We caught up with South African wave destroyer Jared “Jerry” Houston, who was still coming to terms with his monumental APB World Bodyboarding Tour title APB World Bodyboarding Tour title win.
The 26-year-old won his maiden world title in dramatic fashion at the Encanto Pro Cultura. After being knocked out in the early rounds, Houston faced a nervous wait as he watched his world tour rivals Amaury Lavernhe and Pierre-Louis Costes compete for the chance to be crowned world champion.
However, with some luck and help from his Hawaiian friends Jacob Romero and Jeff Hubbard, Jerry was able to claim his world tour win.
Jerry to the time to answer some questions as the events and stories from a historic day in bodyboarding begin to sink in.
RT: Firstly, how does it feel to be the world champion? Has it all sunk in yet?
JH: It definitely hasn’t sunk in yet. Since I won I helped pack down the contest amidst a few beers and have been surrounded by family and friends, going over the whole day and year and every little detail that came into play. I am so happy to join the elite list of world champions. It’s the pinnacle achievement in bodyboarding and I am just gobsmacked to have taken it out.
RT: Going back to your heat against Jeff Hubbard and Nelson Flores. What happened? Did you think you had enough points to progress through to round seven?
JH: Mate, I was just rattled at that point. I felt like I was surfing the best I’ve surfed all year and felt so relaxed and in control that I guess I let my guard down to some extent. I really didn’t pay too much attention to Nelson (Flores) and that was the first lesson I learnt in all this: Never underestimate anyone, especially a young, hungry upstart with a bucketload of talent.
“I really didn’t pay too much attention to Nelson and that was the first lesson I learnt in all this: Never underestimate anyone, especially a young, hungry upstart with a bucketload of talent.”
RT: What was your reaction when Jeff got that last minute wave to knock you into third? Did you think you had lost the title?
JH: It was the lowest point of emotion I can remember. I came out the water just feeling crushed, I couldn’t believe that I had come so far to just let it all slip away. Jeff tried to speak to me but I just couldn’t deal, I congratulated him and bailed in tears. I just wanted to escape and go home and cry my eyes out and scream at the bloody walls. I eventually started on my way home, and my phone buzzed and there was a message from Dave (Hubbard), saying ” You are one of the best on earth right now, whether you are a champion or not will be determined by how you face these next hours/days.” That stopped me right in my tracks and there and then I decided that it wasn’t over and that I was going back to the beach, to be present and be a part of everything and send my best vibes that everything would continue to go my way. Thanks Dave.
“(the heat loss) was the lowest point of emotion I can remember. I came out the water just feeling crushed, I couldn’t believe that I had come so far to just let it all slip away.”
RT: You were surfing so well that day too. Scoring one of the highest heat total of the entire year with a 19.90. What was it like going from the highs of your round five heat to the lows of your round six heat?
JH: It was wild bru, I just couldn’t believe it. I surfed well in round six but the other guys just did better. It just showed me how fragile and volatile everything is. I came off the best technical heat of my career to getting eliminated in the very next one. Momentum really can be stopped and that was a prime example. At the time I didn’t understand but looking back at it now, everything did happen for a reason.
RT: You said yesterday was the longest day of your life. Firstly, what was it like sitting on the beach and watching Moz (Amaury Lavernhe) take on Jacob Romero?
JH: Heinous, haha. I wasn’t going to go down because I didn’t want Jacob to feel any pressure from my side. I ended up going down about midway through the heat for the same reasons mentioned above, and because Leo (Alex Leon) said it would make good TV (Don’t worry about my mental health Al). I am so glad I did, I experienced some extremely powerful emotions there, watching a really good friend of mine take on and take down my closest rival as well as eventually go on to his best result in a few years. It was awesome to see. What was hard was seeing Moz afterwards. I respect him so much, and I know how hard it must have been for him to see me run up and hug Jacob. I know he understands and when he came to hug me and cry with me at the end of the day I knew he understood and that he was really happy for me.
RT: Did you speak to Jacob much before that heat?
JH: Just a text in the morning, saying, “do what you do best and have fun!”
RT: Watching Pierre-Louis Costes do so well after defeating Jacob in his semi to go through to the final. Did you think he was going to go all the way?
JH: I really believe in the power of the energy or vibe one puts out there, so as much as my head told me PLC could very well do it, I had to keep my hopes alive in my heart. That’s all I could do, I was helpless. The only thing I could do was accept what was happening and go with it. After the semi, I accepted the fact that Pierre could beat me and I was genuinely content with the fact that if he did surf through all his heats and win the final, then he was an extremely deserving champ and that I would be the first person to congratulate him. Pierre is my friend, and I really think a lot of him.
RT: In the final you were obviously going for Jeff. But was it strange to be going for someone who beat you earlier, and rooting against your good friend and teammate in PLC?
JH: Mate, in the final I didn’t know if I was coming or going. I felt weak and my legs were cramping. My heart was in my throat and it almost burnt to breathe. I have never been so affected by anxiety in my life. My wife and I barely spoke all day, firstly because she was running around like crazy but also because we were both in the same situation, burning balls of emotion ready to explode at any moment. As I mentioned before, during the final I was at peace with both outcomes and even though I felt everyone in my corner, I did my best to maintain good sportsmanship and clap for Pierre’s waves too. When Jeff really started to take command though was when the wheels fell off and I was just losing it. I know Pierre and I are going to be in this position a few more times in our careers, this time it went my way, next time it might go his. I am just happy to be here. I wanted Jeff to win for his sake too. He hasn’t been especially active on the World Tour for a few years and I could see how bad he wanted that winning feeling. Man, yesterday was so special on so many levels. There was so much going on and so many stories to share.
“…in the final I didn’t know if I was coming or going. I felt weak and my legs were cramping. My heart was in my throat and it almost burnt to breathe. I have never been so affected by anxiety in my life.”
RT: Did you speak much to Jeff or PLC prior to that heat?
JH: I wished Pierre luck and to Jeff barely a word. We both knew each others feeling. When he won our eyes locked from 100m away and he just mouthed ” this is for you” and when he came up and hugged me we were both just screaming in each others ears. I am so in love with our sport and the relationships I’ve formed and the experiences I’ve had. They are seriously what make this title real for me, it happened around real people in the most surreal circumstances.
RT: How does it feel to be the first South African since Andre Botha to win a bodyboarding world title?
JH: Feels insane, Dre messaged me last night to congratulate me and I messaged him right back to express how much he inspired me. His picture on the front of a South African bodyboarding Magazine was my first introduction to the sport and to read he was South African and a world champ made me want to get involved, thanks for everything DRE. YOU MADE THIS ALL A REALITY FOR US ALL TO FOLLOW! My hugest respects.
RT: The South African contingent were impressive all season. Iain Campbell and Tristan Roberts both went above and beyond expectations. Is this the beginning of a Saffa revolution in bodyboarding? Do you hope your title will inspire more riders and bring more attention to the sport in your home country?
JH: I may be the second World Champ SA has produced, but I certainly won’t be the last. I predict Tristan will win at some stage of his career and this year Iain Campbell proved that he is one of the best competitors on the planet and I saw him push his riding in its entirety to a whole new level. He is going to be a major force to be reckoned with next year again. South Africa blew up last night, and I can only hope that, like Andre’s title inspired a generation, mine will too! LETS GO SOUTH AFRICA.
“South Africa blew up last night, and I can only hope that, like Andre’s title inspired a generation, mine will too! LETS GO SOUTH AFRICA.”
RT: What are your plans for the remainder of the year?
JH: Plans for the rest of the year are to put the feet up and enjoy the festive season here in Puerto Rico. It is such a fun time of the year. Natasha and I are going to add a second story to our house so I will have my hands full with that. I have some plans in the pipeline with Moncho Dapena for a few trips around the Caribbean. I just want to enjoy the rest of my year with my family, who have been as big a part of this as I have. Can’t wait!
RT: Any last shout outs?
JH: Yes, I want to dedicate this title to three groups of people: The first is my family at home in SA. Without going to much into detail, they basically invested a decade of money, time and even moving cities to support my dream to pursue bodyboarding as a career. I could not have done this without them.
The second is my wife Natasha and my daughter. Natasha is the centre of my home, she is the rock that holds our family together and through her and with her I have achieved all of life’s greatest moments – falling in love (insane), moving out of my parents home and becoming a man, and finally becoming a father in early 2014. Since meeting Natasha in 2010, my life has only gotten better and when I wake up in the morning and see my family, happy, healthy and ALIVE – I know that I am successful and that I am loved. There is no better feeling than that, the feeling of worth.
The third is to David Lilienfeld. David was one of the best bodyboarders in SA, a friend and just one of the coolest dudes that ever lived. He died as a result of a shark attack in 2012, three days before my birthday at the beach I grew up surfing at. His death, although one of the most painful and rattling experiences ever, truly drove home the concept for me that no-one is invincible and that you really have to live each day to the fullest as it very well may be your last. He passed doing what he loved with the person he loved most (his brother Gustav) and for that I don’t feel sorry for him, just grateful for everything he taught me and many others through his life and his death. Thank you to all my sponsors, Pride Bodyboards, Vulcan Fins, Emerald Bodyboard shop and Reeflex Wetsuits as well as to all my friends.