With its freezing cold waters, unforgiving barnacle-covered reef and mutant lips and sections, Cronulla’s Shark Island probably isn’t a must-see destination for Hawaiian bodyboarders.

Riders from the “Aloha State” are often surfing in boardshorts all year round. Enjoying pristine aqua blue barrels over beautiful (albeit still razor sharp) coral reef. It is no wonder many Hawaiian surfers and bodyboarders rarely travel outside of their tropical oasis in search of other waves.

But Maui’s Jacob Romero is certainly bucking that trend after making yet another trip down to Australia to compete at the Shark Island Challenge.

And boy, has he been making the most out of it. The flying Hawaiian has been the standout performer during every session, which has been pumping for nearly a week straight now.

Riptide Magazine caught up with Romero to see how his SIC preparations are coming along.

Images courtesy of: Sam Venn Photography, Beyond the Curl (Nick Maier), Shannon Glasson Photography, Riley Edwards Photography

Jacob Romero. Photo by Sam Venn
Jacob Romero. Photo by Sam Venn

Firstly, what brings you to Oz? Was it solely for the Shark Island Challenge?

Yes it was solely for the Shark Island Challenge, but also I love coming back to Australia especially here in Cronulla because I have a lot of good friends and I haven’t been back properly since 2012.  It feels like home here, but with freezing cold water, haha!

How long have you been here?

I’ve been here for two weeks now and I would want to stay until the end of the (SIC) holding period but, since the next stop of the APB Tour in Portugal is a little over 2 weeks away, I want to go home for a little bit to hang out with my family, girlfriend and friends and also work a bit to make some extra money working surf lessons.

With that said I’ll be leaving either Friday or Sunday and crossing my fingers the contest will run either Thursday or Saturday.

Apart from surfing the Island, what else have you done while here? 

Honeslty, I’ve only boogied the Island and boogied Suck Rock once since i’ve been here. It’s crazy how much times i’ve surfed the Island.  I think (yesterday) was the eigth day straight i’ve surfed it!  It’s been sick and I don’t feel like I need to go anywhere else.

Romero does another big flip out of a Shark Island bowl. Photo: Shannon Glasson.
Romero does another big flip out of a Shark Island bowl. Photo: Shannon Glasson.

Did you end up going to a Boogie Youth Clinic?

Unfortunately the waves where firing that day and I couldn’t make it, but would love to go to one of those clinics one day as I believe the youth is our future and would love to hang out with them and give some advice with bodyboarding and life in general.  Stoked them out!

It seems like you have been absolutely shredding out at the Island this past week. And you have said that it is one of your favourite waves. What do you like so much about it?

I love Shark Island and yes it is one of my favorite waves.  It’s very unpredictable and has the biggest pits and ramps! Also, all of the locals have shown me so much aloha in the lineup.  Like I said it feels like home.


It seems to be the opposite of what you would find around Maui, is the stark contrast one of the reasons behind your love for the Island?

It’s actually comparable to some spots.  Well not a lot comparable, but some spots have some kind of Shark Island traits to it.

You’re not afraid to hit the section at Surge either. Even if it is over dry rock. Are you ever worried about what is below you while you are flying through the air?

I’m always worried and get scared a bit, but the feeling of the unknown is what keeps me hitting those Shark Island sections. You get so much speed and when the lip lines up right you can get the hugest ramp ever. I just love the feeling of flying and not knowing if you’ll land the move or not because you are landing in such a critical zone of the reef.

If that the comp is called on for Thursday or Sunday, how do you think you will go?

I am very confident in my riding, especially out at the Island and I believe I can win it. With that said, the locals and the invitees in the comp can also win it.  It all comes down who can get those three total highest scoring waves.

What do you think the key is to riding Shark Island well?

Getting barreled, get spit out, then hitting a rollo or a flip out of the barrel. I believe that’s the key, but for me, honestly, I would want to just line up with the biggest section and hit it in the most critical part of the wave and land it in the most critical part of the wave/reef.

You have been on a bit of a hot streak in contests lately after winning the Cave Rock Invitational and the reigning IBA Hawaii champ, do you think you are at your peak right now?

Not at my peak as I feel like I can improve in some parts of my riding, but I do feel like I am in my prime.  I don’t know if that’s the same thing, but I feel like I’m priming mentally and physically in my riding.

Romero in another Shark Island cylinder. Photo: Nick Maier
Romero in another Shark Island cylinder. Photo: Nick Maier

What are your goals on the APB Tour this year?

My main goal is always to be world champ, but I would be stoked with a top 10 finish at the end of the tour and winning an event would be huge!

You missed out on competing at the opening event in Itacoatiara, Brazil. Why was that?

I was too late with applying for a visa.  I also spent my savings on going to South Africa with my girlfriend, so I wouldn’t have had enough money to do Brazil as well. I would love to go there one day and it would give me a better chance of accomplishing my APB goals.

You were strong in the following two events, with a ninth place at Arica and a fifth place finish at Antofagasta. Are you happy with how you are going?

Yeah, I am stoked on how everything is going so far.  I feel like things could’ve gone my way a little more in Chile, but I’m happy with my placings and I’m looking forward to Portugal and Puerto Rico.
Before you went travelling you were working two jobs to save some coin. Are you going to do that again? 

I still work at those two jobs and they support me so much in what I am doing.  They let me work when I’m home and when I need to travel they let me take off.  I am so thankful for them.  One of my jobs are teaching surf lessons at Trilogy outside of the Kaanapali Beach Hotel, and my other job is working at The Foam Company, who I also ride for.

Yet another flip out of Shark Island's infamous Surge bowl. Photo: Riley Edwards
Yet another flip out of Shark Island’s infamous Surge bowl. Photo: Riley Edwards

A lot of regulars bypassed the APB tour this year, especially the aussies, what made you want to compete on it?

I’ve set goals and I will not stop till I accomplish them or feel satisfied with myself.  A huge part of those goals was to compete and place well on the world tour and become a champion one day.

Also, I’ve competed on the tour when it was the IBA and when all of that went down and became the APB, I saw how hard Alex Leon worked and I told him I will support him and this tour no matter what. I believe in the APB and will support it as long as I can.

You do travel far and wide for contests, what is it you love about competing?

I love competing against the best in the world in some of the best waves in the world. Also, I want to inspire kids or people from where I am from, and all over the world, that you can do anything you want. You just have to dream, set goals, work hard, enjoy, and have fun in what you do.

Romero races down toward the Surge Bowl. Photo by Nick Maier
Romero races down toward the Surge Bowl. Photo by Nick Maier

Competing has opened up so much opportunities for me and I’ve also experienced so much and someday I would love to see one of those kids take my place in this amazing world not just competing, but exploring it. You know what I mean.

Thanks for talking to us Jacob. Any shout outs?

I want to say a huge mahalo to my sponsors: The No.6 Bodyboards, The Foam Company, SOL Clothing USA, Dunes Wetsuits, Da Secret Sauce, and SURGE Bodyboard Wax.  Also, to my family, girlfriend Celestial, my friends, and to everyone who supports me thank you so much!  It means the world to me!