MEREWETHER'S Jackson Baker feels like he's rediscovered a love of surfing.
Less pressure applied, multiple sessions each day and a smile on his face have helped Baker create the best possible launching pad for the months ahead.
The 24-year-old leaves the country on Tuesday, joining the four-leg Challenger Series for a shot at qualifying for the world tour in 2022.
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"I've just been enjoying my surfing for what it is," Baker said.
"I think I used to treat it so much more like work and a job. I'd get so focused on having to achieve something every surf.
"I still have goals but I'm not beating myself up and I come in from every surf with a big smile on my face. Other people have actually said that I look happier and that's a good trait to have.
"I want to take a kind of similar mindset over there. There's still a job to do, but that's only in 25 or 30 minute heats. The rest of the time I've just got to enjoy the process."
World Surf League's new-look Challenger Series starts in the US at Huntington Beach on Monday (September 20-26) before two stops in Europe - Portugal (October 2-10), France (October 16-24) - and finishing in Hawaii (November 25-December 7).
There are 12 men's spots up for grabs as Baker tries to join fellow Merewether surfers Morgan Cibilic and Ryan Callinan in the main draw for next year.
"The dream, and what I want, is to qualify then come home and see the family for Christmas and enjoy a couple of tins with my mates not in lockdown," Baker said.
"Then it would be like a four-week turnaround before shooting back to Hawaii (for first round of world tour in Pipeline)."
A regular on the QS tour in recent years, Baker was given a wildcard for the Newcastle Cup at his home break in April after the global coronavirus pandemic saw CT events rescheduled.
Just prior he quit his casual job as a courier driver having seen an "opportunity to properly pursue my dreams".
"I felt like last year when I was working it was super good, because I realised what hard yakka is doing 10 or 12 hour days and missing surfing," he said.
"I've just been able to concentrate on this, which has been incredible."
Baker and fellow Merewether Surfboard Club member Philippa Anderson, who will contest the women's Challenger Series, have been supported by a GoFundMe campaign.
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