Jacob's not bad on the backhand, either. Framegrab: Filf
Between A Rock And A Hard Place (To Leave)
Jacob Willcox on why the waves of Western Australia have been his biggest blessing, but also a curse.
Jacob Willcox is a name you should know. At 16 years old, he took down Kelly Slater at the Rip Curl Pro Portugal on the strength of a deep lefthand tube. Over his following teen years, Jacob defeated other top-CTers through local and sponsor wildcards. Today, at 20 years old, Jacob is one of the best forehand barrel riders in the world, which can be largely contributed to his wave-rich homeland of Western Australia.
But while the waves of WA have shaped Jacob into a virtuoso of the tube (and the backside rotation), the consistency of excellent surf may have put him behind the curve in terms of “grovelling” abilities. Also known as QS surfing.
Despite the fact that Jacob has consistently won heats against top seeds in CT events, he’s had difficulty competing against his “peers” on the QS. At the moment, Jacob sits 97th on the overall rankings and has no major results in 2017. He’s currently waiting to find out if he’ll make the cut for the Prime events in Hawaii this November. I’m no dietician, but the numbers aren't looking very favorable for Mr. Willcox.
On the bright side, Jacob just released a clip called Filf (below), which was filmed in WA and blows the doors off any barrel-heavy clip we've seen of late. We caught up with Jacob to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of growing up in West Oz.
Stab: We’re really stoked on your new clip Filf, but we know that you have more pressing concerns at the moment... Namely your ranking on the QS.
Yeah, I've had a rough year on the contest circuit. My main focus is the QS, but when I’m on a break it’s so good to come home and hit the refresh button… to surf good waves and remember why you’re doing this in the first place. Sometimes on the QS it can restrict how you surf. If you’re just surfing kinda cruddy, average waves all the time you start to lose the plot. I guess everyone has to do it, though.
I know you’ve been a wildcard in a few CT events, and you’ve actually made a number of heats over the years... So you’ve shown that you’re able to compete at the highest level, yet it seems you’re struggling a little more on the mid-level.
Yeah fully [laughs]. I’ve been pretty lucky to get those opportunities on the CT, but then it’s just such a tease. Like I get a little taste but then I’m back on the Quey. I don’t know, sometimes a person can do that and get so much confidence and just go crush it on the QS, but it hasn’t happened for me yet.
You’re arguably one of the best forehand barrel riders in the world. How does it make you feel to lose to guys who rip in one-foot slop, but who you’d destroy in real waves?
[laughs] The waves at home are so good and powerful, so I can feel like I'm surfing amazing at home, but then I go to the next Quey stop and have my first surf and it's like, “Where’s the wave? It’s not pushing me.” And then I get beaten by guys who it feels like I surf better than, but they’re smoking me in two foot waves. It definitely takes a little blow to the confidence, but everyone that’s on the CT has had to learn how to deal with the crappy waves on the QS, and everyone that’s on the QS has to surf the same stuff.
When you'r home, do you ever force yourself to avoid good waves to surf shittier ones? Just to practice in waves you might encounter on the QS?
Yeah, I hate saying that, but yeah I do surf shitty waves sometimes just to get ready for competitions. It’s hard sometimes, but even the shitty waves in WA have so much power, so it’s kinda hard to even relate them to the waves we get on the QS.
You’re 20 now. What’s your theoretical timeline for making the tour?
Well I’d love to have done it this year, but I don’t know, as soon as possible would be nice… But there’s probably 100 people on the QS who are thinking exactly the same thing so, you’ve just gotta make sure you’re better than them and try to get there.
We’ve heard from sources in WA that when the waves are good, you’re kind of a maddog in the lineup… that you like to get a lot of waves. Is that true?
What? So you’re saying I’m a prick? [laughs] Nah, I’m joking. But if there’s a bunch of people out there, I feel like it kinda sucks when people aren’t taking turns. I don’t really like to go about it that way but, when the waves are good and you have a crew that wants to take turns, I’ll sit out there and wait until it’s my wave, and if someone who hasn’t been waiting tries to snake ya, then I’ll go the wave. That kinda sounds dicky but, it’s just kinda how it rolls.
Do you still get scared by the waves in WA? You look super comfortable but these waves are no joke.
Yeah for sure. When you don’t have any fear you can get really hurt, but you don’t wanna have too much fear or you probably won’t catch any waves at all. So it’s kinda just finding that balance where you’re confident but not so confident that you’re doing silly stuff where you’re gonna hurt yourself. The waves I surf at home definitely scare me still, especially The Box, and up north at Gnarloo is probably the scariest. I’ve seen so many people come in with blood all over their faces, getting helped up the stairs or whatever. But when you do get a good one, it’s that much more rewarding. So it’s the scariest wave and my favorite wave in WA.
Is the dream to get one like Camel’s?
Ahhh Camel’s one, that thing was crazy, hey? Where he got that wave from, only a handful of people have done it. He’s taking off about 200 meters up the reef from the normal takeoff zone, and there’s a real kinda deep section between it, so you just have to pick the biggest one you can and start racing. From what they must see it must look like the biggest closeout. You’ve gotta have some big balls to take one from up there.
Have you been anywhere that rivals WA’s wave quality?
I’m probably a little biased, but I don’t know… I haven’t done a lot of surf trips to surf good waves. I’ve kinda done them to do QS events, and most of the places we go for those don’t have the best waves so… there’s probably a lot of places that have better waves than here, but I think the best part about home is that when I come home from being away, it might only be for a couple of weeks, but you always get one or two good sessions in. It’s quite consistent.