Wild, wild surf
By TONY WHITE
TEENAGE Angourie surfer Laurie Towner wants an opportunity to ride the world's behemoth ocean swells similar to the incredible wave above.
The 19-year-old returned from America yesterday after attending the annual Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards in Anaheim, California.
Towner was invited for an all-expenses paid visit to the awards after his own 20-foot 'monster' ridden at Shipstern Bluff, Tasmania, was nominated as one of five finalists in the XXL Monster Tube Award.
Rubbing shoulders with surfing's elite big wave riders and a host of special guests and industry officials in the 2000-strong crowd, Towner was in awe of Brad Gerlach's incredible 68-footer at Todos Santos in Mexico that won the feature award.
"Wow, those waves were real big," he said. "The other waves in the finals were big, too. It was hard to tell who would win.
"I'm keen as to get amongst that sort of thing. I'd love to try it. If I ever got the chance I'd go for it.
"Even sussing it out, being there would be unreal.
"I like big waves, it's pretty fun. I'm not pushing it but whenever the chance came along, I'd love to go for it."
Gerlach, a former world No 2 professional, was paid US$1000 per foot for his winning wave. The 40-year-old American intends splitting the proceeds with his friend, jet ski tow-in partner and fellow big wave rider, Mike Parsons.
"Like my mom says: 40 is the new 20. I'm a youngster," Gerlach said.
"I'm just getting started in this big wave stuff.
"You don't really look behind you on a wave like that. It's like a race car driver, you don't know all the cars behind you, as long as you're winning the race, you're ahead. And if you're ahead, you win.
"More than anything, it proves that Mike and I are competitive and we want to ride the biggest waves in the world. I'm 40 and he's 41, we're not rookies anymore but we're at our peak.
"When I caught that wave I didn't really know how big it was. The swell was still building and it was the last wave of the day, just before it got dark, so I was just hoping to get one more.
"When I kicked out of the wave everyone just went nuts ... you don't know what's behind you when you're on it. I've been surfing Todos Santos for a long time but that was the most amazing day I've ever seen."
Towner was far from disappointed at not winning the Monster Tube Award, taken out by Shane Dorian for a fearsome backside tube at Teahupoo, Tahiti.
"Dorian's wave deserved it," Towner said.
"Look, I was just stoked to be invited and nominated. I was there with guys who I've heard and read about for the past 10 years. It was awesome.
"All this sort of stuff is just pretty crazy."
Towner will soon experience first hand the fearful reef break of Teahupoo, leaving for Tahiti later this week to compete in the Von Zipper Trials, hoping for a place in the Billabong Teahupoo Pro against the world's leading surfers.
"It will be my first time to Teahupoo but I'm looking forward to it," Towner said.
"I've surfed some big waves in Hawaii but so far Shipstern Bluff is the heaviest and gnarliest. It's a freaky place.
"My main goal this year is to try and win the ASP junior title and maybe, if I'm lucky, ride some of those real big waves."