Tom Carroll was outside my house at 6 a.m. in a white Alpha GTV six-cylinder, fuel-injected beast. That day we were driving from Newport to Snapper for the State Championships. We completed the drive, almost 1,000 kilometers, in seven and a half hours. I don’t think that will ever be beaten, even with the freeways these days. It was one of the most frightening things I have ever done in my life. I’d rather take off at Jaws with a life jacket on than go through that again. The crazy thing about that drive is that is was so indicative of the way Tom surfed. He always looked reckless, but deep down, he’s totally in control of what he’s doing.
To tell you the truth, I almost quit surfing because of Tom Carroll. One year, we drew each other five times in a row in the second round, and he beat me every time. It almost ruined my life, because I almost gave up competing.
Tom Carroll is a legend, and one of my best friends to this day. He changed the face of surfing. Guys Like Shaun Tomson and Rabbit Bartholomew started professional surfing in my eyes, but Tom took it a step further. He brought that training aspect into it, which allowed him to surf waves like he did. No one surfed Pipeline like Tom Carroll. He really attacked the wave. People, myself included, were just surviving out there, just trying to make the wave, while Tom was actually surfing it—not only surfing it, but ripping it apart.
The minute Tom put that helmet on, things changed for him. His head was the only part of his body that was not injured and he figured if his head is safe, then the rest of him would be okay, too. When that helmet was on his surfing went through the roof at Pipeline.
Who can forget that infamous snap? It’s probably the first and only wave at Pipeline that ever that got scored solely for a maneuver. I was on the beach watching it. As Tom drew off the bottom, there was this anticipation of him kicking out. Instead, he went straight up the face and just put the rail in and performed this incredible hack. It gave me chicken-skin. Guys are pulling back, guys are getting hurt, snapping boards, and Tom Carroll’s out there tearing the tops off and surfing the wave like it was a 2-foot shorey.
A week later he’d be in Allentown, Pennsylvania, winning a contest in a wave pool. No matter where he was, he adapted to it, and surfed the hell out of it. I remember thinking, how are we supposed to compete with that? It was ridiculous. He’s one of the best surfers of all time, and no matter who comes along in my lifetime, I’m never going to change my view on that. —Martin Potter