Jackson Baker has no doubt he deserves to be surfing against the best of the best.
And while that won't happen next year after narrowly missing requalification to the Championship Tour - twice - the 26-year-old believes a much-needed break will help him return as a genuine contender in 2025.
The Merewether regular-footer spent a year and a half on the CT after initially scraping onto the top tier through the qualifying series.
He was close to dropping off tour in the inaugural mid-season cut in 2022, but fell just on the wrong side of the line this year.
Another blow came at the Challenger Series finale in Brazil last month when he bowed out one heat win shy of a CT return in 2024. He will now focus on getting back on the CT in 2025 via next year's CS.
Baker expressed his heartbreak immediately after the round of 16 loss to Shion Crawford in messy surf in Saquarema but was now philosophical about the roller-coaster ride.
"At the end of the day it's sports, stuff like this happens all the time. People have ups and downs. It's all part of the journey I guess," Baker said.
"I had other years where I was in that similar position and it's gone my way, but unfortunately this year it didn't.
"At the time I thought it would be worse, and of course it hurt, but it's built up to be this big thing. Of course I want to be surfing against the best of the best on tour. That's where I want to be and that's where I deserve to be, so I feel, and I think other people believe that too, so I guess I've got to bounce back on and take confidence out of that as well."
Baker was happy with his surfing and strategies this year and believed a decent break could help turn around his fortunes next year.
"I don't think there was anything I could pin it down to," he said of falling short.
"I think it was a little bit of luck and there were a lot of us who surfed for 12 months. I surfed two tours and that ain't easy. It felt like this year went forever, so I'm excited I've got this time.
"I don't have to start until May. I'll probably do Surfest as a lead-in contest to get the juices flowing again, but I think having this break - it will be my first in three years, since COVID, so I'm kind of taking it as a positive, a blessing in disguise. It could be the best thing that's happened to me.
"It will be some time to focus on myself, my partner, my family. The stuff that really matters. That will probably help with my performance as well. I'll get back in the gym, work with [Adam] Trypas, put in the work.
"These things can knock people done, but it ain't going to knock me down. I've been through enough s--t not to let this keep me down.
"Watching the tour next year will fire me up to want it more, and be back there. And I don't want to be just back there, I want to win. Not just be down the bottom and be dealing with those tough heats. I want to go there and be a contender."
He said missing the CT was a financial hit but he was "in a good enough position just to be able to concentrate on my surfing".
"I won't have to pick up tools again and get back in the courier van," he said.