Dear Dirty America


Tow-In Surfing an Alternative to Big Wave Surfing

August 05
18:27 2011
From “The History of Surfing” by Matt Warshaw:

Critics spoke out against tow surfing. The “cheating” argument was made; writer and former world-tour pro Dave Parmenter memorably compared it to hunting rhinos while strapped into a safari pursuit truck. Tow-in was also believed to be a lot easier than traditional big-wave surfing. San Francisco big-wave rider Mark Renneker likened the tow-in surfer to a circus clown who gets shot from a cannon. Environmentally, Hamilton and the rest of the tow surfers clearly didn’t have a leg to stand on. When confronted, they just shrugged, or shot out self-justifying one-liners, as when Darrick Doerner said, “The ocean is made for pistons.” 

In the end, none of the anti-tow-in arguments gained any real traction, and this was mostly due to Laird Hamilton. He and the other tow-in pioneers wisely chose to present their new form of the sport not as an extension or replacement of traditional big-wave surfing but as an alternative…. 

Perhaps it’s not surprising that the arguments against tow surfing never resonated with wave-riders in general. It had become the sport’s own Apollo program, and Hamilton was its Neil Armstrong. There would be a minority who believed tow surfing was a betrayal to surfing’s core values. But everyone else couldn’t help but look on with awe and fascination (ps. 442-443)


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