Jared Houston On What It Means To Be World Champ In 2018
Unless you’ve been living under a boulder the last few weeks, news would have certainly made it onto your iPhone screen that the dust has finally settled at Nazare, leaving three victors from the event and two new world champions in the sport of bodyboarding. While Ayaka Suzuki took out the women’s title and the first for her home country of Japan in this sport, it was bodyboarding’s Mr. Nice Guy, Jared Houston who is wearing the crown in the men’s division. As many in the bodyboarding world will tell you, while Houston has taken out the number one spot in our fair sport twice now, if a world championship for humbleness and magnanimity also existed, “Jerry” would also wear that crown firmly atop his Mohawk-adorned head.
The South African reminded everyone of this quality not long after the Portuguese event wrapped up with a lengthy and very personal Instagram post, thanking a vast array of family and friends but most notably, his wife Natasha – reminding us all of the support that goes on behind the scenes for even the most uber-talented of individuals like Houston.
On that note, we thought it was due time to check in with the new world champ as he reflects on his win and the “ups and downs” of a tumultuous three years leading up to it.
MM: You mentioned on Instagram that "Yesterday was three years of ups and downs culminating in one straight upwards trajectory.” Can you take us through these ups and downs and what it means to you to cap it all off with this victory?
JH: The ups and downs over the past three years are as numerous as they are personal, but the underlying factor has definitely been my personal life battles and then my battle with the sport. When I won my last world title I was being paid thousands of dollars a month to be a pro bodyboarder and I was pretty much living my all-time dream. I didn’t have to work; I focused all my energy into the sport and so did my family. I won that world title in November and at the end of February, after having placed third at Pipe, Pride pulled the rug out from underneath my feet and told me they weren’t in a position to renew my contract. It was a pretty rattling experience as I didn’t understand at the time. I’d done everything right – I won the world title, produced heaps of much-viewed content and sold every board produced up until that time. That was where my battle with the sport started and where my personal issues started to rear their head.
The past three years have seen my life kind of turn upside down, and then upright itself again. In May I signed on with Hubboards and I consider it to be my saving grace in the sport and to some extent this started a positive change in my personal life as well. I am super blessed and stoked to still be getting paid something to bodyboard. I consider it a huge privilege and something I don’t take for granted. It’s so easy to harp on about all the stuff that my family and I have been through are going through and to get lost in the negatives because shit, they make for some pretty amazing listening but I’m such a positive place right now that I’m just really thankful. Thankful to Hubboards for paying for me to do the world tour this year, as they knew how much another world title meant to me personally. I’m also grateful to Reeflex for their continued support as well. Ryan is such a mad dog; he’s on board for whatever. More than anything, I’m grateful to bodyboarding for having given me so much joy in my life. It’s caused a fair amount of pain over the years but I think we can all agree that the good far outweighs the bad.
I wanted to win another world title more than anything because I feel I’m entering a new phase in my life. This world title feels not only like a win in competition but a win for me and my family over what we’ve been through. It feels damn good.
MM: What are your thoughts on the general state of bodyboarding at the moment and what does it mean to win a world title in that context?
JH: I’ve got so many thoughts on the general state of bodyboarding. We’re all somewhat missing the point with all this focus on high performance and the scariest waves ever. That side of the sport will always be present because of the people involved in it but I would like to see us as a collective – to be more inclusive of all the people out there that want to hang onto their boogie in the whitewash every other weekend. I started bodyboarding because I wanted to be apart of something and that’s exactly what kept me there: community. I feel that’s the single biggest factor hindering our growth. We’ve always excluded the “boogie boarding” side of the sport. That’s our birthright and our namesake and we just pushed it aside to go after something that’s never going to happen (being on par with surfing). We’re bodyboarders – we lie down and hang on. Our boards are soft and it’s easy as fuck to get involved and have fun.
MM: Is it the same to win a world title now as it was when, say, Damian King won it about 15 years ago?
JH: Each world title is relative that year and that’s it. It’s only when you look back on the history of the sport and realise that world title winners are the elite competitors across all generation that you can see that the lines are very much blurred. I can tell you that I’m just as stoked as Kingy was to win a world title. I’ll leave all the other bullshit to the cynics but I think the bottom line is simple: Kingy beat everyone in ‘03 and ‘04, and I beat everyone in ‘15 and ‘18. Same concept, different circumstances. For sure everything is watered down nowadays, though. I mean, if you’re not posting twice a day on socials do you even exist? A big difference is that when Kingy won his world titles, he signed a million-dollar contract within a few weeks. But I’ll be back at work on Friday rigging lights or setting up an exhibition. Times change.
MM: What are your plans for the future?
JH: Pay off my debts, love my wife, provide for my daughter with all the tools she needs to grow and enjoy every day as it comes. In regards to bodyboarding, it’s an open book right now with Hubboards. I’m super keen to explore some waves I’ve been watching for years. I have a few business ventures I’d like to explore too, and I’ve definitely got a heart for helping the sport grow by attempting to include all those boogie owners in this sub culture, so they can get as much stoke out of it as I did. Hubboards share a very similar point of view with me and in relation to my involvement in bodyboarding I’d say that the future looks bright. I’m just getting my head around the next few months but I have a couple ideas, and hopefully I score some waves as I’m dying to do some big airs. In terms of my vision for sport I’d like to see more investment into the grass roots growth and probably less focus on the tour and the top end. We’ve been trying to make bodyboarding look hardcore for, like, 30 years now and it’s still an uphill battle. All the good bodyboarders should keep being good and doing rad things but all the people with brains and some capital should perhaps start to look down instead of up for a change. I reckon we’d all be surprised with what we found down there.
MM: How important is it to have the support of family and friends when going into something like a world title pursuit?
JH: Family and friends – or love – is a basic human requirement. It’s something I couldn’t do without. My wife especially is the biggest boss out. Thank you to all the people who love me and have made me feel that recently and over the course of my life and career.