Interview: Jack Freestone On Alt Transition, Dad Life & CT Picks For This Season - Stab Mag

Season finale of How Surfers Get Paid drops Thursday, 5pm PT

"After surfing shortboards for ten years it gets pretty stale, and if you're competing there’s no wiggle room to progress your broader understanding and skill set.” Jack's got more room to wiggle now. Photo by WSL

Interview: Jack Freestone On Alt Transition, Dad Life & CT Picks For This Season

“I wish I’d experimented with different boards my whole career.”

features // Feb 27, 2022
Words by Ethan Davis
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Jack’s been in the North Shore for 6 months now. Sunset Point. We actually saw him during our time on the rock, flying along the bike trail with a baby strapped to his chest, oozing hot dad energy behind Epokhe shades.

Jack’s probably not where he would’ve expected to be five years ago. He’s a Cooly kid originally and Jack could’ve easily stayed home given the surf-hubness of the Gold Coast. But he didn’t. He got Island fever and decided his kids would be better off practicing their pincer grips on the coral-particulate in Kauai, where his wife Alana Blanchard is originally from. There’s not a high-rise in sight. 

So what’s been Jack’s been up to since falling off tour?

“These days I rarely don’t have a baby strapped to my chest,” laughs Jack over the phone being paged to play by one of his offspring. “Just a minute mate…I’ve been surfing my brains out and focusing on content creation.”

Jack and Alana’s Youtube channel currently sits at 123K subscribers in a highly competitive surf vlog space.

“In my head, it’s a content war right now. Everyone is fighting to have the viewers on their channel,” said Nathan Florence in his interview with Ryan Miller.

But Jack and Alana have a different content strategy than most, more family/travel/health vlog than surf porn. For vegan meal plans, booty workouts, and fam surf-offs see here. “I just pop in and out now and then.”

Jack’s changed up his equipment in a big way since falling off tour. He is the second Gold-Coast native former-CT surfer to have a rebound affair with Matt Parker’s Album Surfboards. Towards the tail end of last year, Jack parted ways with Jon Pyzel, the 2x SITD winner as picked by Dane Reynolds and Jordy Smith.

“The parting of ways with Jon was really easy. We both understood we were going in different directions. We’re still really good friends, as am I with all of the shapers I’ve worked with in the past. I want to go in this direction, and when the opportunity popped up with Matt, I had the chance to follow through with it,” says Jack. 

The genes are strong in this image. Photo by WSL

So what has the transitioning experience been like for Jack? “Really relaxing to tell you the truth, and a massive learning curve. I wish I’d experimented with different boards my whole career. It’s given me joy and a different path outside competitive surfing. After surfing shortboards for ten years it gets pretty stale, and if you’re competing there’s no wiggle room to progress your broader understanding and skill set.”

“I’ve always been highly critical about my performance. I’ve ridden for so many good shapers over the years but you get to a point where Formula 1 boards feel like Volvo’s. You’re beating yourself up mentally because your expectations are so high and when your boards can’t meet those expectations it’s incredibly frustrating. It wasn’t until I took a step back and tried something different that I saw how much of a rut I was in. Being stuck in that headspace can get pretty toxic and I was doing it for so long, hinging all my confidence on performances in heats. It’s been liberating lowering my expectations and surfing for fun.”

Disentangling board performance from surfing performance is the devilish confound that weighs on the mind of competitive surfers. “Our whole life is based around judgment. Whether it’s judges or sponsors or people on social media, it’s about pleasing people. There are so many variables that dictate how well you perform: boards, sleep, training, nutrition, mindset, whatever else is going on in your life etc… Then in competition, you have this 30-minute window to beat the guy next to you. Maybe the ocean goes flat and it’s a scrap, maybe you draw John or Gabby and the odds are stacked. So it’s easy to just blame your equipment, but it’s not exactly fair. Pretty much everyone on tour has their equipment dialed. I’m just happy not having that pressure of judgment and pleasing people so much. Riding alternative shapes has helped with that fundamental shift in my framework.”

The competitive fire hasn’t gone out for Jack, nor is he embittered about not being on tour anymore.

“I’m not shutting the door on competitive surfing. I’m just taking a break,” he says.

It’s been 15 years since Jack won Occy’s Grom Comp into the Rusty Gromfest back-to-back, two of the most prestigious junior comps to win in Australia and which kickstarted his competitive career.

“Especially with kids now I can’t subject them to life on the road at this age. I’m a lot more present with them now, and it’s nice not being locked into a schedule for the year ahead.” 

Juggling dad duties and winning heats will make it hard to be present doing either. Jack’s put down the tools for now. Photo by WSL

Having said that, the allure of competition is still there for Jack. “I’m torn, because there are parts of it I love and parts of it I’m really glad not to be a part of. I think the WSL is pushing things in the right direction. The playoffs are rad, I don’t love the mid-year cut. But the only constant is change, and surfing is always changing, the depth of talent now is crazy, it’s not so top-heavy, and as a spectator, I think it’s super engaging. I don’t want to miss a heat.”

So who are Jack’s pick for the year? “Without Gabby it’s hard to say. Him and John are the safest bets. Everyone on tour recognises they’re head and shoulders above the rest. The only two who come close are Italo and Filipe. But looking at the rankings now I’m scratching my head, it’s peppered with fresh faces. It’s hard to say if it’s a changing of the guard or people just coming into form or  just a function of putting Hawaii first which lends itself to specialists. Honestly, I can’t give you a good answer, my mind is boggled, all I know is that it’s exciting.”

Stay tuned for a Jack Freestone x Album edit to drop soon.


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