Jacob Szekely has become the first-ever surfer to do a board transfer in a World Surf League (WSL) competition.
The idea grew on the opening day of the 2024 SLO CAL Open Pismo Beach, a 3,000 Qualifying Series (QS) event held in Central California.
Szekely was feeling relaxed and ready for his first heat, Round of 112. He even asked the event's beach marshall if he could go for a pier jump before the heat started.
In the water, everything was going smoothly and easily for the flamboyant West Coast surfer.
Szekely was leading the heat and ready to move through to the next round. But, suddenly, he paddles in.
"Hold on - this is a little drama. Maybe a fin cracked," the WSL commentator stressed.
It wasn't equipment failure. "Zeke" had other things in mind. He got into terra firma, grabbed a soft-top funboard, and paddled out again.
With only a few minutes on the clock, the 28-year-old took off on a wave riding the foamie, did a few turns, and put another score on his tally - 1.6 points.
It was Ben Gravy's signature board featuring pineapples.
"I was like, 'I want to do good in this contest and take it seriously.' And then after I got my first good wave, I was like, 'Dude, I might actually be able to get two good scores and then go ride the soft top and try and blast a big air on it and have fun and mix it up.'"
"I had a fun wave on it. Judges might have lowballed me on that soft-top wave. Come on - I did a little straight air and then a nice little carve... Length of ride, too. I would have given it a three or four, but it's all good. I'm just playing around."
"Too many people get stuck in the same Lane and do the same thing over and over again, and to me, when I have fun and mix it up and try new things, that's when I do the best."
"I've never really been a good contest surfer, so when I'm just having fun and being me. It usually works out."
With the first heat wrapped, it was time to think about extra shenanigans.
From Good to Great
Fast-forward to the Round of 64, and there's one man in the lineup wearing a white jersey and paddling two boards simultaneously.
It's Jacob Szekely, and the first wave of the heat is his.
The Californian takes off on the soft-top surfboard, and after a few pumps, he transfers into a shortboard and completes the run with a series of maneuvers.
"Are you kidding me? Jacob Z with the antics - he's doing a step-off. He goes from the softboard to the shortboard, the Rusty that he loves," the beach commentator says, baffled.
Everyone was confused. How can you score a board transfer? The answer only came a few minutes later.
"That first wave, the rule book states 'no two pieces of equipment' so that wave won't be scored. But it was fun - for us, the fans, and everyone."
Spectators and commentators had been taken by surprise, but apparently, the judges weren't.
"Unfortunately, they didn't score my first wave because they said the WSL Rule Book states that you can't have two boards at once," Szekely said later.
"I read the whole rule book and couldn't find anything about it in the rules, but it's all good - I still made the heat. Shout outs to all the homies who fired me up to think outside the box."
Board Transfers: The WSL Rule Book Isn't Clear
The WSL Rule Book is not clear about the use of multiple surfboards in a heat or wave.
There is also no specific chapter dedicated to the type of surfboards that surfers can and cannot use during competition.
The closest reference is "Surfer Caddy Rules" (10.9).
It says that "surfers may only use replacement surfboards carried by their own Caddy once their heat has started" (10.9 f) and "any use of any equipment other than a surfboard (e.g., inflatable boats, water patrols' boards or other Caddies surfboards) will be deemed an interference if the surfer, after using one of them, re-enters the competition area and rides an extra wave, or interferes with any other surfer paddling or positioning" (10.9 g).
In a time when competitive surfing needs innovation and creativity to keep the fans engaged, there should be space and time for fresh new ideas and approaches.
If the goal is to keep things as they are, at least scoring rules should be updated any time an unexpected outlier pops up.
Jacob "Zeke" Szekely is a well-known free surfer.
The La Jolla stuntman has been pushing the boundaries of aerial surfing in wave pools, inspired by his vert skateboarding runs at some of California's most hyped skateparks and bowls.
The regular footer is comfortable in all types of waves - small and mushy, big and hollow, head-high and high performance.
Jacob Szekely is also the first surfer to win a National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) title wearing a court-mandated ankle bracelet.
Szekely has been competing in the professional surfing circuit since 2012.
His best result in the competitive arena is a fifth-place finish at Pismo Beach in 2021.