Tracks - - Stuff We Dig -

The idea of sling­ing into a big wave has been around for a long time, but it wasn't un­til Laird and the boys de­voted them­selves to the task in '92 that the most sig­nif­i­cant break­through in big wave surf­ing was re­alised. Tow­ing in with a PWC opened up a plethora of new big wave spots, most no­tably Jaws. The un­rid­den realm sud­denly had tak­ers and big wave records dropped like flies. Cum­ber­some rhino-chasers were re­placed by weighted short­boards with foot straps mean­ing huge waves could be carved apart like they were triple black runs. Slab surf­ing got a mas­sive jump-start in Tas­ma­nia, WA and Ire­land. It was a heady decade but then it all went a lit­tle stale. Jaws be­came packed with tow-teams – some of them com­plete novices. Surf au­di­ences started to get bored by a per­ceived lack of skill and risk. When lit­tle known Ger­man surfer Se­bas­tian Steudt­ner won the XXL in 2010 for sling­ing into the big­gest wave of the year some ques­tioned its value. Tow surf­ing had had its crit­ics from the start – some saw it as cheat­ing, oth­ers con­sid­ered the PWC a noisy, pol­lut­ing and dan­ger­ous blight. Most big wave rid­ers em­braced the power ski but the best of them even­tu­ally found it a bit too easy and the em­pha­sis shifted back to huge boards, late drops and arm power. It was an amaz­ing feat of self-cor­rec­tion in a dig­i­tal age where tech­nol­ogy is re­plac­ing hu­man skill in so many fields. The lat­est mo­torised de­vice to chal­lenge pad­dle power is the jet board – a bat­tery pow­ered surf­board that chugs along all by it­self. WaveJet team rider Gar­rett McNa­mara en­thused to Tracks about it last year. "Un­til you try it don't think any­thing ex­cept: cool idea. The life­guards can use them, begin­ners can use them, dis­abled peo­ple can use them, and I've tested them in the most ex­treme con­di­tions. There's so many dif­fer­ent ap­pli­ca­tions. You move as fast as you could sprint on a race board. It's not that fast but it helps you get around and catch waves." But even G-Mac has his con­cerns. "If it was any faster it would be dan­ger­ous. Peo­ple who didn't know what they were do­ing on some­thing a lit­tle faster would be re­ally dan­ger­ous," he told Tracks. Panel dis­cus­sion: Will surfers of the future even know how to pad­dle?

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