Watching Jake Paterson commentate a contest is like watching John McEnroe just after he retired from competitive tennis and joined the network booth. He’s calls it like he sees it and doesn’t pull any punches. But it’s all built on the fact that he’s been there at the highest level, gone toe to toe with the best and often rose victorious. He knows the psyche it takes to win.
But in talking with Jake, you quickly learn that it’s not his fierce competitive nature that keeps him around the contest sites or the reliving of bygone days. It’s his genuine stoke for surfing that defines his passion and the desire to keep surfing as his career for as long as he can. Not an easy thing when you’re married (15 years) and have three kids. THAT, my friends, takes some serious work.
Before we get to the interview below, I think a little background is necessary. While Jake was born in Perth, Australia, he relocated to the sharky, big wave haven of Margaret River when he was 17, so that he could surf better waves. And if you haven’t been to Margs, I can tell you that it ain’t no joke. Sure they’ve got playful reefbreaks, beachies and pointbreaks when the waves are small. But they’ve also got The Box, North Point, Grunters and Cow Bombie, which doesn’t even show its face until swells hit 20ft. When a big swell hits the Margaret’s area, everywhere’s big and most places are holding. Ain’t no soft alternatives for the faint of heart. You either paddle out or come up with some excuse to visit the nearby wine country. You’ve got to have a strong disposition for big waves, giant great whites, shallow bottoms and barrels that spit ya’ out like a watermelon seed.
Jake’s a great example of the type of surfer that thrives down there. He’s fearless, loves the challenge and enjoys the company of guys who all “crap bigger than you” (to steal that famous line from ‘City Slickers’). His local crew consists of guys like his brother ‘Antman’ (Billabong XXL winner, Oakley/ASL Big Wave Challenge contender), Damon Eastaugh (2x winner of the Oakley/ASL Big Wave Challenge and Billabong XXL nominee) , Courtenay Gray (Pipe charger, Eastaugh’s tow a partner and all around hellman), Taj Burrow (perennial Top 5 WCT’er), Mitch Thorson (Top 16 ASP vet and charger) and a whole host of local guys who you’ve never heard of but that will drop in on waves that’d scare the bejeezus out of you and me.
The last bit of info I’ll leave you with is Jake’s competitive record, because I think it’s telling of just what kinds of waves he enjoys:
- 2x Champion (2003 and 2005) O’Neill World Cup at Sunset Beach
- 2x Champion (2000 and 2001) Billabong Pro at Jeffrey’s Bay
- 1998 Pipe Master
- 2x (1996 and 2002) WQS Winner
And now, I’ll let the man speak….
TSV: You did the pro tour for a lot of years, but there’s a lot of big wave spots/guys down in Margs and I was curious as to why you went the contest route and not the big wave route.
JP: Well, when I first started in the contests, I didn’t really think I could make a living at it. And me and my brother Antman, pushed each other in bigger waves and we got pretty competitive that way. But I started doing well on the contest scene and just started following that.
TSV: And your brother’s got a solid reputation in very big waves.
JP: Oh yeah…for a little guy, he just charges (Laughs) He got real good at it.
TSV: What was the attitude with that whole local crew? I mean, obviously you’ve got Taj Burrow coming out of that area too and a bunch of guys now doing the contests. But back when you turned pro, was there pressure to go the big wave route or were they cool with you doing the tour the way it was?
JP: Oh no, not all. No pressure at all for big waves. You know, when I started, it was hard and we had to work really hard [at the contest surfing] and I was still doing some big wave stuff too. The crew was good with it, because it was still about the enjoyment of it [and they knew] that to make a living out of it, you’d have to crack the world tour.
TSV: Who out of the local crew influenced you the most?
JP: Damon Eastaugh for sure. I mean, he’d go out in huge stuff just for the fun of it. (Laughs) He’d train really hard too. He was definitely a big influence.
TSV: Oh yeah, that one video [I think it’s called “One Day At A Time”] when he broke his leg at a West Oz reef. That was brutal.
JP: Oh it was. It was.
TSV: So, was it hard to leave the idyllic environment of Margaret River to go out on tour?
JP: Not so much. I mean, it’d be harder for me to have a real job (hysterically laughs). You know a 9-5 job. Travelling and surfing all day long is an easy job compared to digging holes…
TSV: You had a solid career. What’s your favorite win?
JP: Oh, it would have to be Pipe in 1998 w/ Bruce Irons in the final. [Jake grabbed the win from Bruce with a long right hand barrel in the last ten seconds of the comp. In fact, Bruce was already on the beach, thinking he’d had the win in the bag]
TSV: I was actually on the beach for that final.
JP: Well, that last 10 seconds changed my whole life…It really built my reputation in Hawaii. I got in the final a couple of times at Haleiwa and won Sunset a couple of times…it was pretty cool.
TSV: Not that Hawaii’s easy, but I was thinking that it was probably easier for you guys from Margarets in some ways because the waves are so similar.
JP: For sure. You know in Hawaii, you had to jump up to big boards for 20 ft surf, but we did that all the time at home, so that was really cool for [the West Oz guys].
TSV: What made you finally walk away from the tour?
JP: Well, I didn’t qualify for one, plus I just realized that I lost interest and I felt like I didn’t really have it in me to win an event any more. It wasn’t actually that I lost interest, but I realized that I didn’t want to be that guy that wasn’t trying to win the contest. You need guys that have that priority. Guys like Dane and Jordy were coming up and I wasn’t really giving it my 100%, so…
TSV: What do you think of the surfing on the tour right now? The guys now are great, but it’s a very different style of surfing. Guys now win a heat with one air reverse, which is totally different than how your generation won heats.
JP: Oh…it’s so good. I love commentating. It’s like ‘what are they going to do next’ and you wonder what the level’s going to get to. You’ve got to be such a complete package surfer to make it on the pro tour now. Plus, you’ve got to be able to bring something that no one else can do. You know, if a guy has the best carve in the business, he’s gonna get absolutely thrashed when it’s onshore, but then will do well at J-Bay. But the guys that are winning on the pro tour have got the whole package. You know, they can do it all.
TSV: Did you ever think Kelly would still be winning at 39?
JP: He’s only getting’ better. If you watch, he’s still pushing the boundaries and doing things he hasn’t done in his whole life. He’s still beating the young 17 year olds. I think he’s got a couple of more [titles] coming.
TSV: In addition to the commentating, I’ve noticed that a lot of the guys on tour have mentioned you as an influence based on the advice you’ve given etc. Mick Fanning being the latest. So, how do you see your role with the guys currently on tour?
JP: Ummmm, it’s a tricky one. I try to tell it how I see it. Like I try to be brutally honest. When I’m commentating, I don’t try to hide my feelings. When someone’s surfing well, I say it. And if they’re not, I try to give a little bit of a whip. It’s tricky though, because I work with the WQS and I’ve sat on the ASP board with Kelly and those guys and have some perspective, but the new guys probably wouldn’t know that. Like some of the Brazillians…I mean, I totally think they’re cool guys and I get along with them all really well, but sometimes I feel like they think I’m ganging up on them or have got something against them, but I just totally try to be honest…and pour it out or call it as it is. Maybe those guys listen too much to it and are more competitive than anyone, I don’t know.
TSV: But to your point, I really like your commentary because you’ve been in the trenches and you’ve surfed against some of these guys and get it.
JP: Yeah, that’s why I’m honest about it, but I just really enjoy it too. I get to travel and hang out with my friends and I appreciate that. It’s all pretty cool.
TSV: What is your role w/ Quiksilver?
JP: I’ve got a few hats. I’m the Australian Team Manager for Quiksilver, along with my brother. I’m also the world commentator and am now the contest director for the Gold Coast and NY as well. Rod Brooks has been doing it for just about all the events and he’ll be retiring pretty soon and I’ll be stepping into that role. Also, I coach as well.
TSV: And what’s the deal with the surf shop you run in Dunsborough, West Oz?
JP: Yeah, It’s cool. It’s the Quiksilver Jake Paterson Store. The one in Portugal’s got Tiago Pires’ name on it. Kelly’s got one in L.A. You know I’ve been with Quiksilver a long time and they offered it to me. It’s not my store, but I run it.
TSV: What does surfing mean to you?
JP: From the beginning, it just became a passion. You know before school and after school and then I got pretty good and then started competing, then the competition side just took over. Honestly, I never dreamed I’d be a professional surfer, I was just happy to do it. Then a few things went my way and I worked pretty hard and now I’m still doing it.
TSV: So, what’s next for you?
JP: I don’t know…I’m going to Hawaii to coach the team for Haleiwa and Sunset and then the Quiksilver Pro (Gold Coast) will be coming up.
TSV: Well, good luck to you, Jake. And thanks heaps for your time. Cheers!