It’s not easy to stay in the spotlight on the WQS. Shitty waves, obscure locations and almost zero media coverage make the tour a grim career choice for most pro surfers. That’s why it’s such a big deal that instead of falling of the map, this group of surfers managed to turn the tour into a coming-out party.
One found himself involved in the biggest bidding war in the sport’s history. One’s disregard of the competitive format has made him the most dangerous surfer in a jersey. There’s a comeback story, a determined European who worked his ass off and an Aussie longshot who will probably crack the top 10 on the ’CT. It’s an eclectic group from every corner of the globe and they’re ready to dismantle the current cabinet to make room for their new regime.
During a lay day at the Reef Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa, we assembled this group at the The Bay Club inside the Turtle Bay Hotel, sucked down some Mai Tais and pupu’s amid smooth jazz and the frequent crack of a cue ball to find out how they survived the qualifying tour, how to deal with groupie attacks and why the ASP World Tour will never be the same again.
Jordy Smith, 19, Durban, South Africa: The ultra-confident Saffer who’s made shaking up the mainstream surf world his main business. Jordy qualified for the ASP World Tour in his first year and is Dane Reynolds’ media-created arch nemesis.
Dane Reynolds, 23 Ventura, California: Turns everyone who surfs against him into a basket case. He’s a critic of the surf world in every facet and represents the new direction in professional surfing. He’s also Ween’s biggest fan.
Jay “Bottle” Thompson, 25, Burleigh Heads, Australia: The most powerful of the new qualifiers. “Bottle” is the new Macca on tour: powerful, stylish and a top 10 threat right out of the gates.
Tiago Pires, 27, Ericeira, Portugal: One of the most fluid and polished European surfers to ever make the tour. Surfs like a symphony playing Slayer.
Ben Bourgeois, 29, Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina: After falling off the tour in 2002, he’s finally ready to be back where he deserves and where he’s supposed to have been all along. Single and ready for the ’CT groupie upgrade.
FIRST OF ALL, WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU GUYS BRING TO THE WORLD TOUR NEXT YEAR?
Jay Thompson: Well I think you’ve got Dane and Jordy who bring the new school and all the crazy airs, but I’d say I’m more old school. I grew up on a righthand point so I draw longer lines. But I’m just excited to surf against the best guys. And we’ll see where I can go from there.
Tiago Pires: I’d say I’m a more classical surfer as well. I’m not all that good at airs. I just like to surf powerful, nice waves and barrels. It’s been a really windy road struggling through the WQS so I’m really excited to get on tour and surf those waves.
Jay: Let’s make a pact that we’ll try airs. It’ll turn into the battle of the credit card airs, though.
Jordy Smith: I think my whole game is to bring excitement to the tour. Just for spectators, I want to make it exciting. And to make some heats at the same time.
Dane Reynolds: This definitely isn’t something I’ve thought about. I’m mostly just excited to be a part of this group. I know there’s a lot more excitement behind this group of qualifiers than in the past. I think this qualifying group is going to challenge the top seeds more than any other. I think they’ve gotten pretty comfortable there, so it should get pretty interesting.
BEN YOU WE’RE ON A FEW YEARS BACK, WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU BRING THIS TIME AROUND?
Ben Bourgeois: Yeah I was on for two years a while back and I’m stoked to be back in there. I want to give it a good swing again. I’m anxious to get back on there and travel with all my good friends again that I used to be on there with. It’s a long haul back, crazy really, but I’m really stoked to be back.
DO YOU GUYS THINK THE WCT REPRESENTS THE BEST SURFERS IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW?
Jordy: I think probably the top 10 are. There are a lot of guys on the WQS that could do amazing on the WCT that won’t get there ever. There are too many events in shitty waves, I mean they have every WQS event in the summer of that country and normally summer is bad for places.
Ben: Yeah, I’d say there’s a lot of the best surfers in the world. But a lot of guys that could easily be there but aren’t. Maybe they don’t want to do it, or haven’t tried, but there’s a lot of guys it’s just not what they want.
Jordy: Some aren’t even thinking of doing the ‘QS. Like look at Craike and guys like that. They surf amazing but want nothing to do with the ‘QS.
Jay: This is what I get angry about is, and I’m not going to say any names or anything, but you get the guys who are amazing and they’re in the videos and they’re surfing their home break and doing their thing, but you get them going the opposite way and you can quickly see that it’s not the full package. But I think the guys on the ‘CT are the best all-around surfers. But like obviously there are guys that you put them in a little beachie against a guy like Bruce, and they’ll get him. But you get him at Pipe and Backdoor and he’ll smash everyone.
Jordy: I see what you’re saying, you have to be more of an all-around surfer to be on the WCT.
Jay: Yeah, I mean we all know the ‘QS is f–ked, but not every WQS’s is f–ked.
Jordy: I thought we were pretty lucky this year on the WQS. During France and all that –– it was fun.
Ben: I remember going to France years ago and it being insane. When I was younger I remember scoring in August. Like during the contest it was pumping.
Dane: Doesn’t it seem like Hawaii used to get swells in November, too?
DANE YOU’VE SAID YOU WANT TO APPROACH ‘CT HEATS LIKE YOU DID AT LOWERS THIS YEAR, YOU LOSE YOU LOSE, NO HOLDING BACK. HOW DO YOU PLAN TO DO THAT?
Dane: Well with the format how it is now you have to become mechanical to win heats. I guess there are exceptions, but for me I’m more interested in not becoming mechanical. I don’t want to become that. It’s strange that you can get the set of the day and do turns they could do blindfolded and get 8’s in contests. On the’CT it’s a little bit better, but I saw this a lot on the WQS, especially like in Huntington when it was inconsistent at the U.S. Open. You could get beat by a guy who could barely surf if he got the set of the day. I don’t really want to become that. I don’t have any goals set or anything, though.
WHAT’S THE WORST THING ABOUT THE WCT?
Tiago: The hurry up and wait mentality.
Jordy: That’s better though. I’d rather wait than it be held in shit waves and held on a day no matter what.
Ben: That’s a hard question for us to say anything to because we haven’t really been in there yet.
DO YOU FEEL IT’S BECOME BORING OR FORMULAIC AT ALL?
Jordy: I don’t think it’s become boring at all. Every year it gets better and better.
Ben: Yeah with all the people watching on the net now, it’s definitely better now.
Jordy: Maybe the format could be better for the spectators. They don’t want to see someone do the same thing over and over that’s for sure.
HOW PREPARED ARE YOU FOR MAN ON MAN?
Ben: I think most of us here have surfed in quite a few man on man heats. It’s definitely different on the WCT though.
Jordy: Its better than surfing with 5 ‘zillos.
Dane: Well, it’s definitely different though because in ‘QS heats you’re looking for sixes. Like a lot of heats you make with sixes. I mean most of the heats I made were from going inside and catching inside waves. You can’t really do that on the CT.
Ben: And on the ‘QS you never really use your priority because it was little wind swell beachbreak.
Jordy: If you have priority you end up waiting too long and the other guy sits inside and finds inside little nugs.
Tiago: In the shitty waves the priority is worse.
Ben: Yeah because you’re thinking you need to wait and pick off a good one, but it’s hard to tell what’s a good one when you’re waiting for so long.
Dane: What about the new format they’ve been talking about, you heard of this?
Jay: Yeah they’re using this at the Pipe event.
Dane: I think it looks like the sickest thing ever.
Jordy: Isn’t it like a two people out, then another four or something?
Dane: You don’t like it?
Ben: I think it’s just a bit weird.
Jay: I think it’s four guys out there and then two guys get priority for like 15 or 20 minutes or something and the other two guys can still surf, but then they switch.
Dane: Yeah, you get twice as much time out there.
Jay: Well it would be more exciting for the spectators because there’s four people in the water at all times but if you have the priority it’s still like man on man.
Jordy: I think there needs to be more judges. Do you ever watch the Olympics? Like the gymnasts and that?
Ben: Where there’s like a judge on style and that.
Jordy: Yeah, each judge just judges one thing. The style judge judges the guys style. Another judge decides, freaken, I dunno, if you bogged or whatever. (Laughs all around)
Dane: The bog judge? (laughing)