“Open Throttle” describes the opening phase of tow-in, and is the latest History of Surfing chapter. I’m sitting here trying to figure out what was more shocking, that early tow stuff or Slater's pool. The latter, I guess. Kelly squashing Adriano de Souza’s world title celebration with his new pool wasn’t just the biggest and meanest flex in surf history, but the best-ever reveal. The Endless Summer II section of Laird Hamilton at Jaws, however, is a strong runner-up.
Tow surfing blew my mind. It was obvious to me that Waimea was about to become the San Onofre of big-wave breaks, and that your 10-foot gun was headed for the nearest landfill or surf museum, one or the other. Shane Dorian thought otherwise, bless him, and human-powered big-wave riding made a righteous comeback (more on that later in HOS), and tow surfing became a branch of the big-wave tree, not the whole thing. All in all, a very good result.
One thing that tow surfing and wavepools have in common is that both were around, in some lesser form or another, for decades before they caught on. Here’s a timeline showing a few early tow efforts. Read it just for Mike Doyle’s spitballing (but fully serious) idea of surfing Kaena Point while roped to a helicopter.
To recapture what it felt like to be both in the thick of that early tow push (Laird, Buzzy Kerbox, Darrick Doerner), and on the sidelines (the rest of us), here’s Bruce Jenkins’ “The Next Realm?”, a 1994 SURFER cover story and the first full-length treatment of this new world of pistons and jet skis and of course Laird’s raging machismo.
Lastly, and to lighten things up a bit, here’s a new clip of Buzzy Kerbox, who, little-known fact, funded those early tow sessions on the North Shore with gelt earned from his Ralph Lauren modeling work. When I showed this edit to my perfectly surf-naive wife, her eyes lit up. “He used to be on my bedroom wall!”
Laird had Buzzy’s number at Jaws, but didn’t Buzzy just out-sexy ’em all!
Thanks everybody, and see you next week.
[Photos: Sylvain Cazenave, Aaron Chang, Bruce Weber]