AAustralian surfer Jack Robinson recently posted two photos on Instagram. First, 12-year-old Robinson easily slides out of the barrel in the G-Land. Robinson, with his knees bent and one hand on the rail of the surfboard and the other hand stroking the water, looks at his house in the waves.
The second photo taken during the last World Surfing League event during the same famous Indonesian break that Robinson won is almost identical. The same wave, the same posture, the same style – but 12 years separating the photos. “Then and now,” he wrote.
The similarity between the images is consistent. Robinson has been considered the next big thing in surfing since childhood. The Western Australian began surfing at the age of three and at the age of 11 filled the famous heavy Hawaiian wave Pipeline. In 2010, Australian magazine Weekend put Robinson on the cover and named him the next Kelly Slater. That same year, Quiksilver took Robinson, a big surf label, on one of his first sponsored trips to G-Land when the first photo was taken.
Robinson says of the G-Land assembly: “It’s been a long time. “It’s very wild to think – we’ve done a lot to get where we are,” he said. It’s very surreal to go back and be there again, hey – a full circle. “
Robinson is currently in the top flight, winning the WSL event in his hometown of Margaret River in May and then the G-Land earlier this month. Consecutive victories raised him to 2nd place in the world rankings and he competed in the WSL Championship with four races left until the final (Surf City El Salvador Pro is currently underway). No Australian male has won a WSL title since Mick Fanning in 2013; Suddenly Robinson is on the verge of making great strides for Australian surfing.
But the two photos tell only half of the story. This was not a straight line from the G-Land barrel to the G-Land barrel 12 years apart. Robinson’s journey to the heights of competitive surfing can be predicted because he is a fresh-faced grommet with blonde locks and extraordinary abilities. Although in recent years his success seemed far from guaranteed.
Robinson was only familiar with surfing, and this is reflected in his gentle demeanor. The 24-year-old natural footballer is not afraid of life’s challenges and sends a humorous message to the Australian Guardian during a dramatic two-day transit from Bali to El Salvador. The joke emoji, a favorite of the surfing community, clarifies his messages. When the time zones finally adjust for the interview, the jetlagged Robinson is very happy to talk.
Born in Western Australia, Robinson was on the waves in Perth from the age of three after being encouraged by his father, Trev, a passionate surfer. The family moved to the Margaret River two years later, and Robinson jumped into the depths – the area is famous for the resulting waves. “It was a little hard for me to start,” he laughs. “But I’ve been locked up ever since.”
Robinson soon joined the ranks, filling the waves with surfers ten or two years his senior. “It was funny because I’ve never seen kids my age there,” he says. “But I saw all the older boys I really hoped to go to – I wanted to do what they did and shoot.”
With his barrel-driving ability, aerial ability and smooth silky turns, Robinson signed a sponsorship deal with Quiksilver before he was still a teenager. The surf brand also signed with its young colleagues Kanoa Igarashi and Leonardo Fioravanti, giving the trio a global profile – they were considered the future of surfing. Robinson, Japanese Igarashi and Italian Fioravanti traveled the world together and made friends with the world’s best surfers. “Jack, Kanoa and Leo – little bad guy!” In the last series of the TV show Make or Break, he joked with 11-time world champion Slater. “I love those people.”
However, although clips from that period show that the trio lived in the dream of a grommet, some observers questioned the ethics of throwing children into a commercialized, competitive environment at such a young age. This was especially true for Robinson, who acted as his coach and manager while his father taught at home, to ensure maximum time in the water.
“At what point does the ‘education’ of a sports miracle result in other, more prosaic aspects of parenting being overlooked?” The Australian asked in his 2010 profile. “What happens when a parent’s ambitions for a child become the cause of the family?”
Robinson lovingly reflects his childhood. “I went to school at home for many years,” he says. “Everyone thought I was crazy, they didn’t know what was going to happen to me, because I was always surfing. It was, ‘He’s not in school!’ But I had the best time. When I was young, I was lucky enough to travel and see the world, to see different cultures. It was wonderful to grow up like that. “
But he admits that he is not blind to pressure. “You can feel a lot – especially from companies, sponsors, and you’re just a little kid. There is another side to this. You just want to live your life as a child, these are the best years of your growing life. Yes, I have felt this for many years. But when I knew what was going on, when I knew how to treat people, when I knew how to be my own man … but it took a long time. ”
Robinson pauses before losing and thinks, “It was definitely interesting, not always for everyone.” This is a fairly low statement. Very few surfers have been praised so highly by their peers and sponsors from such a young age.
HFor the young Robinson, who gained fame and commercial success, the next stop was the highest level of elite surfing: WSL. He proved his competitiveness by winning a major race at Sunset Beach, Hawaii in 2014, when he was just 16 years old. That same year, Robinson moved from Quixilver to Billabong on a six-digit sponsorship deal. WSL, of course, was only a matter of time.
And then – sliding. As Robinson reached adulthood, he weakened in a competitive environment. Victories came and went, but the wunderkind was lacking in consistency to raise its rankings in the rankings. It secured almost one WSL spot in 2018, but was painfully shortened. He briefly gave up the competition, a previously unthinkable decision of a surfer who could leave the best of the world behind.
“I think looking back, I was a completely different person,” he says. “In the QS [qualifying series]When my dad and I travel together, I just don’t think I’m in a very good head space.
One factor in Robinson’s stable was the quality of the waves. WSL surfers compete in the best breaks in the world; Race organizers prefer wave conditions when deciding when competitions will take place. QS can be more annoying as it travels the world on a tiring schedule from one wave to the next, struggling with something that could be a little better than a beach descent. “I don’t think I had a very good idea about it – especially when the waves were bad,” he says.
Every year that Robinson failed to qualify for the WSL, there was pressure, especially as a number of high-profile Australian male surfers retired from the tour and fans watched the next generation. “I know you have a lot of eyes, you have to prove yourself,” he says. “It simply came to our notice then. But in the end, I know what I need. I have talent, I have a package, it’s just a matter of putting it together. ” Robinson added that he learned a lot about himself using QS. “You can get ahead of yourself – you want to win everything,” he says. “It’s also about enjoying the ride.”
Then came the change. Robinson met Brazilian model Julia Muniz. The couple began to meet and travel together. This coincided with Robinson’s best form of competitive career and his qualification to the WSL before the 2020 season. The couple got married in mid-2020 after Covid-19 Robinson’s debut ended the WSL season. “He’s amazing,” Robinson said. “Everything you want.”
Muniz’s arrival came as Robinson’s father, Trev, was sitting in the back. After a long career with his father, who was closely involved in his career, this marked a significant change for Robinson. Surf magazine described Tracks Trevi as his son’s “coach, confidant and chief strategist,” noting that over the years, some commentators have compared him to very nervous “football fathers.” However, Robinson Junior insists that although the relationship is well developed, he has a good relationship with his father.
“I think it’s not always easy when you do it with your family, and they also play the role of managers – doing it with companies, managing me, and then managing deals,” he says. “He’s my father – we keep that attitude, and I think it’s in a better place.” After being separated for a while, the couple recently reunited at the Margaret River event. “He was very excited,” Robinson adds. “To see me win at home – I think he was on top of the moon.”
LLast year, in his debut season, Robinson competed in his first WSL race in Mexico, helping him finish 12th overall. This year, the Australian reached the quarterfinals of the second race of the series in Hawaii and the semifinals at Bells Beach in Victoria. With consecutive victories in the Margaret River and G-Land races, it is now possible to win the world title.
Australia has long been a force in competitive surfing. Mark Richards ruled in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Tom Carroll and Damien Hardman, Mark Occhilupo, Mick Fanning and Coel Parkinson Slater all won two titles in the next decade before winning the championship at a time when they dominated differently. Although Australian female stars Tyler Wright, Stephanie Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons continue to perform, Brazilian and Hawaiian surfers have been at the forefront of men’s WSL in recent years.
Nearly a decade after Fanning’s last world title, is Robinson ready to lead a new generation of 24-year-old Australian surfers to WSL fame at a time when he is gaining fame?
“I’ve always wanted that,” he says. “But there is a long way to go. It seems to me that this is one step after another. Even this event wins – there is a long journey ahead. There is more to come. ”
Robinson, who has been in the spotlight for more than a decade, knows that success is not predetermined. The WSL Championship, if it comes, will need content that can be hard to find in the spotlight of surfing.
“A lot of things happen, more eyes are on you, people say this and that,” says Robinson. “But I think the main focus is on yourself. Do it from time to time to be there, to surf. “