Or should every jet ski should be thrown off a high cliff and the b-grade pros who use them right on top of them, just like that beautiful scene in Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls when they push the fascists off the cliff?
Australian writer Don Watson found, in the solitude of the bush, relief from the “din of predictable opinion, particularly one’s own opinion.”
You could easily make a similar argument for surf but it’d be hard to imagine a world where that applied to Laird Hamilton.
Before the superfood creamers and the celebrity workouts Laird found the sail, then the impeller and the throttle and found a world in thrall to his vision of motorised assist to ride the world’s biggest waves. Absolutely gaga over it. He scoffed at paddlers at Mavericks – the wipeouts! (he said) It looks like they are practising for wipeouts – or words to that effect. Paddling Jaws was just an unimagined realm, not even fantasy.
Within a lifetime, history pirouetted and marched back from whence it came.
It seemed our Laird and saviour was not just wrong to embrace the engine and eschew the human body as a device to paddle in to giant surf he was “howlingly, flat-earth, couldn’t-be-more-wrong wrong.”
The ski-assisted tow-in became a sideshow, openly derided. Christian Fletcher intro’d German windsurfer turned tow surfer Sebastien Steudtner for the biggest wave category at the 2010 Big Wave Awards as the “German who doesn’t paddle.”
And now look where we are. Paddling at Jaws, Nazare, Mullaghmore.
Did you hop on the sled? Tow-ats maybe? Step-offs at Kirra? I didn’t.
Fought it tooth and nail at my local break. And we won.
Tow-ins became popular every time Lennox Point got over four foot, just like the Goldy.
Madness. Infuriating. The fumes. Some cunt instantly a hundred metres deeper than the spot you’d just spent 40 minutes paddling too. A small crew of us, led by Greenough, got together and decided it had to stop.
It wasn’t that hard.
As an anarcho-primitivist who generally hates the suffocating rules of the modern nanny state I’m ashamed to say we simply used the power of NSW waterways (water cops) to shut them down. It’s called community organising in the States and if my reading of history is correct, how Barack Obama got his start.
Within weeks, no more jet skis at Lennox Point.
To this day, if you want to spend hours paddling against a river like current to paddle into a medium sized wave you will do it without the irritation of a B-grade pro being whipped in further up the Point. It’s magnificent. And yet an hour up the motorway the motorised chaos continues… for now.
How do you feel about the ski? Little bitch like me, or a bit more open-hearted?
I have to admit , something in me has shifted, slightly, but ever so surely. Maybe it has in you too.
Jaws on Nov 26 thrilled me like a round of electro-shock therapy. The gals, even if you thought it was a kook slam, made adrenalised entertainment.
Looked like a little kid – Kai Lenny – on a tiny black board, skittering down giant faces. Cartoonish. Took a while to realise it was happening live. Getting towed in. Because I was hate-watching so hard it took some time to take refuge from the force of my own opinion and open up to reality. Amazing, right? More amazing than anything ever. Wave after wave. He was playing with it. Playing all over it.
Then Billy Kemper coughing up blood, Twiggy Baker somehow making it to the bottom then getting inside it that… that thing. Hard to believe it was happening live. Even harder to believe they pulled the pin on it for “safety” reasons. It’s fucking big-wave surfing, it’s supposed to be unsafe. Thats why people watch it.
While the disappointment sunk in, something else happened. Looked like a little kid – Kai Lenny – on a tiny black board, skittering down giant faces. Cartoonish. Took a while to realise it was happening live. Getting towed in. Because I was hate-watching so hard it took some time to take refuge from the force of my own opinion and open up to reality. Amazing, right? More amazing than anything ever. Wave after wave. He was playing with it. Playing all over it.
Could Laird have been right, after all? Could this be a second coming of Tow?
Some time in the next 24 hours a giant swell is expected to infill on Hawaii’s north and west shores. A small cadre of tow surfers will surf an expression session. Not just Kai Lenny, but Doz (hasn’t held the rope for a decade), Billy Kemper (has called tow lame), Nathan Florence, Makua Rothman.
Is Tow cool again?
I hope not. But I’m biased.
I think every jet ski should be thrown off a high cliff and the b-grade pros who use them right on top of them, just like that beautiful scene in Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls when they push the fascists off the cliff.
Of course, I’ll watch.
I’m not insane.