JUMPIN' JACK FLASH

Tracks - - Buzz -

On an ex­pan­sive stretch of beach where 3-4 foot peaks A-frame invit­ingly it’s just Jack Robin­son and the pho­tog left in the wa­ter. In a few days from now Jack will be hurl­ing his diminu­tive, 16-year-old frame into Teahupoo death pits for the first time, but this morn­ing he's con­tent to let his fo­cus fall above the lip rather than be­hind it. The other surfers on the or­gan­ised shoot are up in the dunes; dust­ing the sand off their feet, re­flect­ing on a fun ses­sion and think­ing about where to grab their morn­ing cof­fee. Jack's ever-vig­i­lant dad, Trevor, is just off to the side, as usual keep­ing a close eye on his son's per­for­mance. Mean­while Jack, who was the first one out, is not com­ing in till he pulls some­thing he's happy with. When the wind flick­ers cross-shore he in­stantly reg­is­ters the pres­ence of a ze­phyr to aid his aerial am­bi­tions. From the wa­ter, I watch him at­tempt ma­jor ro­ta­tions on two con­sec­u­tive waves, com­ing just short of rid­ing out each time. Du­ti­fully he turns around and pad­dles back out. "Gotta to get a good one be­fore you pad­dle in huh?" I sug­gest. He nods and a smile briefly ap­pears be­neath his mop of beach-bleached, blonde hair, be­fore his eyes nar­row and his face is once again creased with a look of pure de­ter­mi­na­tion. When a good-look­ing wave wedges up Jack pad­dles in hard, skips across the face like a skim­ming stone and launches into a sky-scratch­ing al­ley-oop. Con­scious of his pre­vi­ous two fail­ures he fights hard to hold on and ride out. As the board rights it­self and car­ries him to­wards shore he turns his head briefly to con­firm the pho­tog was in po­si­tion – job done.

The mo­ment de­liv­ers a brief but telling in­sight into what has made Jack Robin­son the most talked about young surfer in the world since Kelly Slater was a teenage prodigy. Like Slater, Jack has that rare mix of bril­liance, brains and fierce de­ter­mi­na­tion. How­ever, while Kelly sought men­tor­ship from other surfers and in­dus­try fig­ures, Jack and his dad Trevor are very much a com­bined force. In his de­sire to see his son reach his full po­ten­tial Trevor has be­come an ex­pert on ev­ery­thing from the train­ing tech­niques of Olympic Gold medal­list Lind­ford Christie to the min­eral con­tents of what Jack has for lunch. Trev won't di­vulge too much about Jack's train­ing how­ever, and seems wary that wily com­peti­tors might poach some of his ideas. "We keep most of it un­der our hat," he sug­gests with a self-as­sured grin.

Amongst other things, Trev han­dles the ne­go­ti­a­tions in Jack's con­tracts, con­sults with spon­sors on what styles Jack will be wear­ing and can talk about nu­ances in board de­sign and per­for­mance that would baf­fle some shapers. He also favours a hands-on ap­proach with Jack's video con­tent and is plan­ning to buy a drone soon so that he can cap­ture his son's ses­sions from on high.

How­ever, while Trevor is always on hand to help en­sure Jack is eat­ing the clean carbs, rid­ing the right boards and lis­ten­ing to the right voices, he is adamant that he wants Jack to be able to fight his own bat­tles on the fickle pro surf­ing play­ing field. "I never tell Jack what to do. I don't want him to be code­pen­dent on a sec­ond party," he in­sists adamantly. Trev and Jack both know that the su­per-grom tag has a limited life­span and it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore Jack’s per­for­mances will be mea­sured against ev­ery other pro surfer on the planet. The aim is to make him ready for the tran­si­tion.

Jack's preter­nat­u­ral tal­ents came to the at­ten­tion of the surf­ing world very early on. By the age of 12 he'd claimed three di­vi­sions of the West Aus­tralian ti­tles (the un­der 12s as an eight-year-old, the un­der 16s aged 10 and the un­der 18s aged 12). Jack's ju­nior win­ning spree also in­cluded the cov­eted King of The Groms event at Snap­per Rocks and mul­ti­ple vic­to­ries in Taj's an­nual Small Fries event.

By 2014 Jack was gracing the cover of Transworld Surf who called him the "em­bod­i­ment of surf­ing's future". Surf­in­gWorld also ran him on the cover and la­belled him the best 14-year-old surfer in the world. Around the same time the cutely ti­tled 'Jack in The Box' clip went vi­ral on surf­ing sites. It fea­tured Jack non­cha­lantly back­door­ing twisted, eight-foot bar­rels at The Box in WA. Most surf­ing prodi­gies com­mand at­ten­tion with rad­i­cally progressive surf­ing but the clip made it all too ap­par­ent that de­spite be­ing lit­tle more than 40kg wring­ing wet, Jack was rid­ing big bar­rels with as much skill and bravado than most any­one in the world. To em­pha­sise the point, a few shots of Kelly at The Box were fea­tured in the same clip. By then Jack had al­ready been the sub­ject of bid­ding wars between surf com­pa­nies des­per­ate to have their lo­gos on the board of the wun­derkind who seemed des­tined for great­ness. Some­how, Jack seemed able to dis­miss the hype sur­round­ing him and pre­serve the out­look of a happy-golucky if not highly de­ter­mined kid.

How­ever, his me­te­oric ca­reer tra­jec­tory took a hit when he suf­fered a ma­jor in­jury at North Point. Jack snapped his tibia and fibula at the base along with the growth plate, which con­nects to the an­kle. Like Icarus Jack had flown a lit­tle too close to the sun and had his wings clipped. For sev­eral months gap­ing bar­rels and mile-high ro­ta­tions were off the menu.

Jack was quick to bounce back, how­ever, and an­nounced his re­turn to the wa­ter with a clever clip that fea­tures a the­atri­cal twist. "Eye on the Broad­side" shows Jack get­ting the all clear from the doc­tor and toss­ing aside his crutches, be­fore free-fall­ing into heav­ing pits in a man­ner that clearly demon­strates his leg­bones have healed just fine.

Shortly af­ter his come­back, Jack earned a wild­card into the Oak­ley Pro, Bali and by his own ad­mis­sion the re­sults were dis­ap­point­ing, Jack post­ing heat totals of 3.43 and 5.83 in rounds one and two re­spec­tively. In their round two matchup Slater was mer­ci­less, claim­ing a heat to­tal of 18.43. The fact Kelly pushed so hard in the heat says some­thing about how much re­spect he has for Jack's surf­ing.

Surf­ing in the North Shore, Surf Shop Pro at Sun­set in late Jan­uary of this year Jack re­claimed some ma­jor com­pet­i­tive cred­i­bil­ity. Al­though it was only a ju­nior event, Jack man­han­dled 8-10 ft Sun­set to claim vic­tory. The win took place against a back­drop of yet an­other bid­ding war for Jack's sig­na­ture, with Quik­sil­ver, Bil­l­abong and Vol­com all throw­ing down ma­jor of­fers to have Jack on their team. Bil­l­abong ul­ti­mately walked away with the brag­ging rights and at the time of writ­ing Jack is pre­par­ing for his next chal­lenge – a spot in the tri­als of the Bil­l­abong Pro Teahupoo. Be­low he talks about his con­cept of a per­fectly surfed wave, dodg­ing sharks in WA, surf­ing with Kelly and whip­ping ran­dom chess grand­mas­ters.

Do you spend a lot of time vi­su­al­is­ing ma­noeu­vres and sce­nar­ios out in the surf? Always, that's mainly what I'm think­ing about. I'm, always having fun and in my imag­i­na­tion I just keep try­ing to get bet­ter at it. Do you have an idea in your mind of a wave that you surf per­fectly? It de­pends what wave I'm at. If it's a hell left bar­rel, it's about freefalling out of mid air, putting your ass in the wall and then com­ing out af­ter the spit and then do­ing a big carve. De­pend­ing on what wave it is, I'll always adapt to it… I'm just think­ing how I'd script an­other wave – prob­a­bly a big straight air and into a 720 and then a big carve to fin­ish. Do you spend much time analysing other surfers? I'm always look­ing on the net – John John, Ju­lian, Taj, Slater – always pick­ing apart what's go­ing on. I always check them out but I don't try and copy or any­thing though, I try and be my­self. In the past few years you have cho­sen not to com­pete in many ju­nior events and fo­cus on putting your­self amongst more elite com­pany. Why is that? It def­i­nitely raises the level when you are surf­ing with other tour surfers. You go a bit harder for sure. I com­pete at a higher level be­cause it just raises the bar and you de­velop quicker. It will be good to do some of the QS's soon. Just cruise into them when my weight comes on. When the fi­nal tem­plate of my­self is all set, then it will be all good. What do you mean when you say, 'when your tem­plate is ready'? Just when I grow into my full strength and get all my weight on. Yeah, once ev­ery­thing comes into play then you are ready to go against all the big­ger guys. Do you ever worry that you won't have enough com­pet­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause you haven't been com­pet­ing in as many con­test as some of the other surfers your age? I did lots of comps when I was a kid. Just not do­ing as many of the small wave comps now be­cause when I had the in­jury I was off the airs a bit. I'm back into them now. You have surfed with Kelly a lot and spent some time with him. Did you learn any­thing in par­tic­u­lar from him? No, not re­ally. I surf with him a lit­tle bit when he's around. Don't talk too much, just do the surf­ing – it's good that way. Get right down to it. I had some good ses­sions with him at Haleiwa last year. Just feed­ing off one an­other? Yeah, that's it. We're sit­ting close to­gether but we're just sort of surf­ing and do­ing our thing. What about when you com­peted against Kelly at the Oak­ley Pro, Bali? I just wanted to get the best waves against him be­cause I didn't have the weight he had in the calves. It's all learn­ing and I hope I get a few more heats with him. If you are in the wa­ter with Kelly Slater or Jamie O or which­ever high pro­file surfer it may be, it seems like you see your­self as be­ing on par with them? When the ses­sion's on, pretty much. Yeah, if I'm in the spot I'm def­i­nitely go­ing. At Pipe or some­thing it's pretty crowded so it's hard to get a wave on the first reef but

“I don't re­ally set too many goals in my head; I just sort of do it.”

a con­test or some­thing I'm def­i­nitely look­ing for the best waves but in a free surf I don't want to sit in there be­cause there's so many peo­ple and there's boards and it's all hap­pen­ing. But I've learnt the wave at Pipe and when a con­test comes it will be all sweet be­cause there's no one else there. At Gnar­aloo you are as deep, if not deeper, than any­one. Yeah, it's no wor­ries there. It's a home spot so no one's go­ing to burn you like Pipe. Do you get scared? Ohh … Not scared. You get a bit … you know "that's pretty solid but it's all good". I don't re­ally freak out or any­thing. Do you have any de­fined or spe­cific goals that you want to ac­com­plish? I just take it as it comes. I'm not re­ally too wor­ried about that. I don't re­ally set too many goals in my head; I just sort of do it. I think about all that kind of stuff but I just sort of do it nat­u­rally. How in­flu­en­tial has your up­bring­ing in West Aus­tralia been? There's a lot of charg­ers back home so you've got to pick up the pace a bit when it's heavy and stuff. It's def­i­nitely one of the best train­ing grounds in the world – there are just a lot of sharks. Have you had many en­coun­ters with the sharks in Western Aus­tralia? I've had en­coun­ters with about five white point­ers. One that spooked me was one that went un­der me. A re­ally big one at In­jinup car park that peo­ple could see from in­side me. The light was shin­ing through and they could see the sil­hou­ette of how big it was. I was peak­ing out … I couldn't re­ally con­trol my­self. Then one other time I had one charge me … com­ing at me.

It was push­ing a foam ball a me­tre high and a me­tre wide – just com­ing at me. Then it did a full U-turn on it­self and I caught the wave and went in. I've had a few oth­ers that I've seen cruis­ing too. I try to keep calm but when they go un­der you or right next to you, it's a bit hard. Do you like the idea of rep­re­sent­ing Aus­tralia and West Aus­tralia or are you just rep­re­sent­ing Jack Robin­son? Rep­re­sent­ing all of them I sup­pose. I don't think about it too much. I sup­pose it's how I rep­re­sent my­self that's the main thing. It seems like you have a pretty spe­cific train­ing pro­gram out of the wa­ter? I'm always stretch­ing and do­ing that sort of stuff. That's the main thing to keep on your game I sup­pose. Always keep the cir­cu­la­tion go­ing. You don't feel right with­out it. So you always have the Swiss Ball with you? Yep. So long as I do all that stuff and eat well it's all no wor­ries. In pro­fes­sional surf­ing there are of­ten a lot of voices telling what you should be do­ing. How im­por­tant is it having your dad in your cor­ner? Is it good to have an opin­ion you can trust? Yeah, for sure. I don't re­ally like having any­one else in my ear. He's not re­ally in my ear but he's there and if I need any­thing I'll ask him. He doesn't push me to do any­thing … it's all my choice but I'll ask him things and we'll work it out to­gether… I mean, I get a few other tips from other peo­ple around the world at all dif­fer­ent spots but ba­si­cally it's all-good. Out­side of surf­ing you are into your spearfish­ing? Yeah I'm always into my div­ing and go­ing fish­ing and it's good for the lungs as well. I'm a bit scared of spear­ing in WA though be­cause you spear a mack­erel or some­thing and you've got a shark on you straight away. Have you got a good breath-hold­ing ca­pac­ity? Yeah, I try to but I've got to get back into it be­fore I go and surf some heav­ier waves, but it's usu­ally pretty good. It's fun aswell. Ap­par­ently you are a pretty mean chess player? I started play­ing when I was pretty young and when I get into it I re­ally like it. It's re­ally good for the brain. Can you beat the old man? Once he gets go­ing it's quite hard but I usu­ally can get him. You said you had a bat­tle in Spain with a guy who claimed to be a pro­fes­sional? He was stay­ing at our ho­tel and he was a pro­fes­sional. He was re­ally good. We had a two-hour game and he beat me and then we had a sec­ond one and I got him from like six sides … I left it at that. Al­though you left main­stream school early there are cer­tain aca­demic chal­lenges that you like also – me­chan­i­cal stuff and par­tic­u­lar books? I like do­ing all that stuff. Prob­a­bly makes me surf bet­ter too – not bored, just always busy… some sort of chal­lenge. What's your favourite book? That's hard, there's so many of them. Prob­a­bly one about the col­loidal min­er­als and trace el­e­ments. All that side of things is re­ally in­ter­est­ing. It re­ally starts mak­ing you try and work stuff out about the way your body and the blood pro­cesses col­loidal trace el­e­ments and min­er­als – just all about the body and what or­gans they travel through and how they make you per­form. So you're like your own sport sci­en­tist find­ing out about things that re­late di­rectly to im­prov­ing your per­for­mance? Yeah … I'm always try­ing to learn about the body. It seems like you also put a lot of time and en­ergy into your boards. Yeah, I'm rid­ing Erik Arakawas at the mo­ment and they're go­ing great … just the way he foils them off, he's a mas­ter at it. He knows what he's do­ing and he's always keen to keep bet­ter­ing it. Tell us about the moon tail de­sign you use. Yeah the moon tail, it's a bit like a pin but I like them a lit­tle bit more and it's got good bite off the bot­tom. It's nice and fast. I get them on pretty much all my boards. I get a few square tails here and there on my lit­tle boards. And then on my much big­ger boards I'll get a pin­tail. Any­thing from 5'10 to 6'1" is a moon­tail though. What's your stan­dard short­board? Usu­ally 5'8" or 5'9" and 18 or a bit wider now. Do pay at­ten­tion to lit­er­age? Yeah, just tinkering around with that at the mo­ment be­cause I'm com­ing to the next stage of my growth. Fi­nally. What would you like peo­ple read­ing mag­a­zines and watch­ing clips to think when they look at Jack Robin­son? Prob­a­bly just a happy kid with no ego I sup­pose. Just having fun with what he's do­ing … just keep hum­ble and happy.

Jack Robin­son ramp­ing it up. || MAC­FAR­LANE

JACK ROBIN­SON IS READY TO TAKE ON THE WORLD.

IN­TER­VIEW BY LUKE KENNEDY

STEPHEN BACCON

The hooded grom­met has much ahead of him.||

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