Tom Butler is a unique guy in the big wave surfing game. Yes, he charges and no, he’s not the sport’s biggest name. Those things can be said for a lot of guys who put their life on the line in the world’s heaviest waves. What sets Butler apart though is that he shares much of his big wave ambitions, accomplishments, and failures with an incredible level of humility. A big part of that includes the very literal bumps and bruises that come along the way.
When the WSL’s Big Wave Tour made its way to Nazaré, Butler had to earn his spot in the contest. He’s a man with nothing (metaphorically speaking) to lose and everything to gain by working his way onto the tour. So when the 24-man event came to Portugal, you can imagine the UK-born surfer was hungry for a big result.
“Perhaps a bit too hungry,” Butler says. “The heat didn’t start great for me. I like to steady the nerves and get off to a fast start catching a good wave within the first five minutes of a heat. This is how most good events start for competitors. From there on you build on that first score. Time went by during my heat and I hadn’t caught a good wave. Through frustration and adrenaline, I turned and went on a big ugly wave and took a heavy wipeout.”
That wipeout resulted in five days in the hospital, suffering a Pneumothorax, and nearly losing his left ear (really).
“Many lessons have been learnt from this incident,” he says, looking back. “My love for the sport is at an all time high and I’m really looking forward to returning back to Nazaré to tackle the monster at the end of this filming series.”