[During the Vans Triple Crown, we’ll be bringing you a whole stack of stories centred around Hawaii’s North Shore. You can read them all here.]
Think of the greatest wave ever ridden at Pipe, if such a thing existed.
The single, most iconic ride. An era defining, paradigm-shifting feat of surfboard riding, at the world most infamous wave.
Surely an incredible tube, given the spot’s name, and nature. An impossibly late drop to giant tube, followed by an exit after the spit hosing, you would’ve thought?
There are certainly lots to chose from, making it pretty hard to pin just one down. But it’s impossible not to consider Tom Carroll’s semi final ride in the 1991 Marui Pipe Masters among them.
“I just hit it”
Carroll, a two time World Champ, three time Pipemaster and one of the greatest ever at the spot, attacked Pipe in a way few mortals have prior or since.
And yet, he didn’t even get tubed on the wave in question. Turns out TC’s most famous Pipe wave, was a turn.
But what a turn it was.
“It had a nice steep wall, a perfect wall for doing a big move on” says Tommy, “and I didn’t really go, ‘this is the wave I’m gonna do the snap on’ I just hit it.”
At just 5’6″ tall with the weightlifter quads, Carroll’s surfing was always unmistakable from a distance. But in 1991, decked out in full TC regalia – Gath helmet, ridiculous thighs squeezed into Quiksilver shoulder zip springsuit, Pat Rawson 7’8″ with pink signature stripe spray – he was like a caricature of himself.
Carroll himself reckons he did a better turn in the ’91 final, after famously snaffling a wave off fierce rival Derek Ho, deeper on the peak, pulled back on. But that’s not the way history remembers it; the snap heard around the world burned itself into the collective psyche as the ultimate power surfer somehow imposing himself on the world’s most foreboding wave.
“Gath helmet, ridiculous thighs squeezed into Quiksilver shoulder zip springsuit, Rawson 7’8″ with pink signature spray – he was like a caricature of himself”
And while both the audacity and the athleticism of the turn indicated a man at the peak of his powers, it was more of a final flourish before the apocalypse.
The New Schoolers were promptly ushered in on the World Tour and pro surfing in general, with Slater’s 1992 maiden title heralding a revolution in equipment and technique.
Anyone over 25, meanwhile, was quickly be shown the exit.
If Carroll’s ’91 snap was indeed to be power surfing’s death knell, not only was it worthy of the name then, nearly three decades on, it still resonates around the surf world today.