Snapper Rocks to kick off the year definitely didn’t generate any Jordy buzz. Things got rolling for Jordy at Bells, where he finished second. Bells has always been a strong event for him, the kind of contest in which he really needs to perform well. The rest of the year saw Jordy show a good deal of consistency, as he posted just one more 25th. His crowning moment of 2016 took place at Trestles when he took home top honors.
Fast forward back to today and the 2017 WCT season is about to commence. From what I can gather, a lot of people are looking at the world title as a three-man race. You’ve got John John, the reigning champion and a surfer that can excel in any conditions. You’ve got Medina, who is just a couple of years removed from winning it all and is one of the most dangerous riders on tour. And now we’ve also got Mick Fanning back, as he recently announced that he’ll be competing full-time and gunning for a world title in 2017.
But what about Jordy? People tend to forget that this is a guy that has finished in the Top 5 on the Jeep Leaderboard several times and has finished as a runner-up for the title twice. He’s a dynamic athlete that was being touted as a future world champion early in his career. Could he now be taking on the role of a post-hype sleeper of sorts?
Sure, the aforementioned trio is one to command serious respect. With five world titles between them, John, Gabby, and Mick are three amazing surfers, all of whom could take down the title this season. I believe Jordy, when healthy, is in that class, a top-tier surfer among the best of the best.
So what does Jordy have to do to hoist the hardware this year? First of all, he needs to stay healthy. Injuries have been a bit of a problem throughout Smith’s career, which is not a huge surprise when a guy of his size boosts huge airs. The second thing Jordy needs is consistency. Twenty-fifth place finishes simply will not do, despite the fact that he can throw away two of them. You want to be throwing away 13ths. Jordy also needs to excel at his pet events, places like Bells, J-Bay and Trestles. Big results at his best tour stops will be crucial, unless he overperforms in a place like Fiji.
Jordy has the power game, the flash, and the aerial ability to win a world title, and I think this is the year he puts it all together and outdoes some of the higher profile surfers on tour. Some people may not see him coming, but they didn’t last year either.