Consistently, Tom's been leading the charge, not just in the UK and Ireland, but he's also been flying the flag for British big wave surfers on the international scene with his finger firmly on the pulse. Moving in the same circles as the biggest names in big wave surfing, a new fire seems to have ignited inside him. He's refined a quiver over the years to match his requirements in a range of waves. So, with that in mind, we had him lay it all out and talk through what he's using at the moment.
Words by Tom Lowe
Each board I ride is shaped for a particular kind of wave. JP has been with me for over 10 years, so he knows what I'm after without much talk. We have all my shapes on file so it’s easy to tweak them slightly to suit my needs. I pay particular attention to detail when it comes to big wave guns, that's the stuff that really matters in my game. I've had boards in the past that just stick to the face of the wave, like having an anchor dragging you into danger. Then on the flip side I've had fast guns which I can't control. It's just been trial and error to get to where we're at.
Fins are a huge, huge factor, in all boards obviously. They change the board completely, so you've got to play around to find what works. The Twiggy fin with futures are great for big wave thrusters. With quads for big wave guns. I was given a set by Greg Long which he shaped and surprise surprise they work great – similar to the FCS Stretch quads. Performance core material is what I go for every time with FSC. Small to medium wave fins I go FCS K2.1, Can't go wrong. Kelly Quads are all great, again K2.1's my favourite. In my slab boards, meaning anything from 5'9 to 7'0, I'd still use the Kelly Slater K2.1's.
Keep in mind when using the K fins in your semi guns, you may find you'll drift or slide when you're taking of under the ledge of a beastly slab. But your board's going to grab in again if you commit, it'll be a full on pin tail you're riding in say Teahupoo or Aileen’s. It'll hold once your line’s set and I actually enjoy the feeling in that give.
Back to my boards. I'll start with my home lot in the front. Left to right we’ve got my JP 6'2 x 19 x 2 3/4 single fin. I love single fins in pretty much any conditions, but this board is for slack small to medium surf, she'll go in most stuff mind, as I've found out over time. Nice full volume through the nose and under the chest, lovely to paddle. This board's all about the bottom turns and drawing out your cuttys. Back to basics.
Right of that we've got my JP 5'9 x 18/3/4 x 2/1/4 round tail for beaches around Cornwall, that’s what it was made for, but I've had many a session in fun reefs too. She's an all rounder I'd say, just like a squash tail but with a different feel. I like it when it’s glassy or clean for my local beaches. Just different lines to be drawn, when compared to square tails, more hold through turns – ideal from 2 to 4ft.
Rip me all you want, but try it before you diss. I fell in love with SUP more than 12 years ago. I used to do my lifeguard water patrol on my Laird model. Nobody did it back then round our way, it was a challenge which I always enjoy
Next JP 5'9 x 18/1/4 x 2/14 squash tail, similar to my other 5'9, just releases more when you want – ideal from 2 to 3ft. JP 5'8 x 18/1/4 x 2/1/4 winged swallow tail. Small wave beauty, for mushy stuff. It’ll give you the ability to actually do a few turns when its 2ft, instead of not being able to even get going on your shortboard. The nice volume under the chest combined with the wide nose gives you float and paddle. I just like to get some speed up when its small, and get a solid turn of the end section if I can – also ideal in 2 to 3ft.
Christenson 5'0 x who knows? The mystery board with no dimensions. I keep her sticker-less. I don't want to offend the soul of the thing. It's my favourite small wave board, get her under your arm running down the beach and you'll soon be smiling. From the first moment Chris handed it to me I just knew I was on. I've never been so fast in small waves, it's like hovering weightlessly across the water. The two wooden keel fins give it hold through turns, unlike fishes I've ridden in the past. Point breaks are the one for this little treat. 1 to 4ft ideally.
Then there’s the SUPs. I’ve got my 7’8 Starboard for surfing, then my 12’6 race board. Rip me all you want, but try it before you diss. I fell in love with SUP more than 12 years ago. I used to do my lifeguard water patrol on my Laird model. Nobody did it back then round our way, it was a challenge which I always enjoy. Now I go for deep ocean paddles up to 4 hours long, It’s like nothing else gliding downwind out there solo. With the surfing part, no I don’t go out when theres surfers in the line up – I know how the vibes can be. SUP for me is all about solo sessions, or out there with close mates and my girlfriend (Janni) on her longboard. I respect the fact that it’s a big bit of kit, and no matter how good you are, if you take it into a busy line up, you’re likely to hit somebody. Even Mr Laird Hamilton himself fell off and hit me at Teahupoo.
I have an 11ft, a 10’4 and a 10’6 Christensen in Cali. Don’t ask me what kind of waves I’m taking them in. The idea of those three are 11ft for Bellhara, the 10’4 and 10’6 for Jaws, but we’ll just see hey
Around my feet, I’ve got some of my Ireland boards. From left to right, JP 8’2 x 19 x 3 it’s for Mullaghmore when she’s 15ft plus. I’ve got a 8’0 x 19 x 3 in Ireland, also a Mully gun. I used the 8’2 the first time she’d ever been padded and got the heaviest barrels of my life, paddled that is. Fourth surfboards shaped me a few beauties last winter for Ireland, a 6’8 and 7’2, both made for Aileen’s. Luke Hart didn’t give dimensions, but they’re meaty, with much more volume and width up the top half than my JPs. The idea being to lose some board length, giving you less to deal with in the tube. Also we hope they make life easier dropping into thick, mutant double-ups. Both have been working great, but I’m yet to get tubed on them.
On my right hand side to where I’m sitting I’ve got two JP’s, they’re 6’8 x 18/3/4 2/14 and 6’6 with same dimensions. I used them both at Teahupoo a few years back, also two of my favourite Aileen’s boards for when it’s in the 6 to 8ft range. It’s worth saying that most of my Aileen’s boards are at Fergal’s house in Ireland, shaped by none other than Tom Doidge Harrison. He surfs the cliffs all year, so has the feel of just what we need out there.
Top left we’ve got my small to medium wave slab boards, all JPs. Left to right, 5’9 x 18/3/4 x 2/1/4 5’10 all same dimensions. 6’0 ‘’ 6’2 ‘’ are the barrel boards, five fin set ups are essential for me, quad for Desert Point, thruster for Lakey Peak. You can rip them even though they’re so pinned in the tail, because I’m taking them in heavy surf. They end up surfing like your shortboard once you find the sweet spots.
Last but definitely not least, my guns. Well, two of them. I have an 11ft, a 10’4 and a 10’6 Christensen in Cali. Don’t ask me what kind of waves I’m taking them in. The idea of those three are 11ft for Bellhara, the 10’4 and 10’6 for Jaws, but we’ll just see hey. In the shot we’ve got a 9’8 Christensen shaped for Mavericks, which I used out there the last two winters, along with a 10’0 which I left at a friend’s house over there. They both have no dimensions, but the 9’6 is a quad, it’s my favourite board next to my fish. I paddled my tallest wave out at Mavericks a few winters back on that beast. Then a few rides at Todos last winter which I’ll never forget. Next to that Luke Heart shaped me the lumo pink 10’5 , which I’m yet to use, feels and looks amazing, hope this winters the one to try it out.