There are few who will disagree that Laurie Towner is one of the best big wave surfers on earth. When it comes to serious waves of consequence, Towner surfs them with a sort of preternatural ease that can only come from putting oneself in very dangerous waves very often. He’s got an odd story, though—despite the fact that everyone who watches him surf knows that he’s one of the best, he found himself on Billabong’s chopping block back in 2014.
When Laurie was 18, he paddled out at Shipstern Bluff in Tasmania. It was just him and Andy Irons out there, while a crew watched from the boat. After paddling out to a point just a little bit deeper than usual, the boat erupted. Everyone was screaming. Towner turned around to see a beast rushing towards him. Head down, Laurie paddled for it, made the drop, and rode into the rest of his life.
That wave at Shippies was one of the most twisted, messed up waves ever ridden. And over the years, he proved it wasn’t just a one-time thing. From Teahupoo to Pipeline, Towner’s talent in waves from waist high to skyscraper-high is almost unparalleled.
Towner now leads a different life than he expected. When Billabong showed him the door and a baby on the way, Towner scratched around for other sponsors, didn’t find any. It was at a time when the surf industry was hurting, and Towner wasn’t the only one who found himself without a sticker.
Towner, though, was realistic about his situation. 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.
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. In Gary Parker’s “A Portrait of Laurie Towner” the viewer gets a glimpse into the everyday life and philosophy of the big wave charger. And it sounds as though he’s got his mind in the right place: “I guess a perfect day is all about the ocean and the family,” he says. “I don’t want to teach them to be the best at something. I don’t want to ever push that on my kids. I just want to teach them to enjoy what’s in front of them.”