Surfer Jackson Baker ready for prime time in Hawaii

FOCUSED: Jackson Baker hopes to break into the top 50 on the QS at Hawaii. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
FOCUSED: Jackson Baker hopes to break into the top 50 on the QS at Hawaii. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

WEDNESDAY: Jackson Baker came through with a wave in the last 30 seconds to jump from last to second and progress to round two at the Hawaiian Pro on Wednesday at Haleiwa.

With a two-wave total of 7.6, Baker needed a 6.2 in the final minutes of his four-man heat to avoid elimination.

The Merewether natural-footer took off on a wave with about 30 second left and put in a sweeping forehand carve and two big snaps to get a 6.4 after the final siren.

He finished with 10.83, which was second to countryman Mitch Coleborn (11.13) but better than Mihimana Braye, of French Polynesia, (10.83) and local Makana Eleogram (8.17).

TUESDAY: Jackson Baker feels like he has already won ahead of his first Hawaiian prime-rated event appearance this week at Haleiwa, Oahu.

The Merewether surfer will take on countryman Mitch Coleborn, Mihimana Braye, of French Polynesia, and local Makana Eleogram at the Hawaiian Pro. The event window has opened and competition started on Wednesday morning (AEDT).

The Hawaiian Pro is one of two season-ending 10,000-point World Surf League qualifying series events in Hawaii, the birthplace of modern surfing.

Baker has twice featured in 10,000-point events, the biggest on the QS, this year and is 95th on the series.

Although not within reach of a top-10 year-ending ranking to make the championship tour, Baker was “stoked” to just be in the main QS events in Hawaii. The 10,000-point Vans World Cup at Sunset Beach from November 25 is the finale.

“I kind of knew when the list came out that I was going to get in,” Baker said from Hawaii. “The hard work paid off this year and it would have been a bummer if I didn’t get in.

“I’m fifth alternate for Sunset but I should 100 per cent get in. I’ve been coming over here for years now and only been in the three-star, so to finally be in a prime – that was my goal at the start of the year, so just to be in one is great.” 

Baker is out to lift his ranking and with it his chances of competing in more 10,000-point events in 2018.

“Just to get in is a really good achievement, and now there’s no pressure,” he said. “If I can make two or three heats, I could put myself into the top 50, so it could be a turning point or just a big learning curve.”

Baker bowed out in his second heat at the 3000-point HIC Pro at Sunset Beach and expected another early test at Haleiwa.

“Any heat in the Triple Crown is tough,” he said. “You can’t underestimate anyone, especially in round one when you come up against all the Hawaiian seeds. 

“Sometimes that round is actually harder than any other because you are coming up against guys who have no ranking and are really good at Haleiwa and Sunset. They know the waves like the back of their hands and anything goes.”

Baker will fly the flag for Newcastle at Haleiwa after clubmate and 2016 CT surfer Ryan Callinan did not enter. Callinan, 39th on the QS, has competed only five times since the passing of his mother, Janice, in May. 

“I think he’s going to do Sunset, but I think he just wanted to hang at home for a bit longer and train with [Adam] Trypas,” Baker said. “This year I don’t think qualifying is his main goal.

“He’s surfing the best I’ve seen him surf and hopefully he comes back next year and blows everyone out of the water. That’s what everyone wants to see.”