Coleborn nods, sitting shotty beside me and chimes in, “F--k that’s a good one. He’s just the nicest dude in the world. He’s also the biggest softy in the world [laughs]. Jack will just come up to you out of the blue and give you a cuddle on any given day [laughs]. Just going, ‘F--k I love you, c--t.’”
“Yeah, he really loves a cuddle,” laughs Crews. “He seriously is the nicest, got-your-back kinda guy in the world. You’d think because he’s got the spotlight on him a lot that he wouldn’t be like that, but he is. It’s just never really about him, ever. He’ll literally go out of his way to put you first, before himself. He’s also always surrounded himself with only good vibes and refuses to hang with people that are negative. He’s also kind of looked after himself, or should I say, been on his own program sort of thing.”
“Yeah I mean his mum and dad split up when he was pretty young, so in a way he’s raised himself a little. Like, he got a job at a surf shop at, like, 14 to make some money. He was sweeping floors in a factory shop, not getting anything handed to him.”
“He definitely took responsibility of his own future in that way. But also just surfed more than everyone though too,” says Crews. “Like, in his age bracket he wasn’t even the best in his pack but because he frothed so hard and loved surfing all day, he got so gnarly.”
New Pier isn’t quite what we expected. There’s surf, but it resembles big, washy Huntington Beach more than classic 6-foot standups. We pass on Town and head back toward Ballito, back to one of the empty wedges we’d groaned over just off the highway. We take a random exit that looks like it leads to a carpark and resign to surfing mediocre peaks…alone.
There are a few fishermen watching lines on the shore and on the way into the surf, Crews looks at one and puts two palms together over his head, gesturing to the stranger if he’s seen any sharks. The fisherman grins like, Well, that is the ocean...And he hops in anyway.
Between sets, Coleborn continues. “I remember the first time I ever saw Jack out at D’Bah. He did this huge alley-oop in front of my face and instead of being the sour old c--t that I usually am, I decided to just paddle over and say hi to him first, and he was just so cool. I went straight home and texted Kai [Neville] that he’s gotta start filming this kid. I was an instant fan.”
“He’d just inspire people somehow,” says Crews. “Especially to surf ALL day. Like, he’d ring us all the time going, ‘It’s pumping!’ and it’d be so shit, but he just wanted to surf and hang [laughs]. Jack’s the biggest f--king frother.”
And it’s true. Whether he shies away from it, loathes it or hides from the attention…he demands it by default. Is inspiring, regardless. Jack has that charismatic leader’s vibe that makes people stop and want to listen, want to watch what he does, want to get what he’s all about.
Later that evening, Jack gets back from another heat win and finds us in the hotel cafe having a drink before dinner. The head of the table winks at him beckoningly, but he pulls a chair from the one beside us and slides it in between both Mitches.