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ONELIFE #33 – English

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BORN WITH IT B O R N W I T H Do high-achievers have DNA to thank for their success? Or is it environment and work ethic that determines their destiny? Onelife investigates with the help of some remarkable child prodigies I T WORDS D A V I D L E V I N E PHOTOGRAPHY J E S S I C A S A N D E R S 54

JETT ROCKET PREFONTAINE, SURFING, AGE 7 If you take a stroll along the Pacific coast in Carlsbad, Southern California, chances are you’ll see some of the world’s best surfers in action. Known for its prime conditions and beautiful weather, the sleepy resort is a hotspot for top-class wave riders. One of them is Jett Rocket Prefontaine. A Carlsbad local, he knows the waters around here better than most. On his board, he is fearless, adventurous and completely at ease. He is also just seven years old. Jett is a so-called child prodigy. Seemingly born to surf, from a very early age he demonstrated a remarkable talent for cruising the Californian waves. With just a few years of training behind him, he now performs better than most adults will ever manage to do in a lifetime. History is littered with tales of extraordinarily gifted children like Jett, prodigies who shine through with apparently inexplicable talent. The list includes classical composers like Mozart, Beethoven and Bizet, math genius Terence Tao, or athletes such as Tiger Woods and Martina Hingis. Experts are divided on whether being a prodigy is in the genes (nature) or if it really comes down to having parents who recognise their child’s unique ability and support their training (nurture). The debate has been raging for decades, but it’s hard to find a definitive answer. This is, in part, because child Jett Rocket is a regular on the waves off the Pacific beaches of Carlsbad. In just a couple of years on his board, he has won over 30 trophies and is the youngest team rider to be brought on by his sponsor, Asylum Surf and Boomerang Surfboards. According to his mother, Dani Prefontaine, Jett was always drawn to the water. “Jett was introduced to the water before he was two. By the age of two, he wanted to go out every day and at four he asked to join his first competition.” Both Jett’s parents have a track record as competitive athletes, and his father Homer is himself a surfer and a surf instructor. Still, this cannot explain everything about the young surfer’s love affair with the sea. “Jett was born to ride and he was born with very strong legs. But also being part of a surfing family, he was introduced by watching his dad. Whether you are gifted or not, surroundings are important.” Dani says watching Jett, she sees what matters the most: the natural drive and passion that paves the way for his talent to unfold. “It comes down to whether you have the passion, desire and drive to work hard and train. Is it something that you can’t be without, and are you truly enjoying every part of it? That’s how Jett feels. He says everyday he is going to be a pro, and he is having fun getting there.” Clockwise from left: Jett already shows remarkable talent as a surfer at the tender age of seven 55