When the world’s top ranked surfer Jordy Smith got in touch to say he’d like to book in for a couple of days of waves with us we’ll admit we were a little bit excited.
The 29-year-old South African – a team rider for O’Neill – called in on his way to France, where he’ll resume his world title race at the World Championship Tour in Landes (7-8 October 2017).
Jordy ripped our waves during his two-day stay, and he also found time to sit down with the head of our surf academy Jo Dennison, to chew the fat about the future of inland surfing, getting kids involved in the sport, and the appeal of surfing without sharks.
Have a read here, or watch the full interview below!
Jo Dennison This is actually your second time to visit us here in North Wales – what do you think of it?
Jordy Smith It’s a pretty crazy place to be honest. I look around and it’s just surrounded by mountains and lots of greenery which is beautiful. The first time that I came here I was injured so wasn’t able to surf it. But I’m really happy to be able to surf it now.
JD We’ve had a bit of wind, but what do you think of the wave?
JS The wave has been really fun. They’ve been running it at 90 second intervals, so you can really get a lot of reps which is something rare which you don’t get in the ocean. You don’t usually get the opportunity to ride that many waves on such a consistent basis, and so yes obviously with the wind swirling around we’ve had some onshore conditions, some offshore conditions. So yeah, the best of both worlds.
JD We’re like 9 miles inland. How does it feel not being able to see the horizon?
JS Yeah, it’s definitely a weird thing, like you said, being so far inland. When I was first driving out here I remember kind of feeling ‘where the hell are we going – are we anywhere near the ocean’? It’s definitely something different and something unique.
JD There’s not a massive surf culture in North Wales because it’s in the middle of the mountains, so we’ve started a kids’ club. We’ve got 60 kids that come very Saturday and we offer the lagoon to them for free so that they can learn how to surf and learn about waves and how to be safe and everything like that.
What age did you start surfing and do you think you would have improved even faster with a facility like this?
JS Definitely. That’s incredible – to have 60 kids just learning about the ocean, how the waves break and where they’ve got to position themselves to be able to catch them. I think they’re definitely going to benefit at a rapid pace. I started surfing at three years old and I was lucky enough to have my dad as a surfboard shaper. He obviously understood the ocean – but there are some parents who don’t understand. This is a very safe environment for them to be able to trust their kids. There’s no sharks, there’s nothing bad that’s going to happen.
JD Yeah, we had a frog the other day so…
JS Ah well there you go. So just a couple of frogs… I think for the most part you going to be able to accelerate really quickly and excel in the sport really, really fast. Obviously kids pick up things really quick so having a consistent wave and a consistent opportunity every single time I think they’ll pick it up really quick. Then they can take their skills to the ocean and then learn about how a wave breaks and just get the basics of surfing mastered really quickly.
JD A lot of people say ‘ah it’s replacing surfing, all these wave pools’ – but actually it’s just a really good training facility and you can get that riding time and then go to the ocean and practice everything.
JS Absolutely. I think it’s just probably going to be one of surfing’s best tools – to help a surfer generate a love for the sport and for surfing.
JD Did you do The Test at the K Pool*? (*Kelly Slater’s wave pool)
JS I did the test event and like anything with testing there were a few little things. But overall it was a great event and I think recently we just got emailed about how can we change it how can we make it better. I think as far as pools go this is just the beginning. There’s no reason why in three years’ time we won’t see an eight-foot huge barrel. I think that will be pretty exciting.
JD So… surfing and the Olympics… are you going to be there?
JS I sure hope so for the Olympics! What an incredible opportunity to be able to represent your country at the highest level. You know the fact that this is going to be surfing’s first Olympics in 2020 in Japan – I think wave pools could actually play a huge part in that. Taking surfing to the world could be pretty scary at that time in Japan – the waves are pretty flat in the ocean – and to see someone not catch a wave is pretty boring. I think wave pools could really help us there in that aspect. And everyone’s going to have an equal opportunity – we’re still two or three years out from that but yeah it’s going to be exciting you know. It should be a fun Olympic Games.