Stab Magazine | To Tow Or Not To Tow?

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To Tow Or Not To Tow?

Dorian breaks 10-year moratorium on tow-surfing in new Monster Energy film project. 

news // May 18, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Because of its wild, unpredictable, out-of-the-way nature, the zone between Haleiwa and Puena Point doesn’t get the same attention as other big-wave spots like Waimea, Pipe, Sunset, and Jaws. But even on a dropping swell when it’s more manageable, it’s still capable of dealing someone like Makua Rothman a two-wave hold down. 

This weekend, Monster Energy’s new film project, “The Big Wave Tow-In Invitational,” airs on ABC’s World of X (1:00 PM Pacific and 10:00 AM Hawaiian time). Featuring Rothman, Shane Dorian, Kai Lenny, Nathan Florence, and Billy Kemper, it documents a tow session at Puena Point and begs the question: is there still a place for tow surfing in the sport?

Makua Rothman

“Tow surfing started where paddling stopped.” – Makua Rothman

“Towing’s had its ups and downs over the years, but after watching what Kai was doing on a big, windy day at Jaws a couple of years ago, we wanted to explore the question more,” Paul Taublieb, who directed and produced the project, told Stab. Taublieb’s other works include “Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau” and “Unchained: The Untold Story of Freestyle Motocross,” which earned Taublieb an Emmy. 

“I haven’t towed-in to waves in a decade, but this was an experiment in progression. Super fun, creative and experimental,” Dorian said.

Shot at Puena Point last winter, the production didn’t score the biggest surf you’ve ever seen, but it was sizable enough for the boys to put their feet in the straps and whip into some bombs. For mere mortals, it’s heavy enough.

Billy Kemper

3x Jaws winner Billy Kemper ain’t afraid to strap up.

“On certain days, when it’s too big or too rough to paddle, tow-in definitely has its place in our world. It’s not exactly surfing, it’s almost a different sport…it’s all about progression and performance,” said Rothman, who suffered a two-wave hold-down during the shoot and had to be spotted by an overhead helicopter to be rescued. 

Taublieb notes that more traditional sports like baseball don’t change over time, but by their very nature, sports like surfing are moving ever-forward, progressing where possible.

Kai Lenny

Exhibit A: Kai Lenny

Look no further than Lenny’s performance in “The Big Wave Tow-In Invitational” to see what Taublieb’s talking about. The swell was dropping and the wind was rising. Lenny, being true to his Maui roots, still saw opportunity in the conditions and had ski driver Derrick Doerner tow him into some peaks at Haleiwa’s toilet bowl zone. It was 10-foot, choppy, there was nobody out, and Lenny goes completely bananas. Of course, he’s strapped in, but could the airs that he’s pulling be a harbinger of things to come over the next 10 to 20 years? The rotations, inverts and grabs would indicate yes. That’s how progress happens. 

Taublieb’s “The Big Wave Tow-In Invitational” wasn’t created to compete with the Big Wave Tour or chase the mythic 100-foot wave. It was made to have an open and candid conversation about where tow surfing fits in the broad spectrum of wave riding. With an all-star cast and an Emmy-winning director/producer, it’s definitely worth your consideration. 


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