January 24 - 30, 2016: Issue 248
Thomas Victor Carroll
Photo courtesy Tom Carroll Paddle Surf
From 1983 to 1993 Tom Carroll was voted Australia's favourite surfer by Tracks readers. Surfing, like music, has become a profession where if you succeed you become visible to many; your peers, and those younger or older than them. The attention can make life itself surreal, distorted out of shape.
Only those with real talent and a real passion will succeed in achieving longevity in maintaining, in working in any field they love. Surfing is one of these - you can still surf when you're 89 if able to, and if you still flow in a way that makes it clear what the wave is doing, eyes will still be drawn. A connection is recognised, something wonderful and still innate is evident.
Following your heart, keeping your honesty and integrity intact can cost you things not so apparent. Although these may deepen and enrich what goes forward, it is only be glancing back that you may see where such threads have evolved from and what they manifested as dealing with what came.
In 1983, the year he won his first World Championship, Tom Carroll was among 50 Australian sportsmen and women black-listed by the United Nations for participating in sports in South Africa during the abhorrent apartheid 46 year long era of that country. The then just launched Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP, an evolution of the International Professional Surfers (IPS) driven by West Australian surfer Ian Cairns), held events in South Africa in the 1980s, when many other sports groups had boycotted the country as a protest against apartheid. The ASP events were a vital points securing part of a punishing 1983 tour schedule that had 16 contests and four extra events within Australia.
In 1985 escalating events in South Africa saw Mr. Carroll decide to boycott the South African contests, a decision which, along with injury and a South African company taking legal action against him for non-appearance, may have made 1985 a challenging time out of the water. There were 17 surfers on that black list in total - six still went.
In April of that year, the day after his boycott announcement, Thomas Victor was listed among those who would be competing at Surf For Life, a contest run as a protest against nuclear arms. 1985 was also the year Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior was in the Pacific Ocean protesting against French nuclear testing at the Moruroa Atoll, and was sunk while in Auckland harbour by explosive devices attached to the hull by operatives of the French intelligence service (DGSE).
These early instances are a few of many times Thomas Victor Carroll has allowed his surfing credibility to shine focus on the environment or caring about people – Movember is still a favourite, and has been for 7 years, Living Ocean’s focus on ridding our waters and lands of plastics received support in a campaign that shows just how attractive being in an ocean full of plastics is – not!
And this has been proceeded by and will be no doubt be followed by supporting and encouraging young surfers through coaching or simply turning up, in keeping it clean initiatives that extend from health for your body, mind and soul to health for the planet we’re hosted by – it’s a natural really, a logical decision, for a surfer. Tom does it without grandstanding though, his own character of being honest and keeping it real comes through, because it’s something he has experienced, lived through, and this makes the message stick.
Dreaming in waves, being a vision of how to flow on waves is what we all know TC best for though. He began on a kiddies board, progressed to the best boards built by the best shapers, and has extended this love for the ocean to paddleboards – and he’s great there too.
Tom Carroll may be a world famous champion surfer who has won just about every contest there is, and kept on winning and is still winning, completing Molokai after Molokai, an inductee of the Surfing Australia Hall of Fame (1990) and the Australian Sports Hall of Fame (1992), been in over 60 films and even made an award winning one, is still moving like a Grom but Thomas Victor Carroll is also one of our own. He grew up here, has stayed here, and here is his home.
This week a small insight into a lifetime, so far, filled with more than will ever fit on any page:
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in Crown Street Women’s Hospital, November 1961 and brought straight back to Newport. I grew up in Newport, going to Queen’s Parade East Kindergarten, Newport Public School and then on to Pittwater High School.
What changes have you seen in Newport during this time?
Well, there used to be just houses along the main drag, Barrenjoey Road. There were horses in the paddocks and far less people. We took our garbage to the garbage tip at Porter’s Reserve.
What did you do for fun as a child?
Rode bikes around, play footy on the footy field at Newport oval. We’d crawl through the drains at the back of the shops to the beach and surf. Take a hike around the headlands to Bilgola or Bungan – that was like a day’s exercise, an adventure. We’d build cubby houses on the rocks and surf or dive off the rocks, basically just took to life really.
Can you remember your first wave – the first wave you caught and stood up on?
Yes I do. It was in front of Newport Surf Club on a Thursday afternoon. My sister and my dad were there, on the shorebreak watching, my brother was in the surf. I felt like I stood up for about a minute – I came in said this to dad and he answered ‘you stood up for about a second Tom.’
I’d just gone ‘Really? Is that it?!’
How old were you?
Hard to say, but I think I was around 7 years of age.
You began and grew up surfing during an era where ‘soul surfing’ was predominant – did you learn from seeing this?
What I had was a book, called ‘The Pictorial History of Surfing’, published by Hamlyn. This used to be my bible, was beside my bed all the time. I used to look at all the photos and that was what inspired me.
Then when I got to know some of the older surfers at the beach I’d learn from watching them, they would give me inspiration too.
It wasn’t a friendly environment though at that time though…
What built you confidence up in that kind of atmosphere?
Just going out and doing it and getting caught in situations where I was over my head and getting through anyway.
You first competition win ?
I got one at the Peninsula Board Riders Club at Palm Beach in the Cadets Division and then I got one at the Northern Beaches Cadets and I really, to be honest, didn’t know what I was doing. I wasn’t being coached and I can’t remember being shown any semblance of a strategy about how to compete. I was just out there having fun, enjoying the surf and just loving it.
I’d go out into a competition situation, come in and I’d won it and say ‘what happened then?’
Right: Tom at 16 - 1977 was the year he won his first Pro Junior - he was Australian Cadet Surf Board Riding Champion 1975-1976, brother Nick took 1976-1977 title
That wave in Hawaii Tom, that changed surfing for many people has since become legendary (and become part of surfing manoeuvres) – were you thinking then?
No, there was no thinking involved, it was just doing it, and having years of years of practice prior to then in competition overseas and at home. It’s amazing how one moment can define someone’s surfing. I wasn’t really going for that at that time, wasn’t thinking, “I want to do the biggest thing here.”
I really just wanted to surf Pipeline like it was a normal wave.
I think I was also at the top of my game, I felt right, I had the right kind of equipment underneath my feet, everything came into play by then and really, it was a different way of surfing Pipeline compared to how they surf it now.
The guys are surfing on different sorts of equipment today and are driven by surfing different aspects of the wave.
Back then I had ambition to be good in my surfing, to be as good as I could be, so I was doing that to be the best I could overall. I did have a focus on Pipeline, it was one of the waves I really really liked to win at during that time – I would aim at doing that and that’s what I was going towards but no, I didn’t have any “I’m going to change the world’ (of surfing) behind this.
What does success teach you – what are the best aspects and worst of this?
The best is that you can gain confidence in your life. The best part about it is you can inspire others and it’s really lovely being able to do that.
The worst aspect is you become blind to others because you become quite self-centred – and can become quite caught up in this and live in the past or have an idea that you might be better than everybody else.
The fact is I’m just a human being, that can surf really well.
Hopefully other life events come to pass that humble this – but unfortunately, it will always be a two edged sword – with that level of recognition you can get caught up in it.
How do you ground yourself when you need to refocus?
I think the ocean is a really humbling place to be and is a lot more powerful than me. I really don’t have that much say in what goes on when out there; I’m really accessing Her power. I think if we stay in touch with that and not too much caught in our head, you can remain truer to your real self.
Life still is very full for you, you have had enormous success with Storm Surfers, and have gone from being known as a World Champion to being known as one of the world’s best Big Wave Surfers – why did you want to do that?
I just like the power of the ocean and using my abilities to access a bit more of a thrill. I think I’m like an adrenalin junkie too, I like that feeling of my adrenalin glands squirting away and attacking a situation where I can sink my teeth in and engaging the ocean with everything I have. That’s a really important thing for me, that feeling of full engagement and that is what Big Wave Surfing has given me.
I’ve always been like this, there has never been a day when I haven’t wanted to be involved with the power in the ocean and feel more comfortable around that then, say, being around the power of some people, that just wasn’t me. It’s hard to explain just what that is but I feel more at home in the ocean and it has become more apparent and clearer as I get older that that is what’s real for me.
Is there another Storm Surfers on the horizon?
At present we’re looking at doing a Treatment to build funding for another project. It’s really only at baby stages. This is with Ross again, which is always really fun and a little bit crazy as you may know…
So we’re looking at doing something that will be very different from Storm Surfers which will be quite a different take on life and hope to get a lot of different people involved in this. We have to get the right funding in place as you can’t successfully do such projects without the right kind of support or approach it any other way – the Distribution has to be sorted out before you start too. Hopefully we can have these different elements in place by 2017 in order to be showing this in 2018. So we’re working at and we’ll see how it goes.
While on waves, what are your favourite breaks worldwide, limiting it to three, and why?
Well that makes it very difficult.
Ok; G-Land or Grajagan in Indonesia - because it has several different waves in the one wave. It’s a remote location too and you are forced to disengage from the distractions of the world and really focus on the wave, and it’s just a beautiful place to be.
There’s typically three parts of the line-up that are quite different from each other in that the wave itself has one fun wave, one of medium intensity and one of full intensity. So you have a real smorgasbord in front of you.
Another would have to be Sunset Beach, I really love surfing Sunset in Hawaii. This is a favourite as it’s a right hander and has its own idiosyncrasies – it’s a difficult wave that you’ve got to work out and on which you can ride all different sizes of equipment here. So definitely Sunset Beach, particularly when it’s around 10 to 12 feet, and it’s strong; I love that feeling of being out there then, surfing on my backside – it’s a lovely feeling.
My third would be a more perfect wave, again in Indonesia, a place called ‘Telescope’ which is up in Sumatra. That wave is extraordinary to me, I love that wave – it’s one of the waves in the world that’s created perfect. When it breaks it’s on, it’s very special.
Favourite boards and makers –are there any that have stood out over the years for you as an extension of yourself experience?
Yes, I’ve experienced that a lot, it would be hard to say what the best one is though as I’ve had thousands of boards and have over 90 now.
Ok; what about a short board and then a long board example?
It’s too hard to say! I’ve got so many short and long boards. A few examples though…
I have a beautiful board in Hawaii which I love riding at Sunset Beach which 8’6, by Michael Baron, he’s from California.
I also have a beautiful 9’8 from Pat Rawson, which is more for bigger waves. There’s also a 7foot board that Pat Wilson shaped for me, another Hawaiian shaper (he also shaped that board that I did a snapback on at Pipeline); that’s a really beautiful board that I have in Hawaii for when I’m getting ready to do some surfing.
In that group of boards I have now there’s a really nice 5’4 that Max Stewart from Eyesymmetry shaped me in what he calls the Cali Quad – that board goes really nicely but we’re redesigning that again to improve on that. In playing around with that and always improving, always changing, the (my/board) body’s always changing, nothing stays the same, great stuff/boards are developed.
Surfing is clearly still a very dynamic growth area of your life; you’re putting ideas into shaping boards, you were over in Japan late last year, you turn up to Blast Off, not just to heats but to Blast Off Idol, you seem to be here, there and everywhere still – what else are you up to now?
I do a bunch of different things – I have Stand Up Paddle Board brand, Tom Carroll Paddle Surf, which I love doing, stand up’s great fun.
I work with my partner Mary on a Nutritional Cleanse Program. This is all about nutritional cleansing and actually getting the body well and helping your body be in great health. I’m always up for aging in a healthy way, I want to surf for as long as I possibly can. This helps people shift their life around – it’s been pretty amazing watching that happen and helping others to do this. We’ve had quite a few amazing results in the last year so we’re really motivated in that area.
I’m still working with Quiksilver as a Brand Ambassador, have been with them for decades now.
Shark Shield is another project I’m part of. This is something we can use to protect ourselves when in the water – it’s an electrical field that works as a shark deterrent. You can place these on your surfboard and it allows people to feel safer.
The last few mornings I’ve been doing some Late Level Coaching of some great kids from the Central Coast and the Northern Beaches – there’s been some great guys and fantastic surfers among these. These surfers have some amazing talent but just need a bit of nurturing from someone other than their parents – we all need this sometimes, someone other than your parents telling you what to do or helping you with how to do something.
The reaction of the kids when you turn up to Barton’s Blast Off is they’re all stoked, they can tell you really care about them too and sense you want to see them enjoy their surfing and improve it.
Just on Tom Carroll Paddle Surf and paddling – you went in the Molokai again last year with your brother Nick – when did you start doing this?
About 15 years ago. I had an opportunity and said ‘Nick, why don’t we go and paddle this Molokai race together?’ – he was ‘Really?’ and so we decided to do it together and started training 12 months beforehand, and managed to get it together in 2001. We then did it again last year and had a lot more experience on board, knew what we were doing, there was less wind, so no wind to push us across the channel, but we ended up beating our time by about half an hour, after 14 years!
Who are your favourite surfers and why?
Number one for me would be Colin Smith of Narrabeen. He was one of my all-time favourite surfers and inspired me incredibly when I was real young.
Derek Hynd was a great inspiration when we were young, on both myself and my brother.
Michael Peterson was a big influence on me, then Shaun Tomson had a really big influence and Dane Kealoha was also a huge influence on me. Before all that though I remember watching a guy by the name of Keith Paull in the movie Waves of Change(1970) which I saw at Avalon when I was a kid. I’ll never forget seeing him and thinking ‘I’ve got to surf like that’.
What inspired me about them was their style and their approach and the way they were surfing the wave. It was the way they were positioning their bodies and the way it looked and where they were going on the wave and how it all played out for them on the wave. I was just drawn to it, it was like a part of me was looking at a part of them and just linked in, it was kinetic, a communication that was going on.
It’s Summertime- will you be having a day off?
I don’t think I really ever have a day off. (laughs out loud)
The only time I ever really have any time off is when I’m in an aeroplane.
My life, really, is living the dream. I totally and absolutely live the dream. I don’t think I really imagine how lucky I am to have been born on the Northern Beaches. This is the top .001% on the planet to be born at.
I could have been born on the side of the hill in Afghanistan in the crossfire between a superpower and a drug cartel or some arms dealing psychopath; I mean, who knows where you’re going to get born?!
Me, I get born and get to be brought up in a home on the Northern Beaches, I get to see the growth of this place, it’s just phenomenal to get to be a part of this place. At base I feel totally blessed.
What are your favourite places in Pittwater?
I like the northern end of Newport, right out there in the northern corners of the beach, that’s always been special to me. I like Newport Reef, that’s always been dear to me. The Basin is beautiful. I really like Barrenjoey Headland, that’s a really special place to me as well and the sand dunes up that way.
Bungan Beach is also quite a special place although I haven’t been back there for quite a while. That was always the special place when we were kids and we’d get stuck down there because it took so long to get back out – we’d go down there and it would be ‘I don’t want to go home, let’s just stay here’. We used to have a great time in the sand dunes at the back of there which are no longer there.
We used to live at 209 Barrenjoey road, on the western side of this road, when there was only one lane either way. We had a big front yard and we’d walk straight across the road down into Bungan, so that holds really fond memories for me, the northern end of Bungan.
What about North Narrabeen – you’ve had a few great moments there?
Yes, North Narrabeen plays a big part in my history. I had a lot of huge wins there and great successes. I got to know that wave really really well. I’ve actually just reacquainted myself with it over the last six months and done a bit more regular surfing there. It’s been really cool, I’ve been able to link into the wave, every part of that wave so it’s really a part of me to the point where I can separate myself. (laughs)
What is your ‘motto for life’ or a favourite phrase you try to live by?
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I think that’s a key for everyone.
I also love Michael Leunig stuff – the many of the phrases and sayings he put out in his A Common Prayer Book. I can read those all day long.
A few notes:
Tom was champion of New South Wales (Schoolboys in 1974 and Juniors in 1977) winner of the prestigious Pro Junior (1977 and 1980), and joined the IPS World Tour in 1979 making the Finals of the Pipe Masters that year.
He retired from Pro Surfing in 1993 with twenty-six career world tour wins, three Pipe Masters victories (1987, 1990, and 1991), and two world titles and the Triple Crown in 1991.
Tom has recently been invited to be part of the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau at Waimea Bay a one-day big wave riding event with strict wave height requirements that will only take place when waves meet or exceed the Hawaiian 20-foot minimum (wave face heights of approximately 40 feet). Eddie Aikau was the first official lifeguard at Waimea Bay, on Oahu's North Shore, known for his love of big waves. The 2015 and 31st Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau event has a three-month holding period that began on December 1, 2015, and runs through to February 29, 2016. This is an invite only event based on merit where those who attend are voted in by their peers and overseen by the Aikau family - 28 are invited. Tom was also invited in 2014,
Storm Surfers cohort and mate Ross Clarke-Jones is also an invitee and won the event in 2000/2001.
See: Nick Carroll Profile
THE LEGEND OF COL SMITH: All Guns Blazing by Kirk Willcox -- Kirk Willcox/Surfing World Magazine, available at:http://www.raresurftees.com/pages/col-smith
Right: TC by Tom Carroll & Nick Carroll
SURFING Newport man takes title
SYDNEY: Newport surfer Tom Carroll clinched the World Professional Championship yesterday with a tournament victory in the US.
Carroll, 22, earned 250 points for "the win in the Florida Pro, held at Deerfield Beach, north of Miami.
Those points have given him an unassailable lead on the ASP computer rating over his chief rival, Wayne Bartholomew, of Queensland.
Carroll can now afford to bow out early in the last grand slam event, the Rip Curl Pro at Bell’s Beach during Easter. Carroll takes over the championship from Mark Richards, who has held it for the past four years. He is the first Sydneysider since Nat Young, in 1970, to win the title. Australians have now held the world crown continuously, except one year, since 1976.SURFING Newport man takes title. (1984, April 10). The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995), p. 20. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article125002603
Stoked young surfer gets his board checked by big wave legends Tom Carroll, Paul Paterson and Barton Lynch - TC's beard went as part of Movember 2015 preparations!
Nick and Tom Carroll - courtesy Finisher Photos from 2015 M2O Paddleboard World Championships. See: Nick Carroll Profile
At Midget Farrelly Paddle Out Tribute, 2016