Despite defeating the greatest surfer of all time, Kelly Slater, to win the final of a World Tour event — on home soil, no less — Jadson Andre’s debut year wasn’t all ups. Moments after the win, Kelly stripped some of the gloss from the victory when he correctly questioned the young Brazilian’s ability in heavy waves by challenging him to replicate his Santa Catarina Pro heroics at Teahupo’o or Pipeline.
By Trestles, Jadson’s signature air reverse — the move on which his ascension to the World Tour and his victory there had been largely based — had been pulled apart by the ASP judging panel. He was eliminated from the event in dramatic circumstances when he launched two flat versions of the move on a last-minute wave against Damien Hobgood for a 4.83. Following the heat, he was visibly furious and refused to answer my questions about the decision. Here he tells us what worked for him last year and outlines the extreme lengths to which he’s gone to ensure he adheres to the Tour’s demands. —Jed Smith
SURFING: What worked for you last year?
Jadson: The goal was to try and be Rookie of the Year but Owen [Wright] really deserved that. He was so consistent all year. He didn’t win a contest but he got third and a quarterfinal and third and a quarterfinal all year. I couldn’t keep really consistent like that. Last year was great for me. I had a few things to think about with how I have to surf, when I have to do my main maneuver — my air. Sometimes you have to do just one carve then do a big air. Mix it up. That’s what I’ve been trying to do this year. When you surf a certain way and you don’t get a good score then you have to change something. Last year I changed some things to suit the criteria. I know which maneuver I have to do at which point on the wave. Always you try to improve and you want to do what [the judges] want to see. That’s the goal, that’s the deal.
Did you exceed your expectations in your rookie year?
I knew last year in Brazil [for the Santa Catarina Pro] that it was going to be the contest for me. That’s where I grew up and learned to surf. The conditions I won the contest in were really different to where I come from [Rio Grande do Norte via Sao Paulo] but I knew it was the contest because I was at home and I knew the cut was coming at the middle of the year. I was really strong and confident going into that contest. I was aiming for Rookie of the Year but Owen deserved it more than me. The Rookie of the Year is in good hands.
Have you noticed a trend in this year’s judging?
Always I would like to say you have to be able to surf and try your best, and if you surf good and do what they want to see, you’re gonna make your heat. If you watch every single heat, you’re gonna see how they score the waves. Always I watch every single heat. If you come to the beach when they make a call at 7 a.m., if my heat is the last one, I’ll be here at 7 a.m.. I watch every single heat because you need to work it out.
And what are your observations?
No, I haven’t seen much difference. The waves here are not very good. The guys who threw the tail and mixed it up won. Taj mixed it up well, he threw the tail, snapped, had everything and he got one of the best scores.
What have you worked on improving in your surfing?
In the last three years I’ve tried to improve my backhand and tried to work on my surfing in big waves at places like Pipeline and Teahupo’o. In three years that’s what I’ve been doing — spending a lot of time at those places. I went to J-Bay three years ago and stayed there for one month. Not for a contest. I just stayed there and trained. I went to Caroline Islands [to surf P-Pass] and stayed there for a long time training my backhand. I spent three months in Hawaii last year. I’ve spent a long time training on the points I need to improve.
What surprised you in your rookie year?
I was scared whether I’d be able to surf really well. But I always try to enjoy what I’m doing. That worked for me last year. I don’t know if I will surf good because it is my first year and I never have had to surf against some of these top guys. Only CJ and Damien Hobgood. So I was scared not to be able to do my best against the big names. But I did. I was really stoked for that.
Out of your fellow rookies, not many survived. Who do you think underachieved?
I think everybody really tried to do their best. It’s a hard question to answer. Everyone wants to make every single heat. They all tried.
How much of the battle is in your head in your rookie year?
That’s the main thing. You need to be strong in your head. Sometimes the best surfer doesn’t make the heat. You have to be smart and able to be strong. I think that’s the main thing to make heats.
How did you overcome the fear?
I tried to enjoy the time and don’t think what’s going on or who you’re competing against.
Do you think it helps if you’re a naturally competitive person?
For sure. The thing I like the most in surfing is contests. I’ve surfed contests for 11 years, so that’s what I love and I feel really good when I’m competing.