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In Conversation with Jack Robinson

Interviews May 27, 2020July 3rd, 2020
Portrait: Yentl Touboul | Interview by Alexei Obolensky

Portrait: Yentl Touboul | Interview by Alexei Obolensky

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN WASTED TALENT VOLUME VI, DECEMBER 2019.

“Do you like oysters?”

 “Errrr…sometimes…” 

Oysters: arguably one of the most polarising foods under the sun. A love hate affair.  However, it was summer in France and oysters and rosé happen to be an office favourite. Jack Robinson’s answer to our question is merely a reflection of his supremely polite nature. Jack in fact hates oysters, but as the sun sets over the lake in Hossegor, he duly tries one – wincing. Polite young man that he is.

Jack has long been on our radar. In fact, he’s long been on everyone’s radars. From his beginnings on the scene as a 12 year old super grom rocking a squeaky voice and a bowl cut that many would consider illegal, to becoming a child prodigy, advancing through the years and overly at home at the spicy end of the world’s heavier waves. Chopes, Pipe. Having grown up in WA, it’s hardly a surprise, but raw talent from such a young age is something to behold.

However, it wasn’t all roses for young Mr Robinson, having been in the limelight from such a young age. The pressure. The money. The less than scrupulous surf journalists placing Jack’s dad firmly in the cross hairs. But Jack’s surfing talent speaks louder than all the noise, cruising through heavier waves and top 10 CT any of the week, with a small wave air game to match. Those who know him personally will testify to Little Jack’s (though not so little anymore) personality and humble yet engaging manner. It’s hard to see why anything else matters.

When we learnt he was in France, we took the opportunity to fruitlessly search for waves. The Hossegor Classic. Perfect wind. Perfect swell. Too much period and zero banks. Driving around looking at mile-long closeouts. It was at this point we beat a hasty retreat to the Oyster bar by the lake, ordered Une Dizaine d’huitres et une bouteille de vin blanc – bien sec et bien frais, and began our chat.

Wasted Talent: Jack! What brings you to France?

Jack Robinson: I just had a bit of time between the QS basically. We weren’t planning on going anywhere else, I hadn’t been back in Europe for a while and it was Julia’s (Muniz, his superstar Brazilian girlfriend) first time in France, so I thought it was a good opportunity to stick around. It’s been super fun taking a little break from the madness.

What’s your favourite thing about Europe? 

The fact you can check out so many different cultures in such a short time I guess. I really like to be able to spend some time here, then head to Portugal, for example. I would love to go and check out Italy or Greece one day too.

What’s your least favourite thing about it?

Probably oysters right now. Haha. Other than that, probably when people stick to your arse whilst driving. The drivers piss me off here haha. But we have the worst drivers in the world in Australia though. People like to go fast here, whereas people in Oz don’t really have any confidence in their driving and don’t really know how to move that well. 

Are you missing the Utes here? 

I actually used to have a Ute back home when I was growing up. We had the same Ute forever and it didn’t go fast at all. We probably took 20 hours to go to Gnarlaloo from the bottom of the coast. The radiator would blow up all the time…I have a Land Cruiser now back home and pretty stoked to be back with the program.

Talk to us about your recent sponsor move. How did the whole Volcom thing come about?

It actually almost happened when I was really young, but ended up not coming though then. I always liked the brand and had friends riding for them. There were talks floating around for a while, and then the Volcom Pipe Pro came about and after talking that out everything fell into place quite nicely. I’m hyped to get on some trips with Noa & Yago. We were already pushing each other pretty hard so I’m looking forward to linking up with them more in the future.

Does being with Volcom represent a change in priorities for you?

Priorities have never really changed too much for me. My main focus is still to get on the tour, but it’s great to be part of a different brand with a different energy. I feel like Volcom is set apart from the other brands; it feels more youthful, which is very exciting. At the end of the day, it’s a really good crew composed of people I’m hyped to hang with. The crew you get to hang with is the best part about it. 

We pretty much grew up on Volcom movies – was it something you were into as a kid too?

Completely, I loved the Veeco productions. The Bruce Movie was a huge inspiration for me growing up. Top three for sure. 

You’ve obviously been hailed as a child prodigy for a long time. Was all that media attention a hard thing to grow up with? 

People always think that you should be doing more. I was pretty young when all of that was happening and probably thought about it too much sometimes. Maybe I was just too nice at the time and should have told these people to piss off a few times, haha. My dad actually acted like a shield in that regard, which was good. But yeah, some of them try to create stories for the shock factor sometimes, and that’s bad. Media people who act like that piss me off. 

Does all this attention motivate you or does it piss you off?

It kinda drives me now. Whatever media talk is happening out there doesn’t get to me now. The more negative it is, the more it motivates me. You hear “Oh, he’s getting paid too much” …etc. growing up, but the only thing to do is to tell these people to piss off and do you. I’m not sure where this mentality comes from. I think it’s just humans in general, they always have to pick things apart. You come across jealous people along the way but the only thing you can do is keep doing what you’re doing, and do the best you can to brush it off. The biggest part of it is probably to stay humble throughout all the attention. 

What would it mean to you to qualify?

It would feel nice for sure. It feels like even if I qualify I won’t really feel too differently about it though, as in a way, my job is never done.

Photo: Ben Harney

Photo: Ben Harney

Talk to us about life on the QS; its ups and downs.

Leaving home used to be one of the lows for sure. As I started travelling when I was pretty young, I’ve gotten quite used to it over the years. 

Do you feel like having a mental approach is important?

Yeah for sure, your mindset is super important. It’s what makes it happen when you’re behind or makes you go through all this stuff. Mindset is everything. 

What do you think about Wild Card life? 

It’s really nice but I don’t want to be doing that for too long. You really want to be there for good. Wild Cards are like a little tease. You always want more, so it keeps you wanting more and that’s what you got to look forward to.

Every time you drop an edit it pretty much stops everything for a few months and raises the bar. Do you find working on videos is something that’s meaningful to you?

Videos are definitely what drives me to get better. Seeing people like John John and co doing innovative surfing and putting together heavy video parts is what gets me motivated to go harder. I feel like that’s what everyone loves at the end of the day. Everyone likes good surfing. Surfing is entertainment. I grew up getting psyched on surf videos. That was my influence, what inspired me to get out there and try to go bigger. It’s what gets the kids stoked, so yeah it’ll always feel important for sure.

What videos were you psyched on as a kid?

I watched a lot of Taj growing up. I watched Montaj repetitively. I mostly watched Taj, Andy and Bruce. I feel like I was pretty lucky to grow up when these guys were at their peak and gain inspiration from them. 

Was growing up in West Australia, with its insane waves and pro surfers visiting all the time, something you fed on?

Definitely. I actually thought there would be more good surfers on Taj, Jay Davies, Yadin Nicol or Dino Adrian’s level to be honest. There’s a bunch of good surfers where I grew up, but we’ve got such a huge amount of really good waves, I felt like there would be more of them on par! But yeah, growing up watching all these guys in person was a huge inspiration. I would gradually build up to every one of the heavy waves that we have at home. You would go Gas Bay, then the Box, and you would graduate to North Point eventually. 

How is it, growing up watching them and then meeting them and now you’re surfing with them?

It’s crazy for sure. I was watching Bruce forever as a kid and I ended up going against him in my first heat of my first year in the Tahiti trials when I was 16 years old. I was tripping. You never know if the person in front of you takes you seriously or not because you’re young, so it’s sort of a weird situation. He was super cool though, and him being like that after watching him growing up was epic. I also met Andy at an expression session at D-Bah when I was a grommet, he was super cool. I wish he could just be around still and we could share a few at Teahupoo. I’d love to see what he would do there today.

What about that session out at Teahupoo before the Tahiti event the other month? How do you prepare for a day like that? 

I’ve towed there once before. It was the day when Nate Florence had that big one. But I didn’t go back for any big swell and didn’t have much time to prepare or study anything. I literally showed up there on that first morning to these 25 footers coming though and I’m just like “Oh my god…” The big ones were too big to paddle so they called the trials off. I thought it’d be easy to get hurt paddling there so we decided to get the jet ski out and give it a go. It was sucking way too much from the bottom for me to be surfing my normal board and I was teaming up with Kamalei Alexander. He was like: “Brah, I’ve got the sickest board for you!” When I first got on it, it felt like the straps were super wide. It was pretty sketchy. We went for a 50-meter ride to get a feel for the board before getting towed into a 20-foot wave. It felt alright so we just got out there. Then he told me that the Jet Ski wasn’t able to come and rescue me as it wasn’t powerful enough…I could only clip my life jacket round me…it wasn’t zipping up the whole way as most of them do now…Then I got towed on one and felt like I was going backward on that board…It was all pretty sketchy but I somehow made it. It definitely was the scariest few seconds I had in a long time. 

You’ve been spending a lot of time in the more remote areas of West Aus scoring some rather good waves. Talk us through it. 

Yeah it’s very special. I’ve been going up there since I was a baby pretty much! It’s an incredible place really. It’s so far from everything, there’s no phone reception. The closest town is an hour and a half away from the wave I love to surf…and it’s barely a town it’s so small. It’s like a little fishing village. My dad used to work there as a fisherman so every time we’d stop there when I was a kid it’d be pretty full on. I’d be waiting for him in the car at the gas station as I was petrified by the old locals living there. I was this little scared kid that was waiting in the car with a bowl haircut and a baseball bat at the time.

How do you find the crowd factor is there? 

It’s not too bad. It’s pretty much some of the boys from the towns close by. Everyone is pretty nice in the water. Everybody takes turns. I think the wave is too heavy for it to get crowded to be honest. It’s not like Desert Point that has an accessible take off. The wave is that full-on that it sorts the crowd out itself. I think in heavy waves, if you start snaking people and be a c*nt, it’ll bite back. You gotta be careful when you surf there. Like anywhere really. 

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