Storming on

15th December 2008, 8:00 WST

The surf is beckoning Tom Carroll. He is in his car, as we speak by phone, heading for one of Sydney’s northern beaches to catch a quick wave during a break from his job at Quiksilver.

The next day he will be on a plane heading for Hawaii and the Eddie Aikau big wave invitational.

Carroll is always on the move, both in his job as a brand ambassador for Quiksilver and on the hunt for the biggest waves in the world.

The former world champion surfer is 47 but there is no chance of him slowing down. Along with fellow Australian big wave man Ross Clarke-Jones, he has moved into an even higher risk water sport, storm surfing.

The pair have made a documentary on the sport which will be shown for the first time on Discovery on Wednesday.

Footage filmed off southern Japan, where they were towed into giant waves thrown up by a typhoon, and in the notoriously rough waters off the Cape of Good Hope helped them win the contract to make Storm Surfers.

In the show, the pair tackle turbulent waters in Bass Strait, 30km off Tasmania, and off southern WA.

The obvious question is, why do they chase ever more dangerous waves? They go into the ocean at a time when everyone else has the sense to get out.

“Yeah, I know but I just love it,” Carroll said. “It’s part of me.”

He admits that while they were making Storm Surfers, for the first time he felt that if it wasn’t the right situation he would listen to himself and say no.

“I guess I listened to that voice as clearly as possible and tried to drop my ego because my ego (gets) in the way and can get me into a lot of danger.

“But I love it, I love the ocean, I feel like I am a part of the ocean. It’s not a foreign place for me.”

The person who tracked the storm fronts and found the big waves for Storm Surfers was meteorologist Ben Matson, who runs a company specialising in wave prediction.

As well as finding and getting out to giant waves, the production team also did some experiments on the forces generated by the ocean during storms. After Clarke-Jones gets badly dumped, it is revealed that the falling lip of a 10m wave can weigh 410 tonnes or the equivalent of 315 small cars.

Carroll is dismissive of the dangers.

“Look, the forces of the ocean can be powerful and bedevilling in a very, very small surf, too.

“Traditional surfing is just one person, one surfboard.

“It is you with the ocean and you take full responsibility for yourself and that can get pretty frightening, too.

“With jet-ski assist we have a lot of potential for everything to go wrong, machinery isn’t perfect, humans are not perfect, but we cut down those possibilities by ticking off the boxes and making everything squared up before we go out.

“I think we are pretty safe. We have flotation devices.”

They do — but Carroll is wearing one in the documentary when he is ploughed under two waves and disappears for 40 seconds to what he describes as a “deep, dark place”.

“It does look dangerous,” he agrees, “but just being involved at that level with nature it makes me feel alive and that’s why I do it.”