Carve - - CONTENTS -

St Ives pard Lowey has hit the big leagues get­ting a start in the WSL Big Wave Puerto may­hem. Jarvi caught up with him.

he best big wave surfers in the world come from Hawaii, and from Aus­tralia, and maybe from Mexico and South Africa, or pos­si­bly from Chile.

And the U.K.

Oh yes. Bri­tish big wave surfers have be­come a thing th­ese days, like a Brazil­ian Storm lite. Half the surfers, but bet­ter for you.

The lat­est to hit the ranks run­ning is a young 33-year old lad named Tom Lowe. He joins the Big Wave Tour anointed squad of Tom But­ler and An­drew Cot­ton as our own crew who are mak­ing a name on the big wave scene. Al­though Lowey has been charg­ing hard for a very long time as you’ll know, it was the WSL Big Wave Awards that brought him into sharp world­wide fo­cus with a hor­ror Tag Heuer Wipe­out Nom­i­na­tion at Puerto Es­con­dido in 2016 for a dive from the top of a gi­ant close out set.

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, and im­pos­si­bly it seemed like a big­ger wave and an even longer drop from the heav­ens. No to men­tion­ing also turn­ing heads with his Pe’ahi de­but.

Be­fore that Tom was find­ing his big wave feet amongst the no­to­ri­ety of the gi­ant slabs and peaks of Ire­land with Fer­gal Smith. When they weren’t surf­ing Mul­lagh­more as big as it gets, they were pi­o­neer­ing the Cliffs and Ri­leys. There might not be too much go­ing on with re­gards to big waves where he lives in Ker­now, but Lowey was earn­ing his stripes in Ire­land.

As a re­sult of the 2016 wipe­out and per­for­mances how­ever, he was nom­i­nated as one of the top four big wave per­form­ers last year, and was re­warded with a berth on the Big Wave Tour, a dream re­sult for any big wave hope­ful.

His first event on the 2017 tour was the re­cent Puerto Es­con­dido Chal­lenge, and he didn't dis­ap­point, com­ing in third be­hind the big fish duo of Kai Lenny in first, and Jamie Mitchell in sec­ond, while surf­ing with an in­jury and only able to go the rights, on his back­hand. We con­nected with the goofy-footed charger to chat.

I did how­ever get a forty-sec­ond hold down, even with my Patag­o­nia vest in­flated. It was def­i­nitely up there with the most vi­o­lent wipe­outs of my life.

Com­ing from Eng­land, it’s hard to imag­ine a big wave back­ground, apart from hav­ing a go at the Crib­bar when it breaks.

How long have you been surf­ing for, and where are your lo­cal breaks?

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.

Four foot does not a charger make. When did you get a taste for big waves then? You know, we get big storms, even in Eng­land, and I re­mem­ber float­ing around in 10ft on­shore some­where, waves com­ing from all di­rec­tions. And I felt so alive. 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.

In­spir­ing, but what about com­pet­ing? Hang­ing with Camel does not in­stil a com­pet­i­tive spirit.

Ever surfed in com­pe­ti­tions be­fore this big wave run?

Two or three lo­cal comps, then I was in­vited to surf in the Padang Cup twice. That's lit­er­ally it.

Is there any­one in the brood to help? There must be some­one to help? Surely.

Do you have any other fam­ily mem­bers who surf?

No, but both par­ents sup­port my love for the ocean. They al­ways have. Even though I had to wash dishes, life­guard and work on build­ing sites for a liv­ing up un­til I was 22, they said that as long as I'm happy that's all that mat­tered. I have a sis­ter who's a few years older than me, a pri­mary school teacher. Mum and dad are both re­tired. Very much hip­pies in there own way.

Mum be­lieves in or­ganic liv­ing all the way, dad smokes and has the worst diet known to man, haha. They are di­vorced, for maybe 25 years, but still have an epic re­la­tion­ship. Love them both.

Who on earth does a big wave surfer look up to in Eng­land?

Did you have any surf­ing he­roes from UK, and from a global per­spec­tive? Why were they your he­roes?

I never re­ally had he­roes, apart from my fam­ily and friends, and my girl­friend as well. Peo­ple’s styles, and drive for their pas­sion do in­spire me. It's a bit like mu­sic for me. My favourite bands or solo artists are beau­ti­ful peo­ple as well, not just great at some­thing. So the crews that I get amped for have to res­onate on that level also.

Mak­ing a name for your­self by wip­ing out. It’s a hel­luva route to fame.

Let’s talk about your wipe­out last year at Nazaré - the one that made it onto the WSL Big Wave Awards - talk us through that sce­nario.

Well, I'd been in all morn­ing chas­ing my tail and catch­ing noth­ing. I pad­dled for the first wave of the 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 take off into the sky. 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 forty-sec­ond hold down, even with my Patag­o­nia vest in­flated. It was def­i­nitely up there with the most vi­o­lent wipe­outs of my life. After I was dropped to the beach by the ski, we all had a few hours to re­cover be­fore head­ing out that evening. And the same thing hap­pened again, on a small wave. This time I com­mit­ted to stick­ing it, which I did for a brief mo­ment be­fore hit­ting a chop and head butting my rail. Again, I got smashed and held down for a long while. My shoul­der still isn't right from tweak­ing it that day.

Nazaré must surely be the un­friendli­est wave in the world, with no re­deem­ing char­ac­ters ex­cept for its un­holy size. What does it take to surf some­thing that nasty?

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?

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 take sets on the head, and get in dan­ger­ous sce­nar­ios, whether you play safe or not. I go out there to catch one solid wave, no more, no less. Fully com­mit­ted to that plan. Or I don't go out at all.

Mexico and Mex­i­can Pipe. Is it all Coronas and taco Tues­day or just pure fear? Is there more to it than that?

You seem to en­joy Puerto. Have you spent much time there?

Yeah I love Mexico, it's where I met the love of my life, Tess. It's where I've had some of my most spe­cial mo­ments in the wa­ter too. I went there for the first time around 14 years ago. Th­ese days I like to spend at least a month or two there dur­ing the sum­mer.

It’s an ab­so­lutely fear­some wave though, with hor­ren­dously heavy sit­u­a­tions. No place to mess around.

What are the best waves to catch at Puerto? It's a place you have to be very pa­tient with. Which is why most of the waves we rode in the con­test sit­u­a­tion were close­outs. We had to go for any­thing in the time lim­its of a heat. Usu­ally I catch one wave an hour at most.

I love those deep rights at Carmeli­tas. Not that I've had many good ones over all th­ese years, but they’re the ones I dream of. I look for the wedge with a nice wall, cor­ner­ing into the shoul­der.

Puerto is also a place that can to­tally mess you up, men­tally as well as phys­i­cally. What hap­pened to you be­fore the event? You said you were on 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. Surfed only the day be­fore to feel it out. To be hon­est I was in heaps of pain and feel­ing sketchy as. I could go right but lefts weren't work­ing for me at all.

Surf­ing gi­ant and con­se­quen­tial waves with a messed up body part is so far from an ideal sce­nario. What’s it like?

Was it painful surf­ing the event with the in­jury?

Yeah it was throb­bing pain the whole time. Any pres­sure on it and I thought it would snap. I just strapped it up tight as, which gave me some piece of mind that she was solid.

Big wave surf­ing is daunt­ing. You need to be on your game all day, every day, and never turn your back on the ocean.

Any mo­ments for you dur­ing the event that were off the scale scary?

Every wave.

The best thing in any sport how­ever, is to be recog­nised.

Now we have a tour. We are a solid com­po­nent of the World Surf League. How does it feel to be on a le­git­i­mate 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. But my goal has never been or will be to win con­tests. I dream of rid­ing big bar­rels. If that's in an event then epic, if not, it'll feel just as good.

It also re­ally helps to have an in­spired sea­son and for some­one, any­one, to no­tice.

How does it feel to be one of the top four per­form­ers in the big wave realm last year? That means a lot. The last few years I have been

The last few years I have been push­ing my­self fur­ther than I imag­ined

push­ing my­self fur­ther than I imag­ined. To be recog­nised 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.

Then we get the whole Hawai­ian drama, and the ter­ror that ex­ists at Pe’ahi. It’s a hel­luva place, with an amaz­ing backstory, and quite pos­si­bly the most per­fect big wave on the planet. Some have called it sim­ply a mas­sive Lances Right. Lowey once surfed one of the cra­zi­est back­hand bar­rels there on a gi­ant pink board, and he ac­tu­ally ex­ited one of the best back­hand tubes seen there, be­fore un­for­tu­nately go­ing over the han­dle­bars hit­ting a bump. So Mr Lowe is pretty self­ef­fac­ing about the joint.

Have you had much ex­pe­ri­ence at Jaws? What’s that wave re­ally like?

I've been there for two big swells, so not much ex­pe­ri­ence at all. I love the wave though, as fright­en­ing as it is. I hope to come out of a bar­rel out there one day. Tech­ni­cally it's a huge chal­lenge for any surfer, es­pe­cially on your back­side. Try­ing to ne­go­ti­ate a 10"6 with all that wa­ter mov­ing is as hard as it comes. Well done to all the guys who pi­o­neered that hum­bling venue!

Surf­ing has its mo­ments. There are good times and bad. Some­times when the go­ing gets a bit tough, you just have to roll with it. What’s the best thing for you about surf­ing right now?

Well I can't surf, my an­kles farked! Nah, I'll be sweet by the time the mag comes out. It's mi­nor enough, needs some rest and re­hab is all. Best thing about surf­ing now is that feel­ing never changes. It's my happy place to med­i­tate, be free, ex­press my­self and con­nect with na­ture.

Who could imag­ine that Jaws, Nazaré or Puerto could be a ‘happy place’ for any­one? Goes to show…

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