Ten years after they first teamed up, Tom Carroll and Kelly Slater are still capable of putting on a surfing show like no other.
Two days into the latest leg of the Quiksilver Crossing, the celebrated pair with eight world titles between them are producing a special chemistry when they get in heavy surf together.
Tom has pulled into some of the biggest barrels of the trip so far, squeaking under the lip on his backhand with exquisite timing, showing no signs of having undergone arthroscopic knee surgery just eight weeks ago. And Kelly seems intent on taking off as late and deep as possible on the biggest, steepest peaks, barely even paddling and getting to his feet as the wave tubes around him. Incredibly, he hangs on to the lip and roof of the tube with both hands for stability as he drives from deep inside.
“It’s always a good vibe,” Tom says, of the special energy generated when such an elite crew get together for some serious surf exploration. Together with Kelly and Tom, are renowned big wave riders Ross Clarke-Jones, Peter Mel an Dave Kalama, and grommets Ry Craike and Dylan Graves. With two high-powered jet skis, tow ropes, and all manner of surf craft, the team are ready for anything.
“If it gets big there’s going to be some special stuff. People will be pushing limits. If we get big surf, it will be extraordinary, what goes down,” says Tom. “Things explode out in boats when there’s good surf. It gives everyone a nice euphoria at the end of a day’s surfing. And when you wake up in the morning to good waves again, there’s definitely little explosions in the social order,” he laughs.
Indeed Tom, a veteran of dozens of boat trips, is fascinated by the sociological exercise of observing such extreme characters at close quarters. “Everyone’s moods swing and change. It’s a constant case study in human behaviour, and the chemical make ups of the characters involved … especially when you’ve got Ross and his crazy devil movies,” he laughs. Stay tuned for more of Professor Carroll’s findings from the floating human laboratory.
Check Out Day One Coverage