July 30, 2013 | Merewether Beach, Australia: Merewether beach has long been an ASP world tour nursery since the tours inception in the 70‘s, producing such surfers as Luke Egan, teenage prodigy Nick Wood, Matt Hoy and four times ASP world surfing champion Mark Richards.
Matt Hoy’s retirement in 2000 was the last year a Merewether surfer was listed amongst the ASP’s elite. Thirteen years later a new, and aspiring group of Merewether surfers stand poised to step up and hopefully leave their mark on the ASP world surfing tour like the names that have gone before them.
Jackson Baker fresh out of his first full season in Hawaii and a wild card appearance at the Asian Surfing Championships, Mentawai Pro, finds himself amongst this group of Merewether chargers with their eyes firmly fixed on a career on the ASP world surfing tour.
16 year old Jackson Baker. Photo by Richard Agius.
Below are excerpts from an interview with Jackson where he shares about his competitive career, his experience surfing against ASC surfing champion Marlon Gerber this year, and his experiences in Hawaii as a 16 year old.
Hey Jackson, how long have you been competing for?
I have been competing for probably around anywhere from 6-7 years, ever since I got sponsored I have strived to do competition. Thats what you got to do as a young australian surfer you gotta go through the young ranks if you want to do the ASP world tour when you are older.
When did competition surfing start for you?
This one day at newcastle they had a Rip Curl Gromsearch down at newcastle and me and Dad went down to watch it and they were like theres a spare spot in the next heat and Dad said do you want to do it and I thought I might as well give it a go. So I got ready took the spot and I ended up making that heat and I was only like 8 (years old) in the under 12’s. I felt so stoked making that one heat it felt like I had won a final or something. So sick.
You were 8 years old in your first contest and you were competing against surfers that were 4 years older than yourself?
Yeah and the kid in that heat who was the top seed was like hassling me and I was like I am only 8 whats the point in hassling me. (laughs) I ended up just getting the scraps off him and got like a 4 and a 3 and made that heat and it felt so good.
So in your 6-7 years of competing what have been some of the highlights for you?
Probably when I was around 11, I had a really good year. I won the Rip Curl Gromsearch in Victoria and then a couple of days later I went to BL’s blast off in Sydney and won that and then went to the Coffs Harbour Gromsearch and ended up winning that, not that many days after. So I had three wins in a row in the space of probably a week and a half and they were all pretty big events for under 12’s.
That’s fantastic. What’s been a competitive highlight in the last few years?
Wining the Gromsearch national final to make the international final and then I got a 2nd at the international final in Bells. So that first and second are my best two results lately.
What are some of the challenges for a 16 year old competitive surfer aspiring for a professional surfing career?
These days there are guys like Kolohe Andino. Miguel Pupo and Felippe Toledo all making the tour at around 17-18 and they are only 2-3 years older than what I am. So you gotta start early on the WQS and the Pro Juniors to do what they are doing so you can do the same thing as them.
So the challenge is stepping up to that and that level of surfing?
Yeah for sure. It’s definitely getting harder cause when Mick (Fanning) and that made it on the tour they were like around 18, 19, 20, but nowadays the normal age for someone to get on the tour is 17-18, just outta school and straight onto the tour. So I’ll strive to do that.
I heard that recently you were invited to compete on the Asian Surfing Championships at the Mentawai Pro.
That was such a good event to be invited by my sponsor Rip Curl and such a good opportunity to be able to surf at pumping Lance’s Right with just me and one other guy out in 2 heats. Yeah it was so good.
I heard that you had a heat against former Asian Surfing championship tour winner in Marlon Gerber. Talk us through that heat.
Well yeah in my first round heat I had Made Widiarta and another guy from Nusa Lembogan. I got a couple of good barrels in that heat and ended up getting third but that still put me through to the 2nd round so I had another chance, and they were doing the seeding for the second round and I was one of the lowest seeds and I got drawn against one of the highest seeds in the event. So it was either Marlon or Made and they put Made’s name down in my heat and then they like got my name and my mate from Australias names mixed up and I so I had Marlon.
So 2 hours later I just jumped off the boat for a heat with him. I couldn’t stay on the boat any longer it was pumping, it was 4-5 feet just me and him out with priority.
He got the first wave and I got the one after him and he got like a 4.5 and I got a 4.8. So I was ahead of him then and then the next exchange he got a 6.0 and I got a 6.5. So I was still ahead of him and then we were sitting out there and he had priority and he then he took off on this set and got a 7.0. Then when he was paddling back out I took off on a bomb and got so barreled and got spat out right near him and then did a cutback and flicked off and we both sat out the back they were like ohhh Jackson Baker your last core was an 8.0. I was like ohh I got a point higher than him! I was in the lead with an 8.0 and a 6.5 and he was in second with 7.0 and a 6.0 he needed like a mid 7 and he had priority and I was just sitting next to him hoping no waves would come and for the last 10 minutes. It was not flat but like nothing you could get a mid 7.0 on. Like you could froth out on the little ones which was what I really wanted to do that were like 3 feet and barreling the whole way but I was like that is not going to help me make this heat so I just sat and waited next to him.
Then it got to about 2 mins to go and I was like if a wave is going to come its going to come in the last 30 secs and it got to 30 secs and I could see this thing on the horizon and about 10-15 secs to go he takes off on this bomb and I could hear everyone on the beach whistling and then he popped out and the commentator was like he made that one and I was like oh no. Then the hooter went and I caught the next set after him after the hooter and I was standing tall in this 5 foot barrel and it was not a long one but a short one but it was the best feeling to get barreled just like that, just relaxing in it, no pressure and then I went back to the boat, and he ended up getting a low 8. And so he beat me by about a point. It was such a great experience to surf against a guy like him. I wouldn’t have rather have surfed that heat against anyone else.
Well done for giving Marlon a run for his money and making him work to to win the heat. You showed a lot of discipline to sit there with Marlon as a 16 year old when you could’ve been frothing on surfing the inside waves during that heat.
I hear that you did your first season in Hawaii this year. What was it like to surf Pipe and Back Door?
It was scary. With all the big, local guys and stuff. I ended up going in November, January and February. Went three times, maybe two months all up – but in separate times. I did get used to it. I did get couple of good ones but definitely the first time you get over there it’s a lot different than you think. It’s not really very developed over there but it’s kind of the way they want to keep it. It’s still pretty cool. Like everyone, you just rock up at Pipe and there’s 50 guys out getting barrel and you paddle out there thinking you’ll get one and you sit there for half an hour and end up taking off on a three footer just to get a wave ‘cause you’ve been sitting there for too long.
But if you just paddle hard and if you’re in the right spot people will pull back, like you’ve got it, but I ended up getting a couple throughout the season. I got probably three of the best waves of my life at Back Door.
This one midday session, it was a touch onshore so everyone’s kinda went in for lunch and there was only ten of us out; me, Kalani David, Pancho Sullivan and a couple of other guys just practicing for the Pipe Pro. I sat a bit wider at Back Door, so I seen these wider ones more in between Of The Wall and Back Door, it’s called Aints. So I kinda sat there and this wide one came and Pancho went left at Pipe and there’s a big gap between there and the right and I was like the only one there for this six to eight foot set. And I took off on my five ten and I was like chattering down the face and pulled up and I was pretty much standing tall on like an eight foot Back Door barrel and it was just like ‘this is so sic’. I was standing there racing through section after section and I could see the rocks at Rockpiles, that’s all I could see in the barrel, and I was riding through it and I was like ‘oh, I hope this thing doesn’t shut down, or I’m gone, I’m gonna come up with a broken board.’ And I ended up – it spat – so it gave me a little speed rush, and I just popped out the end and did the fastest cut back of my life. Grabbin’ my rail and I got to the bottom of the wave and straightened out of a massive close out and I heard like a couple of whistles on the beach and I was like ‘yes, some people have seen it.’ It’s like the best feeling when someone whistles ‘cause you know they’ve seen it and then paddle back around, paddle back underneath Pipe and around into the channel. Sat in the same spot, got the next set, did the same thing. And the second one was probably a bit longer. I kinda got lipped at the end but still popped out.
Whistles again. I was like ‘yes, someone’s seen it.’ And did it again. And the last one was a bit shorter but I stood straight and tall in it and just got spat out.
I was just like, ‘I’m going in.’ I’ve caught three of the best waves of my life and. I thought, I’ve gotta stay out, so I just stayed out. Nothing else really came through so the next wave I got I just got a four footer, got a little cover up, just straightened out – that’s my surf for the day. The perfect session.
Jackson is planning to go back to Hawaii this year for another 2-3 month stint. In the mean time Jackson is trying to get enough votes to surf at the International King of the Groms in France this year.
Please vote for Jackson Baker for Quiksilver King of the Groms 2013. Click the link below.