Pro Spotlight: Jason “Ratboy” Collins

TransWorld SURF shines the light on Ratboy.

Jason “Ratboy” Collins needs no introduction. At this point, he’s already known worldwide for his high-flying acrobatics-hisact is the tightest out of all the aerialists on the scene right now, and he proved it by winning the latest Air Show Tour. Rat’shands-down the most consistent air guy in the world-he pulls so many airs in a session it isn’t even funny. Jason turns the heads ofthe best surfers in the world.

[IMAGE 1] But you already know this, so I don’t need to continue telling you how badass Rat is. What I would like to do is shine a lighton Jason and let you, the readers, take a more in-depth look at him to see what the glossy photos you’ve seen in all the surf magazinesdon’t show. He may seem like a huge surf star, but if you met him on the street, you might not even notice him. Jason lives a humblelife and is very quiet. You won’t find him at the cool-guy parties or hanging out at any clubs, he could care less about “the scene.”Rat likes to lay low, deep in the cuts. He and his longtime girl Jill live a few blocks from Stockton Avenue in Santa Cruz, California.I think Jason is one of the best role models for the surfing world-he’s pushing our sport to a higher level and is so humble about it.I caught up with Ratty just before he jumped on a plane headed for Australia. As I helped him get his bags packed, I asked him a fewquestions:

Describe a dream day in the eyes of Rat.

Wake up before the sun comes up, get some coffee, and check the waves. The surf’s flat, but it’s coming up later, so I gofishing for a couple hours and hook a few halibut. I come in and find the surf has come up and it’s still glassy, so I go to Mitchell’sand it’s six feet. It’s time for a surf, so I go out for a few, come in, and eat some lunch. Then I have a talk with my good friendBilly and discuss life for a bit. I go for another surf, ride ’til the sun sets, go home and eat a big dinner, wrap it up, and go tosleep.

If somebody paid for you to do the world tour, would you do it?

Not even! I’m over it-it’s not my deal. I’ve created my own little niche in the surfing world, and I like the fact that I don’thave to do some lame tour where you have to snip three to the beach. I’m sure all the WCT guys are ripping and all, but it’s the samefunky format that’s been around since P.T. Peter Townend won the world title in the 70s.

Pro surfing hasn’t changed much in the past decade, whereas progressive surfing has. The tour doesn’t reward progress, so what do guyslike you do?

Sheez. Just shine the contests and do your own thing, and hopefully these air contests will take flight and turn intosomething. That’s what people want to see-progress. Nobody on the tour is doing anything better than Pottz was doing in the early 80s.

It’stime for a change.

Would you do the so-called Derek Hynd Tour if it happened?

If it comes around, I’d love to do it. It seems to be a hoax, but I’d be stoked to be part of a tour like that. I think that’swhere surfing is going to go in the new millennium. It’s the future, and every other board sport is going toward that direction. Youdon’thave snowboard contests where you see how many carves you can do down the mountain-that’d be so boring, and that’s where professionalsurfing is right now. If surfing wants to be in the Olympics or the extreme games, it needs to be doing the same stuffthe skaters and snowboarders are doing-BIG FAT AIRS! Even ice skaters are getting scored for moves in the air.

So what’s the big holdup? Why isn’t a big-air tour in progress?

Well, I think we need a big corporate sponsor to back up the program, maybe one of those huge Internet companies. They claimthey surf the ‘Net and should practice what they preach by supporting the progress of surfing. I also believe if Kelly Slater were toshow up to one of these events, it’d promote it more and bring more publicity. I’m sure he could put fr in everyone if he wanted to,but he never shows up. He’s got some free time on his hands now-he should show up.

Why do you think Kelly doesn’t show up to the air events, do you think he’s scared?

I don’t know. He’s definitely a competitive surfer by winning six world titles. Maybe he thinks that people can’t step up andbeat him. He laughs at the other tour, but we’re over here in this tour just waiting for him. It’s like being a boxer wanting to getinto the ringwith an opponent, but he’s in a weight division above you, and you know you could go a few rounds and might even knock him out.

The surfing world is growing in all directions along with the air movement. We have big-wave progress going down as well-what are yourthoughts on the big stuff?

That stuff is so exciting, the Mavericks event was ridiculous. Those guys were pushing it up a few notches. It was rad talkingto Slates before his heat and seeing the nervousness in his eyes. This is a guy who toys with macking Backdoor, and Mavs scares him. Iwasreally impressed with Flea and the locals. They’re the best out there. Just look how many locals made it to the finals.

If you got invited to the Eddie, would you go?

Probably not. I would bow out. I’d rather see somebody who has proven themselves and dedicated their life to that side ofsurfing to get in it. I’ll be the first one to admit I’m no big-wave charger. I just like to surf perfect waves and have fun; I don’tlikesurfing in life-threatening situations. I’d much rather track down perfect six-footers.

So you’re going to Australia, what are you going to do there?

I’m going over to hang with me mates laughter. No, I’m flying over with Tyler Smith and Galley Chris Gallagher. We’re goingto the Gold Coast and over to the west side. We’ll be shooting photos and stuff, you know, try to score a cover. Maybe score aTransWorld cover, which would be sweet.

What do you think of Taj Burrow?

The kid’s blowing up. He does sick airs and looks to be a bit of a good tube rider, from the evidence of that video I saw himin.

There’re a lot of good Aussies busting filthy stuff right now.

What kind of modulators are you punting on? What do your short boards look like?

A five-eleven rounded pin-eighteen and three-quarters wide with a real sharp edge, and weighing a little over five pounds.They’re really light. I go through boards every few weeks. I don’t break them; I just beat them to death with holes and buckles. Ibuckle my boards a lot.

You really have your act down now, pulling many types of airs on a consistent level. You’re probably the best in the world, and a lotof surfers look to you for inspiration, sowhat’s the next big move?

Barney Shawn Barron has been doing backflips for years now and is very close to sticking them-that’s the future. A corkscrewbackflip Mc180 Terje twist, um yeah, that’s where it’s going. For the past decade, people have been busting airs and just trying topull it, staying on top of their boards. Take a look at snowboarding, you’ve got guys doing flips and rotations from all angles andgetting moves named after them. I want a move named after me, you know, a McRatflip, or something.

During the 2000 Cold Water Classic, I was tripping that the air show wasn’t even part of the deal, while longboarding and women’s wereright in the main event. That’s f-ked up-what’s the deal?

[IMAGE 2] There’re people who still haven’t accepted it into the mainstream of surfing yet. I think the majority of the pros can’t doairs, so they kind of neg on it. When somebody gets a lot of press doing something they can’t do, their reaction is to write it off.Some feel what we’re doing is taking away from what they do, but in reality we’re just pushing progress. When they first came out withthe short board, longboarders tried to write it off, but as you can see you can’t stop progress. I feel that’s what’s happening withairs right now, but in few more years every kid will be punting, and progress shall move forward.

So what do we need to do to speed up the process to get air shows in the mainstream and in the spotlight where they belong?

Once again it’s up to a guy like Slater to show some support. The whole surfing world looks up to and listens to him. He caninfluence everyone to open their minds. Kelly has already peaked out on the world tour; that format can’t push his surfing anymore. Thetour puts a cap on progress, and he isn’t surfing to his true potential. Can you imagine if Kelly was doing the air tour for the lastsix years? Would he reach his true potential and blow everyone’s minds?

The people who put on the surf events and get the corporate sponsors don’t seem to want to help. Are they blind or just stupid?

They’re lame. Guys like Shane Beschen have taken a stand for progress and spoken their minds, and all they’ve gotten isresistance. People want a change, but they’re getting discouraged. They’re sick of fighting, almost like they want to give up. All thepros need to do is start a union and take control of the tour to steer it into the right direction. It’s disgusting how long it’staking, I mean, come on! It’s 2000!

Why is Santa Cruz so on top of the air movement?

Well, there’re a lot of good surfers here in town, and if you surf with someone a million times you to start to push yoursurfing with their surfing by going, “Hey, try this, or try that.” Next thing you know, they’re busting something really sick in yourface. So in return, you’ve got to do something even sicker in their face. When you catch a wave someone is always yelling “Air!” So youjust have to do it. There’s nothing better when your friend is trying to burn you and you come straight up in their face, blast a huge360 air, and stick it. There’s a little bit of a movement going on up here.

Who’s been your big influence at pushing your surfing and doing airs?

Kevin Reed pretty much showed everyone how to do it in the 70s, but it’s been Barney Shawn Barron in my generation-that’sbeen the big pusher of airs. He was the first one to start sticking shit, and he would tell us to do it. He’s been the biggestinfluence in Santa Cruz just with his character and him being so happy and so outgoing. I think people see him having so much fun, theywant to have that much fun as well. How can you argue with someone with an ear-to- ear smile and stoked?

Do you think getting paid for surfing takes away the soul of the sport?

No way. In every other sport the players get paid, why shouldn’t we? What is taking the soul out of surfing is all the prosurfers getting exploited. So many guys we all looked up to and who did so much for the sport got nothing for it, where surf companiesreaped the benefits from the guy’s image.

What about the stationary waves-you ever ride one?

No, but I want to. I was going to surf it WaveLoch, but I had a comp to do the next day and I didn’t want to hurt myself. Iheard you could tweak yourself real easy, like spraining a wrist or an ankle. I think those type of waves will get better, too. Theyshould make them bigger and deeper, so you can ride your surfboard on it. For example, have a huge slope where you go down it and dorailslides and bonk airs and stuff like that. It sounds far-fetched, but it’s only a matter of time.

So what do you do to train?

Laughter Well, I run about six miles a day, I do 500 pushups, swim 30 laps, run with rocks on the ocean floor, and then meand Julian go to Gold’s Gym and do weight training. I bench about 200, I do yoga, I watch a lot of videos, I work with this long glassbreath-holding device to increase my lung capacity, and I use many types of herbs and vitamins.

I heard you have a sick collection of old surfboards stashed away, what’s up?

Yeah, Donovan Frankenreiter and me are battling for the best hessian 70s models. I’ve got about ten or so in the b more years every kid will be punting, and progress shall move forward.

So what do we need to do to speed up the process to get air shows in the mainstream and in the spotlight where they belong?

Once again it’s up to a guy like Slater to show some support. The whole surfing world looks up to and listens to him. He caninfluence everyone to open their minds. Kelly has already peaked out on the world tour; that format can’t push his surfing anymore. Thetour puts a cap on progress, and he isn’t surfing to his true potential. Can you imagine if Kelly was doing the air tour for the lastsix years? Would he reach his true potential and blow everyone’s minds?

The people who put on the surf events and get the corporate sponsors don’t seem to want to help. Are they blind or just stupid?

They’re lame. Guys like Shane Beschen have taken a stand for progress and spoken their minds, and all they’ve gotten isresistance. People want a change, but they’re getting discouraged. They’re sick of fighting, almost like they want to give up. All thepros need to do is start a union and take control of the tour to steer it into the right direction. It’s disgusting how long it’staking, I mean, come on! It’s 2000!

Why is Santa Cruz so on top of the air movement?

Well, there’re a lot of good surfers here in town, and if you surf with someone a million times you to start to push yoursurfing with their surfing by going, “Hey, try this, or try that.” Next thing you know, they’re busting something really sick in yourface. So in return, you’ve got to do something even sicker in their face. When you catch a wave someone is always yelling “Air!” So youjust have to do it. There’s nothing better when your friend is trying to burn you and you come straight up in their face, blast a huge360 air, and stick it. There’s a little bit of a movement going on up here.

Who’s been your big influence at pushing your surfing and doing airs?

Kevin Reed pretty much showed everyone how to do it in the 70s, but it’s been Barney Shawn Barron in my generation-that’sbeen the big pusher of airs. He was the first one to start sticking shit, and he would tell us to do it. He’s been the biggestinfluence in Santa Cruz just with his character and him being so happy and so outgoing. I think people see him having so much fun, theywant to have that much fun as well. How can you argue with someone with an ear-to- ear smile and stoked?

Do you think getting paid for surfing takes away the soul of the sport?

No way. In every other sport the players get paid, why shouldn’t we? What is taking the soul out of surfing is all the prosurfers getting exploited. So many guys we all looked up to and who did so much for the sport got nothing for it, where surf companiesreaped the benefits from the guy’s image.

What about the stationary waves-you ever ride one?

No, but I want to. I was going to surf it WaveLoch, but I had a comp to do the next day and I didn’t want to hurt myself. Iheard you could tweak yourself real easy, like spraining a wrist or an ankle. I think those type of waves will get better, too. Theyshould make them bigger and deeper, so you can ride your surfboard on it. For example, have a huge slope where you go down it and dorailslides and bonk airs and stuff like that. It sounds far-fetched, but it’s only a matter of time.

So what do you do to train?

Laughter Well, I run about six miles a day, I do 500 pushups, swim 30 laps, run with rocks on the ocean floor, and then meand Julian go to Gold’s Gym and do weight training. I bench about 200, I do yoga, I watch a lot of videos, I work with this long glassbreath-holding device to increase my lung capacity, and I use many types of herbs and vitamins.

I heard you have a sick collection of old surfboards stashed away, what’s up?

Yeah, Donovan Frankenreiter and me are battling for the best hessian 70s models. I’ve got about ten or so in the backyard. Myfavorite one is in my room-it’s a ’70-something O’Neill seven-two single-fin tube model. I got it at the flea market for 80 bucks, andit’s pretty much brand new.

Any advice for the kiddies on how to improve their hang time?

Yeah. Just keep going for it, and keep telling yourself you can do it. All you have to do is close your eyes, imagine yourselfpulling it off, and then it comes.he backyard. Myfavorite one is in my room-it’s a ’70-something O’Neill seven-two single-fin tube model. I got it at the flea market for 80 bucks, andit’s pretty much brand new.

Any advice for the kiddies on how to improve their hang time?

Yeah. Just keep going for it, and keep telling yourself you can do it. All you have to do is close your eyes, imagine yourselfpulling it off, and then it comes.

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