Interview: How To Dominate A Cyclone Swell, With Jack Freestone
“I’ve never seen a swell last that long, that big, and be that consistently good in my life. So to get MVP of that swell is pretty cool.”
Yesterday Stab got busy sliding into the DMs of the biggest names who threw their hat in the Cyclone Oma ring last week.
Our objective? To find out who won ‘Best on Ground’ during the multi-day swell system that lit up every right-hand point from the Northern Rivers to Noosa, and beyond.
We hit Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Jack Freestone, Mitch Crews, Tai Graham, Brenno Dorrington, The Hazzas, heads we saw (and are still seeing) disappearing into sand pipes and reappearing again on social media.
The verdict? The Gold Coast’s very own super-dad and CT re-qualifier, Jack Freestone in first, with special mention going to young Toby Mossop, the Burleigh local who put it all on the line and stayed standing in one of the wildest tubes of the week.
During Oma, Jack wherever the best waves were, Jack seemed to be. If the tide and wind shifted preferentially, if the crowd lulled, Mr Freestone moved into position – respect to Alana, who looked after their little man, Banks, during the entirety of the swell.
On Thursday, Jack rode through one of the longest, dreamiest Kirra tubes we’ve seen for some time, clocking over ten seconds in the shade in one section (there were three). The wave went viral, with 115k plays on Stab’s Instagram alone.
The following days Cyclone Oma got angrier, and he, Mitch Crews and their photog entourage rolled around to Burleigh for a swing. Once again Jack found another bomb, a little larger, a little spookier. The man was unstoppable.
Having GC royalty of the Mick and Joel caliber calling you the best surfer of one of the wildest swells of the decade, you’re doing something right.
With the cyclonic dust settling, Stab got Jack on the line to hand him his MVP title, to hear a little on the program he was running, the hours he and his crew put in, what he rode and what the marathon tube fest has done for his CT confidence.
Jack and Mitch Crews, Oma’s most efficient ski team?
Stab: Jack! How’s your body feeling?
Jack Freestone: I’m actually fine, a little bit sore, but okay overall.
We’ve been throwing some DMs around, and by all accounts, you’ve been named the MVP of Cyclone Oma. How does that sound?
[Laughs] That’s gonna have to go on my resume. That’s so funny.
You’ll have to update your Instagram bio, throw a little trophy emoji on there.
I will, ‘2019 Oma swell MVP’!
Looking back, when you saw Oma on the charts, what did you expect? Did it match the hype?
I glanced at it, I didn’t want to get my hopes up. Forecasting can be frustrating.
So I glanced at it and thought ‘ok I know there’s swell, I know the winds are going to be really good, I’m just going to get up and go out every single morning’. And pretty much every day it just got better and better.
I feel like people get caught up with forecasts, trying to pick the best place can be leave you chasing your tail. We just had our minds already made up and it was pretty cool.
Yeah, sometimes it’s best to just keep your sights on the local and commit to the one zone.
Yep, we had Kirra for three mornings, then I heard Burleigh was good, so I said ‘we’re going to Burleigh,’ and we did, and we scored.
But in saying that, every fricken point was good. I don’t think there was any way anyone could’ve lost in that swell.
How do you compare it to other big swell events over the years?
Man, to tell you the honest truth, I’ve never seen a swell last that long, that big, and be that consistently good in my life, on the Gold Coast.
So to get MVP of that swell was pretty cool.
That’s some prestige right there.
I never even knew there was such a thing as an MVP of a swell, that’s so funny.
There is now. I know you guys were doing some crazy hours. Tell us about the daily program you were running.
The program was pretty standard; we were just getting up super early, all meeting at Mitch Crews’ house. He’d make us all coffee, then we’d all go to the boat ramp, then everyone would flock to their spaces that they needed to be.
Every day we were putting in at least six-plus hours. So even though I got some good waves, I definitely spent my time out there looking for them.
Yeah, Mick told us that while there were some messed up waves, there was a lot of waiting and average ones in between.
Yep, because the swell was mostly east, the rips werent as strong.. There’d be a lot of paddlers. So when it’s like that, you definitely have to be a lot more patient.
If the swell’s south usually everyone’s really separated, you can just get the ski and step off – you know the kind of impatient way of surfing [laughs]. But I think we were being pretty respectful of everyone out there in the lineup.
Like I said, we put in our time and did a lot of waiting, and I just so happened to be in the spot to get a few good ones, for the first time ever, usually I’m the one looking at them.
Only took me 26 years to find them [laughs].
Non-Oma imagery alert! This one’s from D’Bah, when the charts began showing signs that something special was en route. Photo: Juan Medina.
With the ski situation did it get pretty congested out there? Is it getting pretty insane?
It definitely was. The last day of the swell it dropped off a fair bit in the afternoon and we went back out on the ski to the Alley. I counted 22 skis out. So that was fucking brutal, man.
What’s the culture like, do you wait in a line or something?
Mmm, it’s weird. On the big day at Burleigh there were 11 skis out and everyone was kinda ruthless. It was kind of like you were hassling but with skis.
It’s a lot more of a dangerous method of surfing, you’ve got these big fucking motors in the water, if you make the wrong mistake at eight to ten foot Burleigh you’re getting smashed. You’re putting not only your life in danger but someone else’s.
It is getting ridiculous, but at the same time, there is a sense of responsibility out there when everyone has a ski. You don’t see too many people acting like dickheads.
Then again, sometimes I felt like we were getting paddled around, but on a ski. You get a few locals crawling up your inside.
It’s like ten times more frustrating when you get snaked on a ski.
Talk us through your standout rides.
Well, there’s obviously the two, there was the one at Kirra and the one at Burleigh.
Sentimentally I think the Kirra wave was way better. I’ve had some really good barrels at Kirra, don’t get me wrong, but that one stands out more than anything I’ve ever had.
It was such a long ride and it was so perfect. I felt like I had the time to actually look around in the barrel and it was beautiful. I could also see all my friends on the ski.
When I came out of it, another reason it was so good was Joel (Parkinson) was right there, and you mightn’t have been able to tell, but I did a little Parko, no-claim, claim, right in front of him [laughs] It was really cool.
But I felt like the Burleigh one was more technical.
It looked like it got heavy towards the final days, any memorable beltings?
Yeah, I got two out Burleigh. The first wave I pulled into, it was a really mutant double up one, it just pinned me right on the sandbank and would not let me up. That was pretty scary.
The other one, I got greedy and tried to stay in the barrel too long and it just held me down for ages. It wasn’t too bad, but it was at the end of the session and I was so exhausted I felt like I couldn’t hold my breath for that long.
It was very shallow. On that first one, I hit the bottom straight away. Almost instantly. I was put off by it. I was thinking ‘shit, if that was a rock I’d probably be paralyzed by now.
I hit really hard, hard enough to smack my butt and get corked.
This doesn’t make the Pyzel Radius the MVP board of the swell, but at least we know the thing works in thundering tubes.
What was that board you were riding?
It was a six foot, round tail, Pyzel Radius.
Why did you choose it? Just a usual go-to?
Yeah, it’s just been my normal good wave board. I chucked the round tail in because it holds a little better in steeper waves.
It felt perfect. I don’t think I did a turn the whole swell. It’s pretty easy, especially if you have a ski. You don’t need the biggest of boards.
Just point and shoot?
Exactly. Once you’re on the wave you don’t need that much length. Just enough to maintain all variables at speed, hold and that sort of thing.
So, with the Quik Pro coming up, are you feeling ready? How’s your headspace?
Yeah man, I feel so good. I’m so excited for the start of the year.
I hope we get another swell so I can be MVP of the Quikky Pro [Laughs].
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