“It’s a crime that that guy does not get paid to surf.”
Laurie Towner has already etched his name into surfing folklore. He’s one of the most admired surfers in the big wave community for his exploits at Teahupoo, Shipsterns, Hawaii and Indonesia. However, after being dropped by Billabong in 2014 Laurie fell off the surfing radar. He focused his energy on tending to his young family, fishing, surfing and by all accounts leading a humble life in his beloved home town of Yamba.
Now with the backing of needESSENTIALS who have been helping him chase some swells we finally get to see him again. And it’s his performance at Cloudbreak three days ago during one of the most hyped up swells since 2012 that has everyone talking.
Talon Clemow, director of the brilliant documentary, Thundercloud told Tracks that Towner’s performance over the course of the swell defied imagination.
“In my opinion the best surfer over the whole swell hands down was Laurie Towner. It’s a crime that that guy does not get paid to surf. He schooled everyone,” said Clemow after arriving home in Tasmania.
“He got the wave before Makua’s and it was a solid 20-foot round, beast of a wave. Billy Kemper was paddling back out and yelled, ‘Get off the rope!’ I think Laurie was content with his tow wave so he jumped back on the boat, waxed up his board and then paddled out. He was the MVP of the swell.”
Tracks spoke to former CT pro, turned big-wave charger, Dan Ross who was on hand for the historic Cloudbreak swell with Laurie to dissect his childhood friend’s performance. He, Laurie, Navrin Fox and a few mates from home flew over for the swell to share an unforgettable experience.
“I’m still buzzing. Last night drifting off to sleep I was still going through the waves caught and the waves I saw and the conditions I was in.”
When quizzed on Laurie’s performance at huge Cloudy Ross says he’s still in awe but was not surprised given his talent in waves of consequence, especially on his backhand where he simply seems to excel.
“We had a few waves before the swell hit, he was riding a bigger board, and you could just see he was looking so comfortable each surf he had leading up to when the swell actually kicked,” he says.
“Everyone knows how good he is in those kinds of waves. When it actually hit he just clicked into gear. He was just so confident and just so committed. He looked the most comfortable out of everyone and he also put himself in the deepest and most critical parts of these huge waves and just had a ball doing it.
“There was one drop in particular that everyone was just freaking on. It was almost one of the tow waves and Laurie just knifed into it on a big 8’6” and made it. It was hard to describe. It was just incredible. Everyone was just going, ‘That was one of the best things I have ever seen in surfing.’ To have all the best big wave guys in the lineup say the same thing and clap him as he paddled back out, that doesn’t usually happen.”
While many are still trying to process Ramon Navarro’s incredible ride and how it stacks up against everything ridden during the 2012 Thundercloud swell, Ross says that wave was years in the making.
“Ramon and Kohl were so in sync with the swell. They had been thinking about it, visualising and remembering that wave from the Thundercloud swell [the unridden one Healey dived under]. Those guys had been giving that energy for a long time and you could see that with Ramon. He was just in the spot and the wave he did get he just surfed it so well.”
Now that the dust has settled on a historic day for big wave surfing Ross, Laurie and many of the remaining big-wave surfers have returned home. Many chasing the next swell, others like Loz (who works as a tiler), back to their 9-5.
While Laurie might not be paid big bucks by corporate sponsors his approach to surfing is one that appeals to surfers the world over. A humble waterman that epitomises the essence of being a surfer. Ross believes it’s his mate’s genuineness that is one his most defining traits.
“He’s got a fishing bench right near my fence and he’s there so often cleaning his fish with his kids there watching. Kids from the neighbourhood are often there too. The other day a young kid from the neighbourhood had just caught his first big flathead and he brought it over to Laurie’s filleting table and he showed him how to fillet it. He’s such a waterman and he’s so connected to the ocean. Whether he’s charging huge waves or at home doing that he’s just the same guy. To me that’s the best thing about Loz, he’s such a good human.”