Stab Magazine | Will Surfing's Finest Young Talent Ever Make The World Tour?
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Will Surfing’s Finest Young Talent Ever Make The World Tour?

What do we do about Jack Robinson? 

style // Apr 24, 2018
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

I first saw Jack Robinson surf in 2009.

Amongst a sea of groms trying to get scraps at Snapper Rocks during the Quiksilver Pro, he was unmistakable: DIY bowl cut, straw-like hair, cherubic face. I watched him tuck into tiny barrels, come out and do alley oops.

He was eleven years old.

A few days later, a bigger swell hit; the winds were bad at Snapper so a bunch of pros went to South Straddie. There it was, 6 foot and offshore. Jack tagged along and, no longer content to sit around on the inside, he was out the back, stroking into bombs.

He’d knife takeoffs, pull in behind a heaving section and get spit out. Every time. Bede Durbidge and Josh Kerr were amazed, they started calling him into the biggest sets—waves that were easily triple overhead for young Jack.

French filmer Nicolas Dazet couldn’t believe his eyes.

Incroyable,” he said each time he pressed record.

Nine years later, Jack has turned from that cute kid to man. He’s easy going, his fearlessness masked by gentle nature, style, and preternatural ability. His surfing in heavy, hollow waves fulfilled the prophecy. At North Point, his favorite wave at home in Western Australia, he is an absolute maestro, demonstrating his dominance on day one of this year’s Margs event.

The majority of the top 34 looked confused looking over the ledge while Jack was in total command.

This, of course, begs the question, if a guy can be the best surfer in the water on a given day at a WCT event, then why hasn’t he come close to qualifying?

This is Jack’s fourth year trying and his rating is only getting worse. He went from 65th in 2015 to 83rd in 2016 and dropped to the lowly #113 spot in 2017. He couldn’t even make it into the draw at Sunset, where he won as a junior.

2018 has been even worse for him so far. He lost in the opening rounds at Newcastle and Manly and he’ll struggle to earn enough points to get into QS10,000s later in the year.

Most QS events are held in subpar beach break surf, clearly Jack’s weakness. Watching him on the heat analyzer last year at the US Open and Haleiwa, you see a surfer who’s twitchy, hesitant, uncertain in small waves. As a grom, Jack rarely surfed in contests, preferring to chase swells with his father, Trevor, to heavy water spots like Gnaraloo, Teahupo’o and Pipeline.

While some folks in the know, like Australian legend Maurice Cole, have passionately defended this approach, most industry insiders believe it stunted Jack’s progress becoming a complete competitive surfer. 

Jack Robo Tube

Jack is the John Florence of West Oz without the media hype. 

I’ve known Trevor for a long time. He’s an outspoken, colorful character and he’s been maligned privately and publicly, including on Stab, throughout Jack’s career. You can compare his passionate support for his son to the likes of Earl Woods for Tiger and LeVar Ball for Lonzo. I ran into Trevor in Hawaii last winter at Foodland and told him I thought Jack should move to California for six months.

“He should surf Trestles and Huntington every day and get on a steady diet of QS 1000’s to gain confidence,” I said.

“Yadin Nicol told us the same thing,” Trevor admitted, but he didn’t agree with me.

“There’s nothing wrong with Jack’s small wave surfing,” he said.

Jack Robinson’s twenty now. He can make his own decisions. So what does Jack want? Does he even want to be on tour right now? When I interviewed him a couple years ago about why he loves big Chopes his response approached mysticism.

“You’ve got to try to paddle out and greet it,” Jack said.

Wouldn’t he be happier spending the next two years chasing swells around the world, making a profile film, just as guys like Dane Reynolds, Julian Wilson and John John Florence did when they were Jack’s age?  

When Julian was 18, he told me didn’t want to go anywhere near the QS. When he finally was ready to give it a crack at 22, he qualified with ease.  

Jack Robo Air

Mr Robo is a popped cork from a shaken bubbling mess. 

Unfortunately, the point’s moot; no brand is going to give Jack that opportunity. Plump marketing budgets projects of that variety are long gone.  

And Jack hasn’t done much to promote himself either. His last edit, while utterly mind-blowing, was released in 2015, and he’s rarely seen in marketing promos for his sponsors.

Billabong has reportedly had issues getting Jack on trips, and Trevor has always tried to set Jack apart from his peers.

In 2015, Jack was invited by Stab to go to Indo alongside Dane Reynolds, Kolohe Andino and Noa Deane, for the “Scorched”/ “Thank you, Andy” trip. For months Stab worked to lock Jack into the trip, before being told in no uncertain terms by Trevor in Tahiti that he wasn’t interested.

When Stab finally spoke with Micah Nickens from Billabong, across the table from Trevor at a restaurant in Tahiti, according to parties present Trevor shouted across the room: “Tell them to call back tomorrow. Tell them to call back next week. Tell them to call back never!”

So Jack finds himself in limbo, groveling on the WQS while his head and heart are clearly elsewhere. 

I talked to Sunny Garcia about this and he brought up an interesting point. The WQS didn’t exist in the 80’s when Sunny got on tour. Each big contest was preceded by an open trials event. If you could make it out of the trials and got deep enough into the main rounds of a series of comps, you’d have enough points for a spot on tour. (The Top 16 in those days.)  

Wouldn’t that be a better system for someone like Jack? He’s already proven that he can emerge and shine through the trials at Pipeline, and now Margaret River, and do damage. (Imagine if Jack went to every CT this year and entered all of the trials? Tom Curren won a world title in 1990 doing just that.)  

Jack turn

Roof dancing a la the late Andy Irons.

Hiring a coach also seems like a logical solution. I brought this up to Trevor the last time I saw him on the bike path by Rocky Point. He’d just heard that Jack wasn’t going to get in to Sunset and he was bummed, but defiant.

“Jack doesn’t need a full-time coach,” he said. “We’d rather hire people here and there for a day or two.”

While that’s definitely a more affordable approach, and would expose Jack to different teaching methods, there’s no denying the success that surfers like John John, Matt Wilkinson and Griffin Colapinto have had with someone permanent in their corner.

Whatever Jack decides to do, it’s clear that something needs to change. I still see that little kid at Straddie who was so much better than everyone else. There’s still a magic to his surfing that only the greats possess, but it hurts for me to watch.

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