What It’s Like Coaching Jack Freestone And Ethan Ewing
Hope you’re into peeling oranges and having a red mullet.
You know who Jack Freestone and Ethan Ewing are. But, are you aware of Stace Galbraith? Well, you should be. Because without Stace, Ethan and Jack mightn’t be quite as successful as they are in the game of competitive surf. From coaching, to filming, to being a best bud, Stace pulls quite a lot of levers behind the curtain.
Growing up alongside Snapper’s younger stars like Mr Freestone and Mitch Crews, Stace is an integral member of the ensemble. Helping Jack lock down another dream tour year is a feat on its own (he requalified for 2017). But also having a hand in assisting Stradbroke Island’s latest World Tour graduate, Ethan Ewing, is equally impressive. Over the past year, Mr. Ewing has been incentivised to within an inch of his life with cash bonuses for contest results, magazine spreads, video parts and whatever messianic glory commonly blesses a man of his stature, and followed through – there’s a whole lot of hype on him.
Stab believes that excellence is worthy of applause, and Stace’s behind the scenes work has certainly been excellent. We discussed his friendship with Jack, how he ended up crossing paths with Australia’s newest surfing prodigy, his organic approach to coaching, handycam water shots, the time he had to dye his hair red and cut it into a mullet, and more. Read on…
Stab: So, how did you come to be so involved with Jack and Ethan’s lives?
Stace: Jack, Mitch Crews and I all went to the same school. We all met in the same program that Mick Fanning’s coach, Phil McNamara, started at Palm Beach Currumbin High School, which we all went through at the same age. And with Ethan, there were always contests up in North Straddie, so we all traveled around that part of the world quite a bit and crossed paths with him. We also knew his older brother Curtis, who came to our school for a couple of years.
How’d you fall into photography, video and then coaching? It started with me not making the state team one year. I still wanted to roll with all the boys up the Sunshine Coast while they were competing. So, I asked the teacher, “Hey, can I come? Can I come? I’ll peel oranges, I just want to hang out.” And I ended up going and helping with assistant judging. I did that event, the next event, and then one thing led to another and I found that I really enjoyed judging and traveling, and it went on to what it is now from there. What’s interesting is, for the first couple of years working with Jack, I never really filmed him. In fact, the relationship only started becoming a little more professional once I started rolling the handycam for critiquing. The footage is great for getting another perspective on different boards and technique. But it’s always been pretty casual, more of a friendship, as opposed to having a specific coach.
Did you ever surf against him? Never in a real contest, thank god. We’d surf mock heats against each other when we were on the road, though. And he’d always beat me. A lot. We even started making bets on how many times he could beat me, one being if I lost 25 times in a row I would have to cut a mullet and dye it red. Which happened. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever got him, and I don’t think I ever will. I’ve come close a couple of times… but he’s pretty good.
And how’d you get to coaching Ethan? Well, Ethan started coming through the ranks, obviously very quickly. During that time he was looking at different events and recommendations on where to stay, if he could stay with us, all that stuff. And there were a few events here on the Goldie, over in South Africa, or the US Open where we’d stay in the same place. We really liked Ethan, obviously he’s a good kid and what better option for him than to come and stay alongside us? It’s pretty scary out there, especially at his age – going out somewhere you’ve never been and staying with someone you don’t know. It’s daunting. But his dad trusted us and we took him under our wing for that middle part of the year.
Jack’s on the CT, Ethan’s on the QS. How do you shift between the two? I’d definitely mention the wave quality, it’s not so much the judging quality. CT, it’s the same head judge and seven to eight sitting judges, give or take a few locals here and there. So it was more or less adjustment to the waves and getting expectations right. Usually when you roll up to Huntington it’ll be two feet, and when you’re going to go to J-Bay it’s going to be pumping four foot. So just managing it better and setting the correct parameters to your expectations. There are still some good QS waves: Portugal can get fun, and everywhere in South Africa tends to pump. But it’s always a toss up in terms of conditions and swell, especially on the QS.
Now that Ethan’s qualified as well, how does your 2017 look? Well, with Ethan it was never really a full-time thing anyway. Like I said, it was more of that mentor relationship; if there was a spare room, or spare bed, we would make sure he was there. But he has his program, gets help from Billabong, has his dad and brother come to some events. As far as filming is concerned, it’s something I enjoy doing. Whenever Jack, and Mitch Crews or Mitch Coleborn are shooting with either Mikey Mallalieu or Dylan Roberts for movie sections, I’ll still always cruise down and film them for fun. Its a blast to watch them try something all day then nail it, and if I can get the handy cam angle it gets me psyched! When it comes to being specifically with Jack, we are taking a much more relaxed approach this year. I’ll be much more of a friend, and I won’t be traveling to events. It’ll be mostly support from home as opposed to support on the road. Jack and I have done the last three years together, so this year where we’re taking a mutually agreed break from it all. I’ll be based at home, and those boys can still use me as a resource and closest contact for questions. It definitely doesn’t feel like I have two guys on the CT though, and it won’t be weird if they had to surf against each other. If anything, that’d be pretty cool.
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