Jack Jack Robinson on finals day at the VPP. (Carey)

Does Jack Robinson Prove The QS Is Broken? Or Does The QS Prove Jack Robinson Just Isn’t As Great As We’d Hoped?

It’s one or the other, right?

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The Volcom Pipe Pro washed up at the beginning of week and boy oh boy was it a spectacle. Young Hawaiian Josh Moniz won it in the dying seconds, just beating out Jamie O’Brien in a Pipe performance worthy of the venue itself. And the whole event was like that: The world’s greatest wave putting on the sort of spectacle it threatens it could any time tentative dates are marked in the calendar for an official competition there. Magical.

And when Pipe is good and Jack Robinson is in the draw, like he was this Volcom Pipe Pro, you get hit with the familiar thought of: “Oh yeah, that’s right… Jack Robinson.”

You could argue that there has been no better prospect for greatness in Australian surfing in the past ten years than Jack Robinson.

He is a special, once in a generation type surfer. The sort of surfer who looks not just comfortable, but extraordinary in places that only one or two other surfers in the world do. John John level special.

Freesurfing he is a star. And he has been for some time. He was the only Australian in John John Florence’s big budget blockbuster surf film View From A Blue Moon, swapping tubes and cameras with the Hawaiian superstar himself. And he was the only junior surfer to cameo in Kai Neville’s Dear Suburbia, the last of the giant high performance surf films to end all high performance surf films back in 2012.

Australian surf media back then fell into the habit of calling him Jack Jack, for the way he appeared destined to follow John John’s trajectory as the world’s best surf prodigy with innate tube-riding ability.

But as soon as Jack Robinson’s thrown himself into the system of WSL CT qualification, he has been mediocre at best.

In 2015, his first full time crack at the fickle beast of the QS season, Jack finished 65th. He followed that up in 2016 by finishing 83rd. And then last year, Jack fell even further finishing 113th – a full 100-plus surfers between him and those that qualified for the Championship Tour (could you even name 100 QS surfers?). It means that not only is Jack Robinson not getting close to qualifying, he is getting worse at competing year on year.

Jack Robinson is still only 20-years-old (I think!). If Jack were an NBA basketball player, he likely wouldn’t have even been drafted by a team yet, let alone played some minutes, while our best and most competitive World Title threatening surfer in (what will become) the post-Mick era, Julian Wilson, didn’t get on to the Championship Tour until he was 23 (or so). So there’s plenty of time for Jack to become every bit the competitive surfer he perhaps unfairly has had expected of him.

But in the three years he’s tackled the QS, Jack Jack’s gone from the most hyped junior surfer in the world, to a-near underground hero who is terribly good when Pipe turns on.

So the question is:

If a surfer so clearly, freakishly talented, with a surfing ability comparable to John John Florence in parts, can not even get close on the QS, is that QS system broken? Or is it perhaps that Jack Robinson is just not that good?

If Australia’s most exciting young male talent – like Soli Bailey, Mikey Wright, and, of course, Jack Robinson – can’t get close to the big leagues as it is, is it because the Qualifying Series is dysfunctional, or are we just not as good as we think we are?

Mike Jennings