Tom Butler is a tall, talkative, likeable goofyfooter from Newquay who has set himself the goal of riding the biggest waves Europe has to offer. That he is doing it the hard way, with little sponsorship and by getting pounded in the harshest of winter climates just makes his act all the more impressive. From key sessions at Nazare and Mully, Tom keeps popping up whenever the Atlantic goes giant, getting some bombs and taking some beatings. Here he talks us through the latest winter, some of the key sessions and his future plans for scaring the shit out of himself. All photos Lars Jacobsen
On towing Mully
The last big swell, the day the competition had been looking to run, after being beaten back to harbour by a massive hail storm, I went out with Eric Rebiere and got on the rope and was towed me into four nice ones. I wasn’t fading looking for barrels as there was so much chop and bumps and evil bits on the wave, so was happy just to make them all to the end. Then I towed Eric into four nice ones, but saw Kohl Christensen was sitting out on the edge on rocks near the headland and drove over to the rocks and took him out. The first one I towed him into a smaller wave, but it had a really good barrel. After that I drove back out and saw a few good lumps. We let Danilo and Dylan Stott go the first one and then I said to Kohl, “Right mate, no 2 is the one," as it was the best shaped lump all day. I dropped him into it and followed on the top for a good four seconds looking down at the ledge and apparently he just kept fading over the ledges and stood pretty much back in thing.
I haven’t seen the footage, but the other guys were saying it was a 20-25 foot barrel, so it’s pretty sick to get a guy that good into a wave like that. Afterwards he was beaming, going this place is insane!
Alain Riou was there too, so I towed him into two, but I then had to bail and get my arse out of there. I think those boys realised what surfing in Ireland is all about. They were rained on, hailed on, snowed on, got ripped off by swells, but then got some of the best waves of their lives. That sums up winter there.
There was two really good days. The first day was nuts, but the tide was a bit low so the boys towed some mental ones. I paddled out a bit after the high and my first was evil, all steppy. I had to pulled through the back and almost was sucked over the falls onto a dry ledge. Then a 10-12 foot wash through came through and ragdolled me through to inside point. I ended up getting sucked into a rock pool, so was safe for a minute, but then a wave came over washed me back out. So I was lying on a dry ledge, with my fins ripped out and that was that half hour session. And I was fucking freezing.
The next day I was a bit late, but it was perfect. Nic Von Rupp scored the best ones. He was on the perfect boards, a 6’4". Its so ledgy out there, you don’t need a big board, you just have to get under them.
Nazare, sponsorship and Sebastian
Over the last four months Sebastian Steudtner has made all this of happen. He has been the best friend and the best role model. He has taught me a hell of a lot on the ski and the safety and about the work ethic and determination need to ride these waves. With no sponsor he has also helped me out financially, buying all the fuel for example. And I reckon he has to be one of the best jet ski drivers in the world. The guy is incredible.
I think at Nazare, we are the only guys that haven’t lost our ski down there. And we have a shitty old 110hp, while G-Mac and Cottie have like 250hp new turbos. With Nazare there is so much air in the whitewater, often our ski would just cavitate, and you’d be going nowhere with those wedges bearing down on you. Fucking scary. Now through we have Sebastian has a brand new Yamaha and are fully prepped. We have another ski and my car and all our gear stashed in Ireland, and are now going to base ourselves in the town at Nazare for the rest of the winter with the new ski and an after watching Dorian sorting out some 11 foot boards. So right now, we are covered as any pair in Europe at the two best big wave spots. We are totally prepared for when the big wave sessions go down. Now I just gotta go to ISPO and hustle some sponsors so I can get some finance to go bigger and better.