The 20-year-old rising star from Maui talks about waves, his upbringing, and big dreams

By Rebecca Parsons
Photos Brent Bielmann

Jackson Bunch IV grew up in Paia, Maui, in the Ho’okipa area. Like a lot of kids, he played some soccer during his formative years, but he was always drawn towards coastal activities. Most of his free time was spent surfing, fishing, spearfishing, and anything else he could find to do at the beach. He began competing in local contests when he was seven and over the years, has collected a number of big wins.

Bunch wrapped up a successful first year on the Challenger Series, including his first QS win at Rangiroa and another at Hale’iwa, with his sights ultimately set on qualifying for the Championship Tour. We caught up with Bunch between waves and asked him about growing up on Maui, career highlights, and his goals looking forward.

How did you first get into surfing?
I don’t come from a long line of surfers, but my dad got me into it. He loved to surf and he wanted me to love it too.

Do you remember your first time surfing?
Not exactly, but I kind of remember getting pounded in the whitewash a bit!

What about Maui made it such a great place to grow up as a surfer?
Maui gets really good but not very consistently. The average waves we get are really good practice for contests that are run in places that aren’t very good. I think that if you can surf a bad wave good, you could probably surf a good wave good.

Where is your homebreak?
My homebreak is Ho’okipa. It catches west swells, north swells, and east swells, so there is always a wave to surf. Maui being super windy all the time it brings in a lot of wind swell, and the wind is great for airs.

When did you first start competing?
I started competing when I was about seven or so. I tried to do all the contests I could do – not just on Maui, but on the other islands too like the Hale’iwa Menehune, T&C Grom contest, etc.

What have been some of your top competition results?
I have been lucky enough to win a few big contests for a kid growing up. Here are some of the bigger contests I have won: ISA Junior World Championships, WSL QS 1000, WSL Junior Pro 1000, 2x NSSA Nationals, US Championships, RipCurl Grom Search Nationals, and the Volcom VQS World Championships.

You’ve had a lot of attention as a surfer since you were a kid. What’s it like having that recognition? Does it add pressure?
I try not to think about that too much, just so I don’t put the pressure on myself, but it definitely pops into my head a bit.

What does a typical week look like when you’re home?
I try to surf as much as I can, but I put training in between my surfing as well. I do a lot of boxing, swimming, running, and yoga for my training. I really like to fish and spearfish as well, so I try to squeeze that in where I can.

Do you have a crew that you regularly surf with? Do you work with a coach?
Yes, I do have a coach. I have been working with Akira Aipa—he has been a big help to my physical and mental part of my game. At home I surf with guys like Imai DeVault, Cody and Levi Young, Ian Gentil, Matt Meola, Albee Layer, and a few more guys that surf Ho’okipa consistently.

Where are some of your favorite spots you’ve surfed around the world?
Desert Point and Greenbush are definitely on my list. The waves are so perfect and beautiful. I can’t wait to go back.

How would you describe your surfing?
Fast, explosive, and smooth.

You’re currently competing in the Challenger Series? How’s it going?
This is my first year on the Challengers. It has been fun but really challenging. I have two results that are pretty good but have three others that are not. I’m excited for the comps coming up.

What are your goals looking forward?
Get Top 20 on the CS. Make the Championship Tour one day. Win a world title. Just gotta take it step by step, day by day, and hope it all works out.

Do you have any plans for college or a career outside of surfing or is surfing your focus right now?
Surfing right now is my main focus and I am really excited to see where it will take me.

Anything else?
I would like to thank everyone who supports me. All of my sponsors: Quiksilver, Smith Optics, Glenn Minami, Jeannie Chesser, Urban Island Society, Fcs Fins, Vertra, Hi-Tech Surf and Sports. My mom, my dad, my sister, my girlfriend, all my family, and everyone that I missed. Thank you!

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