AUSTRALIA'S former world champion Tom Carroll is 46 going on 16, with the wisdom and fearlessness you get from simultaneously being at both ends of the spectrum.
He's old enough to know the legendary Big Wave Invitational In Memory of Eddie Aikau is seriously dangerous, but still bristles with enough attitude to pack his bags, grit his teeth and go.
The most famous big-wave contest was created in 1985 to honour Hawaiian waterman Eddie Aikau. Twenty-eight of the world's most accomplished paddle-in big-wave riders are on alert, waiting for the call that could come day or night — to grab their bags and converge on the legendary surfing ground of Waimea Bay, on the north shore of Oahu, for the most jaw-dropping contest of all.
The 28 are spread around the globe with their hearts in their mouths while they wait for the beast to start stirring. The holding period is from December 1 to February 29, and heats do not begin until the faces of the waves reach a thunderous nine metres.
A man of Carroll's age and past glories as a double world champion should feel no obligation to keep testing himself in such a frightening cauldron, but as soon as the call comes that the waves have maximised, he will be on the first plane.
"There's plenty of storm activity up there — it's just a matter of time," Carroll said yesterday. "It's the ocean; she's just got a mind of her own. When the time comes, you've just got to get yourself together because you're moving towards an animal, you know. You want the fear to be there. It has to be.
"If there's no fear, there's something wrong with you. There's the anticipation and then you're out there and the ocean is pouring in at you. It's a humbling experience. You sense that you're insignificant, really, but that can be inspiring."
Given the strict wave-height requirement, The Eddie has only been held seven times in 21 years. The winner receives around $100,000 — and unbridled respect.
Media Man Australia Profiles