What Jacob Romero didn’t need was more pressure, but still it built up. What he required were resources, and those were scarce.
By overcoming both those challenges, things could be quite different this year.
Romero, a 27-year-old from Waiehu, has qualified for the International Bodyboarding Association’s elite Grand Slam Series, getting through months of qualifying and sewing up a spot by reaching the final of last month’s Fronton Pro trials in the Canary Islands.
“It’s a feeling that I couldn’t describe because I worked so hard to get to this point. I’ve had jobs, I’ve never had the funding to really compete at every contest, so knowing that I had to make the finals of the trials in the last event this past December was really a tough task, but after I did it and I qualified it was an unbelievable feeling,” Romero said earlier this month.
Romero finished seventh in the Global Qualifying Series. The top eight earned spots in the uppermost tier, meaning automatic berths in each stop’s main event.
Romero, the first Mauian to qualify for the series, which is entering its fourth year, will also have enough funding to compete at every IBA event across the globe.
The first event of the season is on Oahu – the Pipeline Challenge holding period runs from Feb. 19 to March 1.
Staying in the 24-member Grand Slam means continuing to train.
“I do a lot of running and core exercise. I surf a lot, too,” Romero said. “The harder you work with your craft, the better you get, so that’s what I’ve been trying to do.”
Most of his training is individual, except when he runs and surfs with his 25-year-old brother Jonah, an accomplished triathlete.
Jacob Romero began bodyboarding at the age of 13 when his older brother Joshua took him to “Churches,” a surf spot near their home.
“We live, like, a two-minute walk from the beach so we surfed every day. I just got really hooked and all I wanted to do was become a pro bodyboarder, just surf. I did the school thing, I did college and I couldn’t,” Jacob Romero said.
He attended Honolulu Community College for two years and worked as a valet before deciding to quit school and go on a trip to Chile to compete. For four years, Romero had to work full-time in order to fund his trips to the event locations.
“There were a bunch of times I felt like I wanted to give up. I didn’t have money, I was broke, working two jobs, and I didn’t know when I’d get to qualify and get a good contract. I’m headstrong so when I set goals I want to achieve my goals. I want to live my dream and in order to do that in bodyboarding, because you don’t have a lot of money in bodyboarding, so you need to work and just be real headstrong about it,” Romero said.
Romero was most tempted to abandon his dream when he found himself doing well while working at a hotel on Maui.
“I was making really good money and I thought, ‘I could do this for a living and just make all this money,’ but in my heart I was like, ‘This is not where my heart is,’ so I quit after two months.”
Now that Romero has achieved this goal, he’s set several more.
“I just want to stay on the top 16 now that I’m on so I just qualify every year, and not do the GQS anymore, so that’s my main goal. And just to be top ten maybe one year, and then world champ would be the biggest goal.”