British big-wave surfers are becoming a thing these days, and the latest soldier from Blighty is a 33-year-old lad named Tom Lowe. He joins the ranks of Tom Butler and Andrew Cotton as Poms who are making names for themselves in the XXLs.
Although Lowe has been charging hard for a long time, it was the 2016 WSL Big Wave Awards that brought him into sharp focus with this horror TAG Heuer Wipeout Nomination at Puerto Escondido in 2016.
He soon followed it up with a similar entry into the 2017 awards, only this time it was at Nazaré -- even less of a joke than Puerto.
As a result however, he was nominated as one of the top four big wave performers last year, and was rewarded with a spot on the Big Wave Tour. He kicked off his inclusion on the tour with the recent Puerto Escondido Challenge, and he didn't disappoint, coming in 3rd behind the big-fish duo of Kai Lenny in first, and Jamie Mitchell in second. We connected with the goofy-footed charger to chat.
World Surf League: How long have you been surfing for, and where are your local breaks?
Tom Low: I'm from Cornwall, so there are just beachies, with a few novelty reefs that works a few times a year. My local spot is Porthmeor in St, Ives. It maxes out at four-foot.
When did you get a taste for big waves?
My first proper big wave session was in West Australia, the bombie next to main break in Margaret River. I surfed with Camel, the Australian legend. Inspiring times.
Ever surfed in competitions before this big wave run?
Two or three local comps, then I was invited to surf in the Rip Curl Cup Padang Padang twice. That's literally it.
Let's talk through your wipeout last year at Nazaré -- the one that made it onto the WSL Big Wave Awards.
I'd been surfing all morning, chasing my tail and catching nothing. I paddled for the first wave of a set, missed it, turned round and saw that wave doubling up. I was really under it, the only place you can be to make a wave like that. As I stood up my 11'0 board started to get airborne, and I freaked out and jumped. I could've tried to stick that airdrop, but looking at the footage I would've copped the lip on my head anyways. So it was the best call in the end. I did, however, get a 40-second hold down, even with my Patagonia vest inflated. Was up there with the most violent wipeouts of my life.
Nazaré just looks abominable. How do you feel about it, and what is your mental approach when dealing with it at the upper end of size?
You need to be as close to 100 percent as you can in mind body and soul. That place will test all you have and more. You're going to cop bombs on the head and get in heavy scenarios, whether you play safe or not. I go out there to catch one solid wave, no more, no less. I have to be fully committed to that plan, or I don't go out at all.
What happened to you before the Puerto Escondido Challenge event that necessitated crutches?
During the previous swell I caught a solid right and didn't manage to bottom turn in time before the lip landed on my back foot. I thought it was broken, but it ended up being a nasty sprain. I was on crutches for two weeks before the contest. I only surfed the day before, just to feel it out. To be honest I was in heaps of pain. I could go on the rights, but lefts weren't working at all.
How does it feel to be on the Big Wave Tour?
I'm so grateful for this opportunity, which is why I surfed on an injury, and will give it everything I have. My goal however, has never been, or will be, to win contests. I dream of riding big barrels and if that's in an event then epic. If not, it'll feel just as good.
You were nominated onto the Big Wave Tour because you were one of the top four performers in the big wave realm last year.
That means a lot. The last few years I have been pushing myself further than I imagined. To be recognized by my peers was rad. Again; the only person I compete with is myself though, so it's not about winning things. I just want to keep improving and growing as a person and surfer.