Locals: Jacques Le Roux of URBNSURF Melbourne

How difficult it must be to have a wave pool in your backyard and watch it open up only to shut down almost immediately due to COVID-19. For three excruciating years, Jacques Le Roux watched this surf park drama unfold in his backyard. At the time, WavePoolMag would get Instagram DMs from Mr. Le Roux, “What’s going on?” and “When’s it gonna open?” Here at the office, we knew as much as everyone else did at the time (which was Zilch) while our social media manager complained of sore thumbs and wearing out the shrugging shoulders emoji.

However, forced patience can have a big payoff. Fast forward to today and now our DMs are brimming with Jacques’ prolific POV tube clips captured on site at URBNSURF Melbourne. When WavePoolMag was on location we had the joy of meeting Jacques in person and learning about his special relationship with this wave pool.

Having grown up surfing a right-hand point break, Jacques’ comfort zone is in the rights. But a heaving left barrel is just too good to pass up.

Tell me a little bit about your background in surfing and bodyboarding.
I moved to Australia in 2009 from Mossel Bay, South Africa, a place abundant with waves and point breaks but also sharks. Moving here with my Australian wife, I struggled initially to find good surfing spots due to the long commute from Melbourne. After starting a family in 2012, my surfing decreased and stopped entirely in 2014 when I was diagnosed with leg cancer. Following a year of chemotherapy and a long recovery period where I learned to walk again, I had almost given up on surfing. However, the opening of a wave pool reignited my hope and interest in surfing.

So what happened when URBNSURF opened up?
I was eagerly watching its construction, given it’s only a 4.5km drive from me. Once it opened, the possibility of surfing again felt real, despite my concerns about my leg, which I can’t fully use due to cancer treatment. I struggled initially but was encouraged to try the advanced setting, which turned out to be a breakthrough. I’ve since become a regular, surfing once or twice a week, and feel I’ve reached my peak ability considering my disability.

How often do you surf?
At least once a week, sometimes twice. Before a recent event, I was out every third day for two weeks.

Which setting do you prefer?
Advanced. It strikes the right balance for me, especially the first half-hour for warming up with turns, spins, and rolls, followed by more intense surfing in the last half-hour.

You’ve captured some great footage. Can you share more about that?
I use a GoPro Hero 8 with a mouth mount, mostly on standard settings. Adjusting the angle was tricky at first, but I’ve managed to get some good shots. It’s mainly for fun and sharing my experiences with friends around the world.

Tell us about the community among bodyboarders and kneeboarders here.
The community is supportive, with bodyboarders and surfers cheering each other on. Knee boarders and I tend to connect more, especially outside the busy summer season. The vibe is more relaxed in the off-season, making it more enjoyable.

You seem to prefer the right. Why is that?
I grew up surfing a right-hand point break, so it feels natural. I’m less comfortable on the left, feeling almost like a beginner.

After chemo treatment for cancer, Jacques had almost given up on surfing. Today he’s a regular in the lineup at URBNSURF Melbourne.

Can you get deeper in the barrel on a bodyboard or kneeboard here compared to a stand-up board?Definitely. Bodyboards and kneeboards allow for deeper barrel riding, especially on the expert and advanced settings. We might not get as much air as surfers, but we have our advantages.

What about the wedge setting?
It’s intriguing and something we’re all eager to try. It offers a unique challenge with its powerful waves, but it’s not widely available yet.

Do you think we’ll see more wave pools in the area?
I hope so. While I love URBNSURF, the prospect of bigger, better pools is exciting. There’s talk of new developments, which could further enrich our surfing options.

The growth of wave pools seems promising.
Absolutely. The expansion is exciting, though it hit a snag with Covid. The future of wave pools looks bright, offering more opportunities for surfers everywhere.