From the outside looking in everything in Jack Freestone's life looks pretty good, if a little busy, right now. A beautiful wife expecting their first baby next month. Solid sponsorship backing, as well as his own first foray into business with the brand Villager coming to life. He's got his close crew of mates who have his back, as he has theirs. Now in his second year on the Championship Tour (CT), the two-time World Junior Champion should be looking to nail down his spot in surfing's elite.
There is, however, one sticking point. He currently sits as the World No. 27, having won five heats over six events and logging a poor average heat total of 11.61. Having managed to re-qualify for the CT with his very last heat on the Qualifying Series (QS) last year it was thought that the lessons learned in scraping through the difficult rookie year would lead to his undoubted talent asserting itself in his sophomore year.
After an unexpected poor start at Snapper, Freestone's Margaret River performance backed this theory. In the heaving peaks of Main Break he progressed to the Semifinals, defeating Kelly Slater on the way. There he stayed with a couple of good mates and put an emphasis on having fun and staying positive. He looked as relaxed and confident as at any stage in his CT career. At the time it was thought that performance could be a real turning point.
However, since then, the 25-year-old has registered just one more heat win, logging four more 25ths to add to the Round Two loss at Snapper. Four of his five heat wins in 2017 came at the Margaret River Pro and if it wasn't for those 6500 points, he would effectively be out of the running for requalification.
It's a similar tale to 2016, where a Final finish in Rio propped up what was eventually an injury-affected and poor year that led him to finish outside the top 30. Like last year, one of his greatest failings has been his inability to complete his waves. It's the poor completion ratio that has cost him close heats. A slight improvement in that single competitive criteria would have seen the closest of losses turn into the narrowest of victories.
As it stands though, he still is in touch and with every chance of making the cut. Trestles, then, will have to count. Another poor result on the cobblestones should see him slip off the bubble and make him reliant on the QS for a second chance. That's why this week off waiting for swell will probably be affecting him more than most. If we discount the World Title contenders, there are few in the field who have as much riding on the Hurley Pro as Jack.
On the other side of the tide, there are also few in the field that have the explosive power and all-around act to do real damage at Trestles. It is a wave that could play to Freestone's strengths, if he can eradicate his errors and surf with confidence. On Tour he's been spending loads of time with Mick Fanning, which can only help with his own heat preparation and strategy. Like Mick, he also has a strong friendship and a close working relationship with his shaper, Darren Handley. That means he enters each event having total faith in his equipment.
Obviously Freestone's tools and talent are there. On a personal level, 2017 will already be one of the most pivotal in his life. If over the next week he can bring his A-game to Trestles, it could also be as pivotal in his professional one, too.