Pete Tomlinson: On Trial
It is an unfortunate fact that the majority of Australian surfers live on the eastern seaboard yet it's the south and west coasts of our country that get the best waves. Unfortunate at least for those surfers in the wave rich areas that are trying to get recognition away from the surfing hubs. Although they can console themselves by surfing big, uncrowded waves so perhaps we shouldn't feel too sorry for them.
One such surfer is Pete Tomlinson from Elliston on the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia. Pete's one of those surfers that, once you've see him surf, has you wondering why the hell he isn't better known. Because he straight-up rips! But beyond that, he rips in big waves.
Fortunate circumstances helped Pete to become a great surfer. The first is that his local wave, Blackfellas, is one of the heaviest waves in Australia and he's been surfing it since he was a grommet. The second is that he comes from excellent surfing lineage. His old man, Mick, was in the first group to discover Blacks and promptly moved there from Adelaide to Elliston, establishing himself as a fearless charger and quality board shaper.
Now after twenty years of holding sway at the top of the pecking order Mick has had to move aside for his son. Though in reality it has more to do with Pete paddling deeper rather than Mick moving aside.
Watching Pete hold his ground as sets cap on Phantoms and then claw his way down the vertical face is to see a surfer that is completely at home in waves of consequence. In the barrel he has the relaxed 'dropped shoulders' style of Parko and the kind of casual grace that belies the intensity and power of the wave.
Billabong recently picked up Pete for sponsorship. They weren't the first to see the simlarity between Blacks and Teahupoo but they had the vision and confidence that Pete could take his act to Tahiti. He's heading over there well before the Billabong Pro trials start in May this year, and if he hurls himself over tropical cliffs like he does those in the desert then he's into the trials.
It's still a while away but we'll be following his progress in Tahiti and wishing him all the best.
All photos by Fredo except where indicated otherwise.// STUART NETTLE