Jason grew up as any Australian, completely involved in sport. His mother remembers him as a child that walked at 11 months, and didn’t need much sleep. When he was six, his parents discovered he was a hellion on a dirt bike. Within a year, he was the local club champ, then State Champ, and eventually Australian Junior Moto X champ. “It was exciting, but it got more and more scary. It involved more risk at higher speed,” explains his mother, Wendy, “He was totally obsessed with bikes and winning.” While they still had some parental control, his parents took Polakow out of Motocross.
On the next family holiday to Torquay, Polakow discovered surfing, and eventually windsurfing. He gravitated toward the freestyle aspects of waveriding, and naturally, he dominated. At 12, he was the Junior Wavesailing State Champ. At 15, he was on the cover of the February issue of Sailboard Magazine. At 18, he became the top Australian Wavesailer, and headed off to the world stage.
In 1990, Polakow won every event he entered, beating Windsurfing’s timeless superstar, Robby Naish at the Marui/O'Neill World Cup Grand Slam event that April at Ho'okipa, in Naish’s backyard. “That was such a classic big Hawaiian day. I was unranked. It was such a high to beat someone I idolize,” he recalls. He finished with a Professional Windsurfing Association number two ranking.
Polakow has had a profound effect on the sport aside from his victories. When he came onto the scene in Hawaii, the sports’ elite were all riding asymmetrical boards. This young Australian ripper shows up riding smaller, lighter, symmetrical pintails with less rocker. “My boards were just enlarged surfboards. They were looser. They just fit into the wave better,” he explains. It wasn’t long before the establishment caught on, and symmetrical pintails became the norm. At this time, he also began riding yellow boards, which would become his signature color.
Polakow was immortalized among the sports elite with Robert Masters’ 1992 release, Heart and Soul. He continued his winning ways, occupying the number two and three spots for the next several years and even coming back to competitive motocross until a dirt bike accident tore his kneecap in half. Unable to sail or ride, Polakow made the most of his time. He enrolled in flight school, and eventually earned his Helicopter and Fixed Wing/Acrobatics licenses.
By 1995, Polakow, while still recovering, earned a number five ranking on the PWA. 1997 proved to be the year of his life. Not only did Polakow launch is own board brand, JP Australia, he also was crowned PWA Wavesailing World Champ, and was among the first to sail at Jaws, Maui’s notoriously huge offshore wave. He repeated as Wavesailing Champ in 1998. But it wasn’t just his competitive resume that had him on the top of the windsurfing world.
At any given time, Polakow was chasing the hairiest conditions, being the first one out on the most challenging days. In 2000, he was featured in the larger than life, IMAX Extreme.
In 2002, Polakow purchased 100 acres of land in Australia, and built a dream Supercross track. But another motocross accident thwarted his momentum. For the first time in years, Polakow wasn’t dominating the PWA. He was hospitalized with back-to-back surgeries. Doctors hinted that they might have to fuse his foot back together at 90 degrees, taking away all mobility. Luckily he was able to have his foot partially fused. “I don’t regret riding dirt bikes. It’s always been in my blood. I was just riding above my abilities. If I had it all to do over again, I would still have ridden, but I would have been more cautious,” he says in retrospect.
Ten years after his first major recovery, Polakow made another dramatic comeback with a 20% loss of mobility in his foot. In 2004, he beat then-PWA World Champ, Josh Angulo, at the Hawaii Pro, in Maui. Polakow still collects the occasional PWA victory. He took second at the recent Aloha Classic, but he’s more concerned with pushing the level of waveriding. In the last few years, Polakow has carved out a niche as a giant wavesailer. He spent the last few years on magazine trips and shooting for Poor Boyz Productions’, The Windsurfing Movie, which will premier in France in May 2008. He scored superhuman Bakyards on the North Shore with Robby Naish. He changed people’s conceptions about what’s possible on a sailboard in Tasmania, Bali, and on the Tahitian beast-wave known as Teahu’poo.
Next on Polakow’s list are big wave spots like Todos Los Santos in Mexico or Pohnpei, a small island in Micronesia.