If you don't live in Australia you're automatically forgiven if you don't know who Jackson Baker is just yet. Until recently, the 20-year-old from Merewether, near Newcastle on Australia's East Coast, hadn't made much of an impact on the international scene. His only bright spot in 2017 was a 5th place finish at the Martinique Surf Pro, where he was barely edged out by Soli Bailey in a slug-fest of a Quarterfinal. He finished 2017 ranked No. 105 on the Qualifying Series.
Today, things are looking much better.
As the Qualifying Series heats up Down Under Baker has got himself on a tear. In the past two weeks alone he's won back-to-back QS 1,000 events: the Mothernest Tweed Coast Pro and the Vissla Great Lakes Pro pres by D'Blanc.
Baker won in dominating fashion, too, winning every heat he surfed during his latest win at the Great Lakes Pro. "I don't think you can feel much better than this," Baker said on the podium. "I was so stoked to win on the Tweed Coast and have success this early in the year. But to go back-to-back is such a dream run, it's definitely the best start to a season I've ever had, so I can't complain."
Of course, being a rising star in Merewether comes with some pressure. The legend of 4x World Champion Mark Richards looms large there, as do the legacies of icons like Luke Egan and Matt Hoy, and recent Championship Tour (CT) surfer Ryan Callinan.
This past weekend "Jacko," as he's known to friends, represented them proudly at the Australian Boardriders Battle Final in Newcastle. There, competing against the best clubs from all over Australia, Baker carried his team to the Final, and he nearly had it won for them until Mikey Wright pulled some last-second heroics on an insider and nabbed a historic victory for his tiny club of Culburra Beach.
Even in defeat, Jacko's stock climbed due to his gritty performances, and his confidence is up for good reason. He's climbed all the way to No. 5 on the Qualifying Series heading into the big QS 6,000 events this week, where he's ready to be tested. "This is just the start for me," he said after his latest win. "I'm really keen to have a solid year on the QS and crack the top 50 or maybe even better we'll have to wait and see. I've been training hard and eating well so it's nice to see that pay off. I'm really pumped for the first QS 6,000 in Newcastle, it's my home event which makes it stressful for me so I want to go into it, not over-thinking and these results will definitely help my confidence."
Watch Baker compete at the Burton Automotive Pro this week at worldsurfleague.com