You can surf all over the world, you can score dream sessions at even dreamier waves, but nowhere will shape you quite like your local. It’s the place you come to know better than any other, that you love and hate and learn from constantly, and it leaves an imprint on the salty side of your soul that can’t be erased. In this series, Tracks talks to a number of prominent surfers about their relationships with the waves that made them the shredders they are.

This time around, Margies boy Jacob Wilcox.

Tracks: Growing up, what made Gas Bay such a special place for you? 

Jacob: It was good to have a slab so close to where I live. When I was a kid I used to just jump on my pushie and ride up there, it probably took about two minutes. I didn’t start surfing there until I was about twelve. When I was younger I’d always surf on the other side of the bay, there’s a little wave called Rabbit Furs. Gas is across the bay so when you were surfing Rabbit Furs you’d always look across and see that, so it was kind of like graduating from primary school to high school when I first started surfing it.

Describe the setup for those who don’t know it.

It’s kind of on the tip of where two bays meet. It’s a left and right and the bottom is these big granite boulders and a little bit of limestone. The right runs into a nice sandy beach and the left runs into a point. Usually when it’s smaller the rights are real fun for turns but I reckon when it gets bigger the lefts are almost a better tube, or a bigger tube. But the rights are a little longer because they go onto the sand.

Tell me about her moods.

The swell period has a lot of effect on the wave. When the period gets over about fourteen seconds it doesn’t really break, which is weird, you’d think the higher the period the better, but if it gets too high a period or too big it misses it and breaks on the outer reefs. The optimum conditions are about a two-and-a-half metre swell and around a thirteen second period.

How’s the wave helped shape your surfing?

It was the first slab I ever got into. When I was younger, my Dad would tell me to go surf it, but I’d try and avoid it. I was scared. But being able to surf that kind of slabby wave definitely got me comfortable in bigger waves and barrelling waves. I think also the fact that all the waves around here are fast and intense has helped make my surfing fast and responsive.

What about the local vibe growing up, what was that like?

It was pretty cool. All the older boys were real nice to me—Dino, Mick Short, Joel Aspen, all that crew, they were all legends to me, so it was cool to surf out there with them. They were always nice but they always got the best ones, and they still come out and get the best ones.

Each break has its own hazards and dangers. What are you watching out for at Gas?

All you have to worry about is hitting the bottom. You don’t really get huge hold-downs, but you can get drilled into the reef pretty hard. A few guys have broken their backs out there. It’s not super sharp reef, but they’re big, hard boulders and if you get slammed into them you’ll know about it.

Growing up surfing Gas Bay, who were your biggest influences out there?

The guys I mentioned before, and I also remember one time I went out there with Josh Palmateer. He used to get sick ones. He said, ‘See these rocks, line up with them.’ And that was probably the session where I started to get more comfortable because I knew what waves to go and that was because of him helping me out. And of course, Robbo (Jack Robinson). He’s always been crazy surfing slabs and when he comes out he’s always the one to push the envelope

Waves change over time, whether it’s through changes to the way the waves themselves break or to the amount of people that surf them or for any other number of reasons. What changes have you noticed at Gas during the time you’ve been surfing it?

It definitely changes some years. There’ll be too much sand on the reef and you might only surf Gas a handful of times. Then other years there’s no sand and the swells are really good for it. Like this year I’ve surfed there a bunch and it’s been really good. It definitely changes a lot for a reef break.

Best ever session?

That’s a hard one. I feel like all the best sessions mould into one. The best ones usually consist of all your mates being out there, it’s pumping, and the sun is shining. I feel like there’s been so many of those sessions. That’s my best one.

Worst?

I remember once when I was younger. It probably wasn’t the worst session I’ve had out there but it’s always stuck with me. It was after I’d just started getting comfortable out there and was pushing it a little bit, getting a couple of waves I wouldn’t usually go. I went this one and as soon as I was about to get to my feet there was a bodyboarder right in my road. I took off and got a little bit unbalanced because I was thinking about him and I fell off right next to him and got sucked over and slammed on my bum so hard and snapped my board.