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Is Jack Tyro Aotearoa’s Next Big Thing?

Jack Tyro is impossible to miss. At just 17 years of age, he has established himself as one of New Zealand’s most accomplished young surfers, and is already taking on the world. And the most exciting part? He’s only just getting started.

The last time we spoke with Jack Tyro, he had just been crowned triple New Zealand Surf Champion, winning the Under 18 Longboard title, the Open Men’s Longboard title, and the Under 16 Shortboard title. A rare dual-talent on both shortboard and longboard, Jack’s versatility on the waves has yet to be matched. As far as we know, he remains the youngest triple title winner in New Zealand surfing history. 

That was in 2022 – and since then, Jack has been busy, to say the least. 

Now 17 years of age, the Sumner surfer has since claimed his second national title in the Open Men’s Longboard. More recently, he dominated the 2024 Kaikoura Cold Water Classic, winning the Open Men’s Longboard by an impressive margin of 7.17, placing 3rd in the Open Men’s Shortboard, and winning the Under 18 Shortboard. 

Even more impressive is Jack’s performance on the international stage. He competed in the 2023 Bell’s Beach Longboard Classic as a wildcard entry – placing 17th against the world’s best in his first WSL longboarding event. 

Jack toes the nose during the opening round at the Bioglan Bells Beach Longboard Classic. Photo: WSL/Sloane

But reaching this stage has been far from easy for the two-time New Zealand Longboarding Champ.

“The qualification process for the World Longboard Tour is brutal,” Jack explains. “Each continent has its own qualifying series, with the winner from each series getting to join the tour. But the twist in these series is that sometimes it’s decided by a single competition. That happened in New Zealand and Australia’s case, meaning the one person to qualify from both countries would be decided by one contest.” 

Fortunately, Jack had the chance to compete in the WSL event as a one-off wildcard, after winning the trials a day prior. But this sure complicates things for him, as he has his eyes set on one day qualifying for the tour.  

“In a sport where results are up to the ocean as much as it is up to skill, consistency is the only way to prove who’s best,” he adds. “This is one of the biggest challenges in getting into the World Longboard Tour.”

And, it’s a good reminder that there are so many uncontrollable factors in surfing competitions. But Jack seems to be at peace with this, understanding that at the end of the day, the element of luck is often the difference between winning and losing. 

Jack hangs ten during a comp near Kaikoura, New Zealand. Photo: Derek Morrison

“At this point, I’ve learned to approach these qualifying events with an optimistic mindset. I know that as long as I try the best I possibly can, I’ll be happy with my performance. This is because you can’t control the ocean, and sometimes the wave you want doesn’t come.” 

“At this point, I’ve learned to approach these qualifying events with an optimistic mindset. I know that as long as I try the best I possibly can, I’ll be happy with my performance. This is because you can’t control the ocean, and sometimes the wave you want doesn’t come.”

Jack Tyro

That mindset is what sets Jack apart – and it doesn’t come easy for most young competitive surfers. It reflects Jack’s wisdom and maturity, especially impressive given his age. 

More recently, Jack put up a fight for team New Zealand in the ISA World Surfing Championships, held in El Salvador. This competition presented some of his biggest challenges to date – going up against the best longboarders on earth, and waves that were much larger than he’s used to. But in Jack Tyro fashion, he took this new challenge in stride, viewing it not just as an international competition, but also an opportunity to learn. 

Representing New Zealand at the ISA World Longboard Championship. Photo: Pablo Jimenez

“I eventually began enjoying the big wall and learning how to control some of the biggest turns I’ve ever done,” he remarked. 

Jack carves a huge wave during the ISA World Longboard Championship. Photo: Jersson Barboza

Controlling his longboard on such large waves was no easy feat, but Jack managed to advance though the first two rounds before being relegated to the repechage after the third. When it was all said and done, after a hectic week of surfing, Tyro finished 22nd in the world – an outstanding feat that far exceeds his years. 

Jack rides the nose while masterfully negotiating a big one in Surf City, El Salvador. Photo: Jersson Barboza

But win or lose, every surfing competition is a learning experience for Jack, and an opportunity for improvement. Jack won’t let any opportunity go to waste. 

“I have been competing since I was 10 years old,” he explains. “I’ve competed in at least 1000 heats and learned from every single one of them. In my eyes, no heat is different from another, whether it’s the world champs or a local contest.” Jack pauses, and then laughs. “At least that’s what I tell myself.” 

“Surfing, and surf comps especially, are all about experience,” Jack continues. “I gained valuable experience by exposing myself to as many competitions as I could, with the world’s top longboard surfers. This not only helped me learn how to keep my composure in competitions, but also inspired me to improve and get to that level.”

A keen shortboarder, Jack whips up some spray during a comp near Kaikoura, New Zealand. Photo: Derek Morrison

But competitions, and winning, are not everything to Jack – although he does win, a lot. The joys of surfing, and meeting new people lay at the heart of Jack’s passion, and provide that necessary boost of energy when the demands of training, travel, and competitions can be overwhelming. 

“Honestly, the people I meet always keep making every trip feel like a new slate. Yes, I’m physically tired sometimes, but when you’re in the water at 5 in the morning, you wake up pretty fast,” he laughs. “Many people have put a lot of time and money towards getting me to where I am today, so I want to make them proud and have a good time doing it.”

“Many people have put a lot of time and money towards getting me to where I am today, so I want to make them proud and have a good time doing it.”

Jack Tyro
Jack is all smiles during the ISA World Longboard Championship held in El Salvador recently. Photo: Pablo Jimenez

Jack’s dad, Steve, a former competitive surfer himself, has always been instrumental in Jack’s growth as a surfer. Even now, at 17, Jack looks to his dad as his biggest mentor. 

“He is still the defining eye on how I surf – less on showing me – but more on confirming that I’m heading in the right direction,” he explains. “If I am working on something, I know he’s been watching my progress and can give me an honest comment on how it’s going.”

A lot goes on behind the scenes, too, that has allowed Jack to follow his surfing dreams. 

“My dad plans a year or two ahead, looking at what’s coming up competition wise, which ones to do, and how to prepare for them logistically and financially.”

That last point is a major hurdle for any young competition surfer, and Jack has taken great initiative to propel himself forward in spite of it. For instance, Jack applied for, and won, a prestigious grant from The Inspire Foundation – a registered charity that helps young talents from Canterbury and Marlborough with the many costs associated with travel, equipment, and various projects. 

“It is definitely nice to know I have a good circle of support at home,” Jack smiles. “An important saying I always remind myself of is ‘if you never ask, the answer will always be no’, so that pushed me to reach out to organisations like Inspire.” 

Jack also mentions a wider circle of support that has been instrumental in his journey as an athlete. “The likes of Canterbury Junior Sports Foundation, family, friends, and the boardriders community help contribute to my travel and entries, and my dad makes sure their contributions go as far as possible.”

Jack and his Keyo longboard during a recent competition in Kaikoura. Photo: Derek Morrison

Jack has also formed a special relationship with the Keyo brand, who sponsors his boards. 

“The Keyo brand is a family,” he remarks. “Unlike a lot of big surfboard brands, at Keyo Surfboards, everyone knows everyone. You form a trust for the brand – and friendships with the people.” 

“The sponsorship is more like a friendship than anything,” he smiles. “They’ve welcomed me into their family and I’m stoked to be a part of it.” 

“Early this year I spent a week surfing with Keyo’s shaper, Johnny Gill, at his home break on the Central Coast of NSW,” Jack reveals. “It was really good getting to know him, his wife Vanessa, who is also Denny Keogh’s daughter, and his son Wyllie. I was truly grateful for their hospitality. Also, the Keyo crew at Crescent Head went out of their way to make me welcome and let me stay a couple of weeks. It was pretty much the best two weeks a grom could experience.”

“But at the end of the day, my Mum is my biggest sponsor,” he explains. “She works as a teacher. When she isn’t working, she has this habit of passing me huge plates of food as soon as I get home from a surf,” he laughs. “My younger brother, Sam, has started to get into surfing this year, too. We are a close family and we’re all in this together.”

Jack and dad Steve. Photo: Derek Morrison

Jack has also taken it into his own hands to help fund his WSL Longboard Tour dreams. Last year, he founded Tyro Surf Sessions, a surf-coaching business based out of Sumner Beach in Christchurch.

“Surfing is a bit of a trade – if I had been building sheds out the back when I was young, I might have become a carpenter, so here I am coaching surfers,” he smiles. “My Dad and I also set it up for future opportunities, if I ever want to take up private surf coaching full-time in New Zealand or as a business overseas. And,” he pauses. “I really like seeing people progress, and realise they can do it.”

But that’s not everything to Jack, who also sees his coaching as an important learning opportunity to improve his own surfing skills. 

“Whenever I try to explain something, from technique, to board sizes and everything in between, I begin to understand it more,” he notes. “Even though you might understand something, it isn’t until you explain it to others that you fully understand it yourself.” 

Jack ripping during the 2024 Kaikoura Coldwater Classic. Photo: Derek Morrison

The past couple of years haven’t just been a frenzied flurry of competing (and winning) for Jack – about a year ago, he teamed up with local filmmaker Fernando (Fern) Jara to create their first short surf-film, titled Gone Wild

“Gone Wild was Fern’s first ever film, and the first film I’d featured in,” he explains. “It was a great learning experience for both of us. The filming process included a few sessions at home and a two-day surf trip up to Kaikoura. Twelve hours of surfing, in turn with 12 hours of videoing, all in just two days.” 

The film itself is mesmerizing – fantastic cinematography, masterful surfing, and a banging soundtrack – all you want in a good surf-film. It’s easy to see that Fernando has as much a knack for filmmaking as Jack does for surfing. Jack seems to agree.

“Fern and I became mates through the surfing world and have been going on surf trips together ever since. He’s a great guy with a real talent for cinematography,” he smiles. “We create opportunities for each other, and I think that’s why we work so well together. Fern and I will definitely have many trips to come, so keep a look out this winter.” 

“We create opportunities for each other, and I think that’s why we work so well together. Fern and I will definitely have many trips to come, so keep a look out this winter.”

Jack Tyro

We’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for Jack and Fern’s next project – and we encourage you to as well. 

A still from his first surf-film, Gone Wild. Photo: Fernando Jara

But aside from this, what’s next for Jack Tyro? 

“I’d like to pursue surfing at a professional level,” he pauses. “Actually, let me clarify that – pursue longboard surfing at the highest level possible. I don’t believe longboarding is a professional sport for anyone right now. But maybe if it makes it into the Olympics things will improve. In any case, I’m going to give my absolute best to achieving my goal of becoming a world champion.”

And although so much of Jack’s life is centered around surfing, he has other career aspirations as well, hoping to one day balance his surfing career with one as an architect.

“While chasing my dream of being a world champion and Olympian, I’ll chip away at becoming a qualified architect, as I hear it’s best to have a decent career backing you as a surfer,” he explains. “Five or ten years down the track, I’m still going to love surfing and spending time with whānau and friends at the beach. While I don’t see it running my life, it will definitely be one of the many paths that guides me through it.”

The joys of surfing are on full display while watching Jack surf – even during competitions. Photo: Derek Morrison

It isn’t hard to see that Jack Tyro’s personality stands up to the level of his surfing. He’s an intelligent young man, and knows how to leverage his strengths and create opportunities for himself. His future won’t just be about titles and recognition, but about making a meaningful impact on and off the waves. 

Jack Tyro: Outstanding talent. A keen competitor. Humble as ever. He truly exemplifies all the best qualities of a Kiwi surfer.

Author’s Note: If you’re ever in Christchurch, and keen to learn from one of New Zealand’s best, book a session with Jack – @tyrosurfsessions on Instagram.
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