Film of the year nominee.
"If You Want To See Me Do Turns, Go Watch A QS Replay"
Jacob Willcox just dropped a 15-minute magnum tube-us.
“I didn’t want to surf shit waves or do any turns or airs,” says Jacob Willcox. “But on the QS, that’s all you think about. This year was the biggest blessing because it gave me time to do whatever I wanted—and that was trying to get as barrelled as I could.”
If getting barrelled was the aim, then Jacob Willcox’s year has been a certified success. We’ve long known that he’s an exceptional tube-rider (that’s why we snuck him into Surf100 WA), but the above clip is Chippo's manifesto. Fifteen minutes of unadulterated WA freight trains, about a dozen of which left us gobsmacked.
By Default makes the case that Jacob is one of Australia's most masterful tube-riders. And there are some seriously gifted dwellers “stuck” in this country at present. Russ Bierke, Jack Robinson, Creed, Chun, Taj and his gen, etc.
Jacob threatens to outclass them all, forehand and backhand.
Jacob deep in the hole at a wave made famous by this year's SITD pilot, Mr Taj Burrow. Image: Photo by Kim Feast / Rip Curl
“I always look at it as a different way to approach the waves that people have seen natural-footers surf so well over the years, rather than a disadvantage,” Jacob says of growing up with his back to the wall of southwest Oz’s best waves. “It’s cool to put my own little touch on a few of the waves around here.”
As you can see, it wasn't a totally air-less year for Mr Willcox. Photo by Kim Feast / Rip Curl
There’s a plethora of exceptional tube specialists from the southwest, both above and underground, but they’re nearly all natural-footed.
“When I was growing up the guys were Jay Davies, Taj, and Dino Adrian," Jacob says. "They’re all natural-footers, but it was sick to surf with all those guys and get pushed by them. I surfed with Mick Short a bit, but mainly lefts. I also remember watching some clips of Bret Hardy (Ryan’s brother) in some old Beer Fridge videos, getting pretty barrelled at North Point.”
Jacob reaping the fruits of knowing which ones to pick at the Box. Photo by Kim Feast / Rip Curl
It’s not surprising that Jacob says the hardest waves to surf in his area is The Box. Not many wrangle big sets on their backhand, but when they do it’s memorable (ie. Owen Wright's 10 in 2015).
“I feel like a lot of it is wave choice,” Jacob says. “I first surfed The Box when I was 13, and the first wave I went was really south. The ones that you’re looking for have a bit more west in them and give you a chip shot. I airdropped to the bottom, tail slipped out, got sucked over straight onto the limestone reef, cut my feet up, broke my big toe, ripped my wetsuit. I was so rattled and didn’t surf it for couple of years, but I feel like those experiences help form interesting relationships with waves. It was good to me this year.”
Jacob Willcox, well versed in desert essentials. Photo by Kim Feast / Rip Curl
If you’re going to be stuck in a state, then WA would be up there with New South Wales. Jacob took full advantage of the waves near his home throughout the year, with an eye ever-wandering to the north, pulling the trigger on four seperate strike missions throughout the year. Phone off, surf till you drop, fish, talk shit around campfire, bed, repeat being the order of most days. It paid off. Jacob’s footage from the northwest features a few of the best tubes we’ve seen up there in a long time. If ever.
Make no mistake, getting from this point to the end of this wave is no cake walk. Photo by Kim Feast / Rip Curl
“The up north section in the clip was special for me because it’s somewhere I’ve been going since I was two years old,” Jacob says. “The Green Iguana was just about the only surf film I watched growing up, and watching Occy and Margo, Luke Egan, all those super core guys up there was pretty cool.”
Watching perfect surfers getting barrelled on perfect waves can get dull, but that wave up north (it’s pretty well known, but we’re not going to draw you a map) isn’t perfect. It’s a boiling, unpredictable freight-train exploding across a shallow ledge. That’s what makes it so compelling. I assumed that Jacob was going the ones no one wanted, hoping that one in ten ugly ones would spew him into the channel and give him an ender to his clip. His approach couldn’t be more different.
The south west isn't all Box and North Point, but its left offerings pale in comparison to what lies to the north. Photo by Kim Feast / Rip Curl
“It might look like that a little bit, but that’s not really my game,” he says. “You don’t want to rock up and try and go the craziest waves you can. I’ve seen so many people try to do that and end up fucked—faces cut up, so many broken bones, just some horrible injuries. It’s made me quite calculated.”
Perfect from far/far from perfect - Jacob wrestles the north west's premier tube.Photo by Kim Feast / Rip Curl
The difference between Jacob and the rest of us is that for Jacob, "calculated" means putting himself in the position to bag wave of the decade out there. But no matter how precise your calculations might be, you’ve still got a wild bronco to wrangle before the safety of the channel.
"It’s super boily, and it’s super hard to capture that on film," Jacob explains. "The first section has this big step that you go over in the barrel. Sometimes it looks like there’s a little wave coming out inside the barrel. It’s a unique wave, it looks kinda perfect, but there’s so many steps and big coral heads that make it quite wiggy at times."
Jacob walking an inch-perfect tightrope. Photo by Kim Feast / Rip Curl
Planning for the future's impossible, but for Jacob, sleep comes far easier with the knowledge that he's just released one of the most complete edits we've seen this year. Well, apart from the lack of backhand turns. When I point this out, Jacob laughs. "I just wanted to get hell barrelled, and then the last month I’ve been like, ‘Fuck, there’s no turns in the edit! But, people have mostly seen me at Bells or Sunset or something doing backhand turns. If you want to watch me go do some turns then go check some QS replays."
Professional surfing: the only sport in the world where time off means more time spent practicing your "profession". Photo by Kim Feast / Rip Curl
2020's forced many people home, and whilst frustrating, it's facilitated numerous re-connections. For Jacob, one of the true silver linings of the year has been the opportunity to work with Issac Jones, a mate who's been filming him since he was in his early teens.
"I've been travelling and Issac’s been running events, but that all dried up thanks to COVID, so we both had all this time off to film," Jacob tells me. "It’s good having him there to film, but at the same time, it’s my best mate coming on a trip with me and some of the best times ever. We had the funniest times going up north and acting like we were 16 again."
Whatever the future holds for Mr. Willcox, a 2020 filled with friendship and perfect waves hardly seems a waste, despite his WSL qualification bid being put on hold.