It’s one of the bigger risks of tow-in surfing — when the jetski pilot gets caught in a giant wave — and it happened a week or so ago to former world champion surfer Tom Carroll near Gracetown, Australia. The 49-year-old Carroll had just launched Ross Clark-Jones into a meaty 20-footer and got caught in the wave’s pull.
Evasive action came to naught, and Carroll went nose-first into the rinse cycle. “The waves were so wild and unpredictable that it was hard to tell what was happening,” Carroll told Perth Now. “I towed Ross into a wave then tried to get the ski over the back of the wave, however a large bit of chop bounced me back onto the face. From there I did all I could but just couldn’t get the ski off the wave before it broke. I saw Ross down there and knew we were in serious trouble. I tried to manhandle the ski but the wave just took me where it wanted.”
The duo were filming for a 3D movie called Storm Surfers 3D, and a $15,000 (Aus) carbon-fiber camera rig was destroyed, as well as the jetski. Carroll was banged up slightly, and Clarke-Jones never even knew what happened until his ride was over.
The incident reminds one of the 2005 jetski accident at Teahupoo, Tahiti, during a contest when Reef Macintosh was piloting a tow-in ski for the first time and miscalculated how close he was to the wave. As the grinding slab sucked his ski toward the falls, he bailed backwards off the sled, which continue down the face of the wave directly toward the head of Raimana van Bastolaer.
“I saw a black thing out of the side of my eye, I just ducked my head and then I don’t know what happened,” said Van Bastolaer . “I saw this thing going and I was like, where is the guy driving on it, then I saw Reef trying to come up and we lost the ski but good thing I never lost my friend and myself, so it’s okay.”
The Teahupoo photo is by Brian Bielmann, who was the subject of a recent feature in the Daily Mail. Carroll photos by Jamie Scott/Storm Surfers