Can the former prodigy become a superstar?
A few years ago I found myself hanging out at a hotel in Bali with Jack Robinson and his mum and dad. It was a great time in surfing history. The Oakley Pro Bali Championship Tour event was happening at Keramas and the waves were firing.
Unfortunately, Jack’s dad Trevor took great offence to something I had written about Jack at the time, after he was beaten by Slater in one of the earlier rounds at Keramas, and we didn't really get off on the right foot.
Still, I managed to get a few minutes of Jack’s quiet time one evening while his mom and dad were in the restaurant, and hit him up with a few questions for a quick interview.
At the time his answers to my questions were stilted and truncated. He didn't want to talk, and it was as if he was so nervous about the outcome of the interview. He didn't trust me, and he didn't trust the media.
There was one thing that struck home though. I asked him who he looked up to, and who inspired him. He looked at me and he said, “There are a lot of people who inspire me in my life, but you know what? I just want to be me. I just want to be Jack Robinson.”
There are many questions surrounding Jack Robinson and the tenuous relationships with his sponsors, but maybe that’s ok. It might be that someone with the incredible skills, talent and drive like Jack actually needs to escape the gilded cage and to be able to look after himself, and win heats simply because he can, instead of winning heats to fulfill contractual obligations.
South African born 1977 World Champion Shaun Tomson has said on numerous occasions that the way to a successful surfing career lies in Hawaii, and more specifically at Sunset, Haleiwa and Pipeline.
“Surf stoked, every day, at one of these three breaks: Pipeline, Sunset and Haleiwa,” says Shaun. “Nowhere else matters. Take the hammerings, survive the smashings, paddle back out, and get blown out of deep barrels — and you will become a man who has the confidence to take on any wave and any surfer, anywhere.“
This is the route that Jack has fallen on, whether it is a specific route he has chosen or whether it is an instinctive direction that his surfing skills and leanings flow towards.
Last year he won the Sunset Open, his maiden WQS victory in great surf, showing that he has the skills and courage to go hard at one of the most treacherous waves in the world.
Before that, he won the Pipe Invitational trials event in 2015, with only one wave in the final - proving that he is more than ready to throw himself over the ledge at the world’s most dangerous wave.
There are more dangerous, and downright terrifying waves in the world these days than there were when Tomson was competing in his prime - Teahupo’o for one was yet to be revealed. Robinson has already proven himself at one of the most difficult waves in the world to master. Fearless and with perfect technique, he is already better than many Championship Tour surfers at Chopes.
Jack is also a West Oz aficionado and a perennial standout at his stomping grounds of The Box, and North Point, two more serious waves that see more heavy wipeouts than whippy little forehand reverses.
He might not currently be enjoying the security of a list of zealous sponsors covering his every move, but at the recent Volcom Pipeline Pro he once again showed that you can’t keep a good man down.
At this year’s Volcom Pipe Pro, Jeannie Chesser, mom of the late legendary Hawaiian surfer Todd Chesser who passed away in 1997, recognized Jack for charging the hardest. He was rewarded with a handmade trophy from Jeannie in honour of Todd.
Jack was stoked with the recognition. “I work my butt off at every event out here,” said Jack, adding, “especially when there’s always the caliber of these guys at any Pipeline contest. So it’s nice that they recognize it.”
At the end of the contest Jack was rated 20th on the WQS. Not anywhere near the top, but in a position where he could easily launch a big push in the right direction. It’s still early-early days as well.
If Jack continues along the road of dedication to serious waves and very hard work – following the direction that Tomson has clearly stated is the path to surfing success – then everything else should simply fall into place.