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Ask any big wave surfer on earth to list the top ten big wave surfers in the world, and chances are good that Laurie Towner is going to be on the list. For a while there, he was at the top of the heap — one of the guys with a big sponsor lining his wallet and sending him all over the planet in search of the biggest and best waves. Towner never disappointed. He consistently put himself in positions that no one in their right mind would put themselves in. He looked over the ledges of waves that looked impossible, then made them possible. From Teahupoo to Pipeline, Laurie Towner stands eye to eye with the best big wave surfers in the world.
Strangely, back in 2014, Towner found himself on Billabong’s chopping block. The company was in the middle of a talent-purge, tightening the belt straps in the wake of a disastrous financial year. Towner, with a baby on the way, scratched around for other sponsors for a while, but soon it was evident he was going to have to find a more traditional line of work.
He shifted gears and became a carpenter in his hometown of Angourie. After a few years, he took up tiling and managed to keep a firm eye on the important things in life: his family. But just because he’s not touring the planet on the surf industry’s dime doesn’t mean he’s still not one of the best in the world, and he recently took to Instagram to air a few grievances with the WSL’s Big Wave Awards, giving an example of a certain wave he caught that (definitely) should have been at least in the running for top five barrels of the year. He did not hold anything back. Here’s the post in its entirety:
“I feel for the surfers who have to keep the corporate wankers happy. I’m a bit bummed but in some way happy this wave didn’t make the top 5 nominees for @wsl @wslbigwave awards. After Surfer Mag didn’t put this wave in their top 5 for barrels of the year beaten by 3-foot Skeleton Bay waves and a few others (if I had the chance, I wouldn’t swap all 5 waves chosen in surfer awards for this one haha).
I knew there was no way this wave would make the top 5 Big Wave award nominations because of corporate bullshit! What’s the surf industry going to get out of Laurie Towner. The reason I’m somewhat happy is because all my life I thought it would be amazing to have a ride of the year next to my name. I now know it’s a meaningless award chosen by kooks with no idea who play the cards of surfers’ careers.
Winning awards would be in some big wave surfers’ contracts. It used to be in mine and it truly sucks for the surfers trying to make a career out of riding big waves, lucky for me it means nothing now. Although the money would have been nice if I made the top 5, it reassures me I want nothing to do with winning awards. I will never enter a wave again if I’m to ride another bomb, which I will.
This wave is MY ride of the year, maybe the ride of my life and no one can take that from me. Maybe I’m being biased. You tell me. I wouldn’t change this wave for anyone else’s wave this year if had the chance— even if you were to give me 50g on top, there is no better feeling than to successfully paddle a big, scary draining wave safely to the channel. To all the up and coming big wave surfers: Fuck the Big Wave Awards, do it for yourself no one else!
Sorry If I’m being negative. I’m not the only one who feels a little hard done by in this years’ nominations. There are a handful of terrible decisions. I just want what’s best for the future of young big wave surfers, and this needs to be fixed! Honestly @wsl get tow waves out of Ride of the Year! You shouldn’t be helped by a Jetski. It’s also hard to think an unmade wave can be Ride of the Year. Well, @granttwigbaker wave might be an exception haha.”
The comments section was filled with some of the best surfers in the world all putting their two cents in. “It can’t, unfortunately, be both ways,” wrote Kelly Slater. “Either you’re upset or you don’t care. Look at it this way, if you made $50K, in Oz you pay over half that in taxes, so it’s a lot less than it sounds after all’s said and done.🤦🏻♂️ And everyone of us wanted to ride a wave like that this year or at some point in our lives. Keep it positive. A win wouldn’t have proven anything that wasn’t already. Great ride.”
Grant Twiggy Baker weighed in, as well. “We all agree Laurie and we have all been there as well,” he wrote. “I’ve lost many a biggest paddle to guys going straight Bru. But you know what, rather then looking at the negatives I’ve wished the guys who did win all the best and used it to push myself further and to do better and go bigger and deeper the next year.”