This week at the Corona Open J-Bay, former World Champion Shaun Tomson -- and South Africa local -- has been in front of the camera, and around it, so we decided to hit him up with a few questions on the current state of professional surfing.
World Surf League: So who out of the surfers out there today at Supers inspires you?
Shaun Tomson: That's a great question.
From a perspective of innovative and pure surfing would be John John Florence. What John John did in Margaret River -- that was pure, old-school carving. He was even riding an old school board and he was showing that no matter what the changes are in surfing, the true test of surfing greatness is how you carve. Simple.
From a perspective of effortless, rhythmical power it would be Jordy Smith, with his incredible win at Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach and where he has taken his surfing to with this newfound effortlessness. He's not struggling, he's not in a hurry; he does these effortless power surges that are so good to watch.
From a perspective of innovation and pure stoke it would be Kelly Slater. You know, it's with what he's doing inside and outside of surfing. There are the radical innovative surfboards, the incredible wave pool, and he's just stoked on a day-to-day basis on just going surfing.
From a perspective of tenacity and raw courage I'd say Mick Fanning. While he hasn't had a stellar year yet, just the tenacity and courage that guy showed, particularly last year by coming back and winning here, after what had happened to him. That's one of the greatest victories ever in surfing.
Then there is the warrior perspective, and that must be Adriano de Souza.
You know, I get so inspired by what's happening at the World Surf League level. For me it's not just from the pure surfing, it's from what's inside of people.
What do you think of the current state of surfing in South Africa?
Colin Fitch phoned me to tell me about the City Surf Series a few months ago, and I though that it was really great news. When we were younger we had so many events in Natal, and all it meant that we got more time wearing our heat vests, and we got more competition savvy. The only way to achieve this is to be surfing in heats all the time. So you've got a guy like Jordy, who is in the top tier you know, he's right up there, but now you have a guy like Michael February, and he's just a young guy coming up, and he's going , ‘I can do this.' And he's saying that because he's getting the practice and he's surfing and winning heats, and getting more contest experience. I think it's great.
What was the best piece of advice you ever got on competing?
That's a great question, with a great answer. The best advice when it comes to competing, and it's very simple advice, came from my dad. He said to me that when you lose, you lose like a man, and when you win you win like a gentleman. When the judges make a decision, it is carved in stone, and it's not going to change. No matter what you do. If you storm the tower, or if you shout at the judges or make a big scene, it makes no difference to the result of the heat. If you do these things you're not going in the right direction. You're just making things worse. When I would lose, I would shake hands with the guy who beat me, and I would deal with the loss in my head, and I would walk away and look forward to the next competition. I had to get rid of the negativity of losing as fast as I could, in order to focus on the next win.
It's sounds like it's an advantage to be able to do that.
Exactly. It's a massive advantage, to not be weighed down, to not have all this negativity and shouting and nonsense. It doesn't change the result. Nothing does, so you have to keep moving forward. It was a great thing for me to understand, and when I understood it, it was one of the biggest reasons why I succeeded in professional surfing.
Other piece of advice that I have taken on in my life and used and adapted is the ideology to paddle back out. It is so relevant to everything. There is so much happening in surfing. You go for a surf, and you paddle out. You have the anticipation, then you have a good ride, or you might have a massive wipeout, whether you are competing or free- surfing. Either way, you paddle back out. In competition this just means that you don't give up, and you keep fighting till the end. There might be the winning wave just over the next one, but you have to paddle back out.
Lose like a man, win like a gentleman, and always paddle back out. That's the advice that I live by.