OSCAR JONES ON THE NEWFOUND BELIEF BEHIND HIS IMPRESSIVE FORM
It’s the quiet voice that’s been in the back of Oscar Jones’ mind.
A Junior World Champion in 2017, Jones has spent the past few years steadily climbing Australia’s overall ranks, matching up against the nation’s best paddlers.
But he felt it wasn’t happening fast enough.
“I recognise I’m still pretty young, but I’ve always been just outside of that top five or top ten at the bigger races,” Jones told The Paddler.
“I used to go into races aiming for a result around that mark, as well.
“But I’ve started to believe I can do well and get up there on that podium.
“I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from Josh Fenn and Uli Hart. They’re around the same age as me, and they race with so much confidence and belief.
“I looked at them and thought, I want to try and challenge them and compete against them at events like the World Championships later this year. I realised the only way I could do that was start to bank some results and show that same belief.”
That change in attitude hasn’t been easy to achieve, though.
The now 23 year-old is a passionate paddler, and has always held a deep appreciation for the sport and for its champions.
On reflection, he realises he may have idolised his rivals too much.
“Cory Hill, Hank McGregor, Michael Booth is another one… they’ve always been so consistent with their results,” he says.
“I’d look at them on the beach next to me before a race and think, ‘These guys are such great athletes.’
“As a younger paddler, you’re nowhere near as consistent as them. I would go from ninth to tenth, fourth to tenth, and look at these guys and think they were unbeatable.
“I think subconsciously I conceded that I wasn’t good enough to beat them. If I was close to them in a race and they’d just beat me, I would accept that was good enough.”
“Now I stand at the start and think, ‘I want to take this race on from the start and win it.’”
The shift has produced almost instant results.
To start the Shaw and Partners Australian Ocean Racing Series, Jones finished seconds behind Tom Norton at the Bridge to Beach, before a third at the Forster Ocean Classic.
The breakthrough, however, came at The Chucky, edging out Cory Hill and Sam Norton for his first national series victory.
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“Going into that race, I felt like I’d managed to stop the demons,” Jones reveals.
“I told myself, ‘You’ve done the work and you’ve done everything you could do. You’re good enough to go with these guys.’
“It was nice to get that result, although I’m not reading too much into it. There wasn’t a huge depth of competitors there.
“But I do feel like things are slowly starting to turn for me.”
He thanks his support network for that, which has again widened with each season.
Epic forms a large part of that, along with Sydney’s ‘Z Squad’, featuring Tim Jacobs, and Manly Surf Life Saving Club.
Manly’s new head coach Scott Thompson has taken an involvement in his program, while Jones is training alongside clubmate Kendrick Louis, who’s preparing for the Coolangatta Gold and the Shaw and Partners WA Race Week.
“I’m really grateful to have had a lot of people who believe in me, and a great team in my corner,” he says.
“Jeremy Cotter has had a big involvement in my training since I came onto Epic, just helping me get to the next stage of my paddling. He’s been really great in helping me move past results and give me things to work on.”
Combined, it’s helping to instil confidence ahead of the huge end to this racing season, headlined by the WA Race Week and ICF World Championships in Perth at the end of November.
“I’m not going into the rest of the year thinking I can smash it, or anything like that.” Jones says. “You win a race because you’ve earned it. Every race you go into, you need to earn it again.
“I’m just hoping to go into the end of the year and race the best I can and hopefully get some good results.
“I want people to look at me in the same way I look at all of those older guys and think, ‘Yeah, Oscar is a good racer.'”
“The only way I can do that is through consistent training and doing everything I can to be ready for those races.”