Mention the name Tom Carroll to a surf nut and the word you’ll likely hear back is “power”.

Tom Carroll Surfing Image: Getty Images

During the fluorescent days of the 1980s, this goofy-footer redefined notions of power. With his leaden stance, his low centre of gravity and his muscular dynamism, Carroll carved deep, co lines from the lefts of Avalon, to the rights of J-Bay, to the monsters of Pipeline. His 14 years on the world tour yielded two world titles, three Pipeline Masters titles, a list of injuries that would make Samson wince, and perhaps the most famous single turn ever performed – his legendary forehand snap at the ‘91 Pipe Masters.

He was the first man to bring a true professional training ethos to surfing ‒ his tree-trunk quads were legendary on the tour. He was also the first man to bring true financial nous to surfing ‒ a contract he signed with Quiksilver in 1988 made him the sport’s first millionaire. For all this and more, Tracks ranked Carroll “The Greatest Surfer” in the magazine’s storied 40-year history. With his 50th birthday casting a long shadow, “TC” now dedicates his time to his Discovery Channel program Storm Surfers. The plotline? Carroll and mate Ross Clarke-Jones travel the southern coastline of this wide brown land chasing storms in search of the biggest wave in the Southern Ocean. The blond mop may have thinned, and his knees may give him a bit of curry, but the great man continues to redraw surfing’s parameters.

It’s been a wild winter – must’ve been a busy few months for Storm Surfers?

Yeah, well, there’s a winter storm window that we’re always working with and we’re scoring at the moment. There’s been some awesome stuff – it’s been a pretty eventful few weeks ...

Big-wave surfing looks ridiculously scary. What’s the hairiest moment you’ve faced?

Just recently I went over with a jetski. That was pretty ... interesting. Really scary, actually. It was at Cow Bommie down in the south-west of Australia. It’s one of those spots where I was about two kilometres out to sea on a jetski, and this wave just swamped us. We were in a bit of trouble – we were lucky there were no heavy injuries. Really, really lucky.

Tom Carroll Beach sit photos by, Getty Images

Do you ever think you’re going to die?

Oh, it never really comes into my mind that I’m going to die. But I certainly look closely at what i’m doing each day, because I’ve got three kids and they really depend on me to be alive.

Sorry, probably a bit morbid ...

But it’s real, you know. It’s real. We’re dealing with that stuff. And it’s good to deal with it, because I can’t be stupid with what I’m doing. When you’re dealing with the ocean you can’t turn your back ‒ you’ve got to keep your eye on her. And every little cell of us has to be alive. We have to be right up there, feeling it the whole time.

What about the psyche of big-wave surfing ? how do you overcome fear?

I think the more action I put in to what I’m doing, the better I am. It’s all in the preparation; all about preparing for the action. If I’m not prepared for what I’m about to do ‒ if I just jump into it ‒ I’m that much more vulnerable to things going wrong. You know, there’s a lot to prepare with tow-in surfing. There’re all these little bits and pieces: machinery, teamwork, coordination of communication. Plus, when you’re doing a production, you’ve got to make sure your team’s safe. The idea of going out for a simple surf disappears when you’re doing a production.

It must be incredibly physically demanding. How do you train for what you do?

For me, big-wave surfing demands muscle bulk because of the hits I take. Particularly as I get older, I need to make sure I’m holding on to my muscle mass, so my frame’s well-supported. But then, I can’t go too heavy, because that puts my tendons and ligaments in danger. So I’ve got to run a fine line.

 Surfing seems such a spare sport. Is there any equipment that can help you deal with the rigours of training and big-wave surfing?

Yeah, look we’ve been working on this project at Quiksilver for a while, where we’ve put performance into our boardshorts – just something small that will give us a bit of an edge. So these Reactor Xplosive shorts have got a lycra lining with taped banding that grips to the muscle and supports the muscle structure of the butt and the thighs. Because we’re using the muscles in our legs so much, we decided to try and look for something that will support that level of action. The technology is awesome – at the end of a day my legs definitely don’t feel as burnt out.