Hey All,

“The Unsinkable Tom Carroll” was last week’s History of Surfing chapter, followed by an Above the Roar interview, and a new TC video. The first wave Tom rides in the video (00:22) was 1988’s consensus Wave of the Winter, and still charges me up, 30 years later. Here’s another view of the same wave. It was late morning, December 5.

I interviewed Tom that night. He began the day at Sunset, where he fell on a ten-foot inside bowl, went over the falls and got tangled in his leash. “The thing was wrapped around my neck, the first time that’s ever happened. My leg was pulled up behind me, the cord’s yanking my foot further up and up, all the way to my back, and I’m getting dragged along. It was a horrible feeling there for a moment, like, ‘Sunset’s done me up, finally.’ Then I was able to twist around a bit and unravel myself.”

Thirty minutes later Tom paddled out for his first surf of the year at Pipeline-Backdoor. The crowd pushed him down to Off the Wall. “It was big, mostly closed-out, a bit touch-and-go. Just me and one other guy. I was watching the frenzy at Pipeline, not really expecting much. Then out of nowhere this huge wedge shifted over from Backdoor straight to where I was. It was ridiculous. I just sat there. I didn’t have to paddle out, in, sideways; I was right there. My board went a bit funny at the bottom, but from then on I didn’t have to do much. I just stood there and the thing finally spat me out.”

Encyclopedia of Surfing

Had Tom not caught that particular wave, we would have all been buzzing about the one he rode just after, also seen in the shorter clip above, where he hooks under the lip and bursts out of the explosion like the Marvel Universe surfer he is. Johnny-Boy Gomes was the only other surfer that year who would’ve even gone for that turn. Tom was the only surfer who could pull it off. Johnny was Tom’s match in terms of strength, but balance, as much as strength, was Tom’s actual superpower, and nobody kept it together in critical moments the way he did. For further evidence, click the longer video one more time and go to 1:12. That is the Hulk by way of the Bolshoi Ballet.

Huzzah for Tom Carroll, and huzzah for longer boards and smaller, tighter trunks at big Sunset.

Encyclopedia of Surfing

Thanks for staying with me on this email, everybody, I’ve rambled a bit.

See you next week!


[Photos: John Bilderback, Tom Servais]