Encinitas surfer Jake Marshall earns spot on World Surfing League tour

Jake Marshall competing in Portugal on route to winning a place on the WSL Tour.
(Damien Poullenot/World Surf League via Getty Images)

Encinitas’ own Jake Marshall has qualified for the World Surf League Championship Tour, the highest level of competitive surfing.

Marshall earned his spot on the tour following the recent Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold Haleiwa Challenge event in Oahu, Hawaii, the last competition of this year’s WSL Challenger Series that saw Marshall take second place at the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach in September.

Marshall, 23, was anxious to get back to traveling the world and surfing following a pandemic year layoff where he went from surfer to server, working at Municipal Taco in Oceanside. He had been competing in Australia when the pandemic hit in 2020 and surfing competitions were put on hold.

“It feels really good, especially with the long lay off and time to think about is this still what I want to be chasing. To decide I was going to be all in and go out and accomplish it feels really good. I hadn’t done an event in so long (before the US Open) and used that one as having no expectations, and just kept making heats until I was in the final,” Marshall said. “Haleiwa means so much to me and I have a special connection with this wave, and this year it was a good reassurance to know I can make heats out here and keep up with these guys.”

Marshall leaves for Hawaii next week, where he will be living for the next two months. The first two WSL tour events are on the islands at Pipeline and Sunset Beach. From there, it’s off to tour stops in Peniche, Portugal; Bells Beach, Australia; and Margaret River in Western Australia.

Jake Marshall on a wave in Portugal.
(Damien Poullenot/World Surf League via Getty Images)

Comfortable living on the road, Marshall loves the opportunity the WSL gives him to travel and explore and surf new places. His favorite wave he has surfed is Teahupo’o, Tahiti but his favorite place to visit is Portugal and he’s excited to return on the tour next year.

Starting in January, the 2022 WSL Championship Tour qualifiers will compete in a fully redesigned tour framework. For the first time, male and female surfers will compete at the same venues with an equal number of competitions with the continuation of equal prize money.

The all new format also features the introduction of a mid-season cut: After starting the season with 36 men and 18 women, the field will be whittled down to 24 men and 12 women. The top-ranked surfers will automatically re-qualify for the 2023 tour as well as continue on to the second half of the tour which includes a stop in G-Land, Indonesia for the first time in 24 years; Trestles; Saquarema, Brazil; Jeffreys Bay, South Africa; and Teahupo’o, Tahiti before the Rip Curl WSL Finals in September, where the final five men’s and women’s surfers face off for the title.

“These are the world’s best surfers, and we’re excited to see them compete in a new format, battling for a spot at the 2022 Rip Curl WSL Finals,” said Jessi Miley-Dyer, WSL senior vice president of tours and head of competition in a news release. “This upcoming season will be historic and full of firsts.”

Born and raised in Encinitas, Marshall grew up surfing Seaside Reef with his dad and brothers and it remains his top surf spot when he’s back in his hometown.

“The level of surfing is very high,” said Marshall, who was influenced and inspired by local pros like Rob Machado, Taylor Clark and Austin Ware who are frequently surfing there too. “I thought, this must be a good spot to spend my time because all of those guys come here.”

His style on the board is relaxed and surfing on a rail and sticking to the wave is his signature, with sharp technique he credits to longtime coach Chris Gallagher.

In his surf career, Marshall started with the WSL Qualifying Series. “You have to start small and work your way up the rankings,” he said. The top 96 surfers internationally get into the higher-rated events of the WSL Challenger Series, where the top 12 make it to the WSL Championship Tour. In his last Challenger Series season, Marshall finished just outside the top 12 in the crushing 13th spot and the season before that he was in 25th. This year he finished fourth on his strong performances in Huntington Beach, Hawaii, Portugal and France.

“This has been my goal since I was really young,” he said. “It’s pretty cool to be on the tour with a lot of people I look up to.”

San Diego’s Sharp Eye Surfboards is one of Marshall’s sponsors and FCS keeps him flush with fins, leashes and wax. He hopes to get more sponsors now that he’s on the tour. Winning events also helps—for his second place finish in Huntington Beach, he won $10,000. The prize purses are higher on the tour and while Marshall said he always surfs because he loves it, the bigger cash prizes add extra motivation and help with travel expenses.

So what happens when you finally reach your goal? You set new and bigger ones. Marshall is now gunning for Rookie of the Year and a goal to finish in the top 10.