Inspirations: Tom Carroll

Image: artbrewerphoto.com

After being introduced to the beaches around Sydney as a baby, it was at just eight years of age that Tom Carroll took to his first surfboard.

It wasn’t long before his interest and natural ability swelled into a passion, with Carroll citing Narrabeen surf legend Col Smith and Hawaiian big-wave warrior Gerry Lopez as early influences for his style.

By the time he was in his teens, Carroll was well on his way to becoming a serious competitor, taking out both the Pro Junior and Australian Junior titles in 1977, at just 16, at winning both again in 1978 and 1980 respectively. The 1979 Pipe Masters saw Carroll debut as a world tour rookie, and he was officially ranked 24th by the end of that year.

He continued to rise in the ranks, moving from 17th to 10th to 3rd before winning 6 of 13 events in 1983 and taking the world title. By this stage Carroll was known not only for his skills but also for his compact stature. At just 5-foot-6-inches (167cm), other surfers of the day practically loomed over Carroll as much as any of the big waves he took on, but in both cases he proved he could come out on top.

As his surfing career continued to grow, so did Carroll’s awareness of the world around him. Not content to stay silent when he saw something was wrong, in 1985 Carroll took a personal stance against South Africa’s apartheid policy and boycotted the World Championship Title, sacrificing a potential third consecutive win in the process. But his decision inspired other pros to take a clear stance on the issue and shows that surfers can also be freethinking leaders.

Image: aquabumps.com

Carroll also overcame a number of health issues throughout his career, including an infected fin gash in 1978, stomach rupture in 1979, knee reconstruction in 1981, multiple ligament tears, various cuts, lower-back strains and a concussion in 1996.

But his strict training and love of the surf kept him going, and helped earned him a sponsorship deal with Quicksilver in 1988 that turned out to be the first multi-million dollar contract in the industry.

In his 14 years on the world tour, Carroll won 26 titles, finished in the top five a record of nine times and has been recognised as a master in Australia, Hawaii and on the world stage.

Tom Carroll’s career combined a love of the waves with sheer determination and free thought. His victories both in and out of the water have since paved the way for a greater appreciation of the sport and the lifestyle that comes with surfing.