Jacob Szekely: Not As Bad As He Seems
Stab writer swallows his pride, interviews a person he loathes, comes out with a fresh perspective.
I wasn’t excited to meet Jacob Szekely. In fact, I loathed his online persona which always appeared on my timeline. I’ve avoided putting my name next to his since I started this job. I cut a deal with one of our other writers; he agreed to handle any stories related to Zeke, and I’d take any lingering tasks off his plate.
Everything I had heard about Jacob Szekely was negative. Through site comments (i.e., opinions of males, ages 34 – 46, obsessed with surfing) and the stories of others, I’d pinned Jacob as a punk from La Jolla, with a trust fund and habit of stumbling into trouble. For that reason, I did what I could to stay clear.
My six months of vlogger dodging ended last week, as Jacob competed in an event at Waco, the same one I attended. His filmer and old friend of mine, Shane Kreutzer, made the introduction.
If Jacob Szekely was a dartboard, and all the preconceived notions I had of him were the dart, I’d struck drywall. I was off by about two car lengths. He was friendly, actively listened to others, and even threw some tips my way as I popped my wave pool cherry. “Sit at number 5, aim towards the lifeguard stand, and paddle hard,” he advised before I awkwardly bled down the line.
The testosterone-fueled, self-promoting dickhead I imagined meeting wasn’t there. Fuck me and my lousy attempt at confirmation bias, he turned out to be a pretty nice kid.
Shane and Zeke told me they had an edit from Salina Cruz that I had to see, so I stood behind a horizontal iPhone and watched as they explained every detail.
The scene opens with a drone shot of a massive house, one in Las Palmeras Surf Camp.
“Two weeks before the trip, one of Rusty called me and said that John (one of Rusty’s owners) has a house down there, and they were thinking of rebranding it as the Rusty house. He wanted us to try out some new boards and film some clips,” Zeke mentioned.
A trip to Mexico’s most exquisite pointbreaks is a no-brainer, especially when it’s offered by someone you see as more than just your shaper. “Rusty and I have a bit of a different surfer/shaper relationship. I’ve ridden for him since I was 11 years old. He’s my neighbor and a bit of a father figure to me, an uncle almost.
I proceeded to ask Zeke about his contract with Rusty Surfboards. Not a socially moral thing to do, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t.
“We don’t have anything written, we just go off loyalty and family, but with the new pro models and company ownership, we’ve been talking about getting something on paper. He’s helped me get clothing contracts and other deals. I’m forever grateful for him.”
One of the first things I brought to Zeke’s attention is that Salina Cruz isn’t San Clemente. The recourse of action for surf violations in Mexico doesn’t include the phrase “My friend’s dad is a lawyer,” nor the Spanish translation of that sentence. With the addition of a team house and more frequent visitors, wouldn’t local tensions be stirred?
“That’s what I think is so different about Salina Cruz. It only has a certain number of camps, so only a certain number of people can show up and surf there. Plus, you can’t show up surf without a guide. The guides are rad. We hooked up David, who runs the camp, and some groms with boards from Rusty.”
The edit was for Jacob’s youtube channel Off The Chain, which he shoots alongside action sport inclined friends Alex Sorgente and Jason Sommo. The page is a blend of surf, skate, motocross, and debauchery.
It’s no secret that Jacob Szekely has a stained past. While sober now, he still finds himself riding dirtbikes in the skatepark and starting confrontations with strangers in traffic. “Doesn’t teetering on the fine line of the law make you nervous?” I asked, “You know, given what you’ve been through.”
“Maybe a little bit. We all grew up pretty wild and looked up to the jackass guys, as well as pro skaters and motocross guys. They’re all pretty reckless; it’s just what we do,” Szekely said.
Not only does Jacob idolize those once CKY stars, but they feature on his Vlog too. “I met Bam Margera through Steve-O, and I met Steve-O when I got sober three years ago. He’s someone I look up to; clean, but still does raw and rambunctious shit.”
Again, with my corrupt moral code, I reverted back to Zeke’s finances. The Vlog, specifically, is the goal to make money?
“I don’t have any expectations for the Vlog. I just like doing rad stuff with my friends. We just hit enough subscribers to monetize our channel. Our last video with Bam hit like 27k views in the first week, and I think we got $150 in ad revenue. I’d rather sacrifice monetization to make videos I like and use decent music. I just want to get people pumped to go surf or skate.”
Zeke also admitted to spending more money than he makes from sponsors and surfing. Over or under $50k a year salary, I asked. “Well, under $50k, I just do this because I love it.”
During my brief role as a financial crimes investigator, I concluded that either A, the trust fund rumors were true, or B, Jacob Szekely has an absurd amount of credit card debt.
Either or, I don’t really give a fuck. Someone else’s financial situation is not my business, and criticizing it won’t improve mine. I ended my tax audit and finished watching the solid 6 minute surf edit.
As far as bad histories are concerned, I’ll admit that I’m no moral compass. If I had to guess, neither are you. Shine a light on a perfect person’s life, and you’ll find the parts that have been broken and glued back together. From our brief interaction, I found that Zeke was fun to be around and cared about surfing more than himself.
Am I going to move in with Szekely and get matching friendship bracelets like our Editor In Chief Brendan Buckley keeps joking? Not a chance, I couldn’t handle the social anxiety of being a young San Diegan hellraiser. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy this write-up.
Watch the clip here.
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