Dan Moore grew up in Florida where he was introduced to surfing in the Atlantic Ocean at a young age. In search of bigger and better waves, he moved to the North Shore of Oahu when he was 17 years old where he currently resides. He owns and operates a thriving cabinet shop and surfboard business (check out www.outereef.com) which allows him to maintain is love for the ocean. Mostly kiteboarding, tow surfing and snowboarding these days keep his foot free and in shape. His passion for years had always been paddle surfing all the big wave spots on the North Shore, Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay and all of the remote outer reefs. These days when the surfs not pumping you can find Dan out kite surfing at the popular windy sailing spots. Flying around on a tiny board at 40 mph and jumping 30 feet has been a great training tool for his true passion, tow-surfing.It was a natural progression for him to be evolved in the new sport of tow-in surfing. Teaming up with Ken Bradshaw in 1994 they learned the hard way by trial and error, being one of the first teams to become proficient at this challenging sport on the North Shore. In 1998 their hard training paid off when the biggest, cleanest swell in 10 years came through at outside “Log Cabins”. The rogue 30-foot day was captured by the I-Max film team and featured in the I-Max theater release “Extreme”. Dan’s first trip to tow surf the spot “Maverick’s” in 1999 landed him on the cover of Surfer Magazine pulling into the monster barrel on a solid 25 footer. Last winter Dan made a strong showing at the “JAWS Tow-In World Cup” and this winter he was able to nail down the second place for the best maneuver with his partner Mark Anderson at the “Jaws Expression Session”. Dan and Mark hope to be top contenders at this year’s JAWS Tow-In World Cup.
Towsurfer.com: When you first came over to the Islands at 17 years old, what was that like?
Dan Moore: The whole scene was a lot different. It seems like there were a lot of big egos with a lot to prove. Fights and localism were a daily assurance and women were few. Nowadays there are not too many fights and girls are plenty. I surfed Sunset a lot during my first winter in 1974 and 1975. There would be months when the surf wouldn’t go under 10’ and coming from Florida doesn’t give you a lot of big wave experience. Almost every time out seemed like it was 15’ and I’d have a near death drowning experience. You either learned fast or quit surfing.
You have decades of big wave paddling experience from all over the North Shore. Where else have your travels taken you to paddle surf big waves before the whole tow-in surfing thing started?
Guam, throughout Indonesia, Philippines, South Africa, Azores, up and down the East and West coast of the U.S., Mexico and Costa Rica.
How has the experience of surfing big waves helped you mentally and physically to prepare for tow-in surfing when you first started?
I feel that paddle surfing has always been the core of all surfing sports. Coming from that background plays a great part of taking your surfing to the next level. Being able to understand all of the signs of the ocean is very important. The wind, tides, currents, upcoming swells and just wave judgment can take years to learn and understand. Paddle surfing puts you very close to these elements. After doing this for years and years you become mentally comfortable in all conditions. Surfing Waimea, Sunset, and the Outer Reefs had a way of preparing me mentally and physically for the big stuff we ride today.
I have heard stories of tow surfing actually being performed in the early 70’s. Having spoken to you about this earlier, can you share your knowledge of how, when and where tow surfing was first performed.
To the best of my knowledge and someone please correct me if I’m wrong. In 1974 Jeff Johnson (the contractor) and Flippy Hoffman did tow-ins with a Boston Whaler at Keana Point and again in 1987 Herbie Fletcher towed Martin Potter into large 2nd reef Pipeline during a break at the Pipe Masters.
It is a well-known fact that Laird and a few of the boys, such as Buzzy Kerboz and Derrick Doerner were the first to take an inflatable Zodiac raft with a 40 hp motor out to a spot called Phantom’s on the North Shore of Oahu. Their approach was simply to check it out. Kerbox said, “We didn’t even tow that day. We just went out on the boat, checked it out and drove around, while dropping into a 15-footer that almost caught us. It was a little creepy. If we’d been caught and flipped with the engine blazing, it could have been nasty.” It wasn’t until the next go out in 1991 with a 60 hp Mercury Outboard when they started to get the hang of a motor assists tow, like a water skier or wakeboarder. It was quick enough so that one could actually have the speed to glide down the giant open face. So after this came the idea of a PWC assist watercraft. The following year they brought their experiences and passion to Pe’ahi to surf even bigger and more powerful waves from a PWC. Would you say that it’s because of Laird and his friends, that tow surfing is where it is today?
Yes, for sure and everyone else has just been playing catch up all these years.
In your opinion, where did tow-in surfing first make its true mark and who is responsible for the growth of the sport? Was it with Jeff Johnson and Flippy Hoffman in the early to mid 70’s or Laird and his crew in the early 90’s?
Obvious, it was with Laird and the Maui crew that brought the sport to where it is today with commitment and passion. These are the guys that deserve a lot of credit for their dedication to the sport.
How did you and Ken Bradshaw first hook up as tow-in partners in 1994?
In 1992 Ken was going to team up with Mark Foo. When Mark died 1994, I guess I was the next best choice. We had been paddle surfing a lot together at all the outer reefs. At the time I guess there was no one else crazy enough to select. We ended up working really well together.
Are you and Ken considered one of the first and original established tow teams from the beginning?
I suppose if you’re talking about just the North Shore. The Maui guys had a few years jump on us.
Tell us about some of your earlier experiences with trial and error as a tow team. I mean there wasn’t very much research and development around of team structure, safety, and equipment so how did you guys figure it all out?
The first winter when we attempted to do tow-ins we weren’t even using foot straps and remembering back to that winter, it was really big with a lot of monster swells. So after major dues being paid, we finally figured it out when we heard back from the Maui guys that they were using foot straps and half way through the next winter we finally added foot straps to our boards and learned it was a great way to deal with the chop. By that time the lifeguards on the North Shore were already using rescue sleds. Gary Fisher of Wahoo International was kind enough to support us with a sled. Then through a lot of very close calls getting tied up with the rope, we determined we needed some kind of quick release system in case of an emergency situation. The board size that first winter we were riding like 8’ boards and that made it really challenging. By the next winter, we started coming down to 7’4″ or so. It’s amazing now how the sport has progressed to the point where we are riding boards as small as 6’.
In your opinion, who are some of the other guys and or teams that are responsible for the progression of tow-in surfing?
On Oahu, it was Charlie Walker and Dawson Jones, Alex Cook and Ron Barron, The Wills Brothers and Shane Horan, Kent Bright (Python) and Paul Dunn and Darrick Doerner covering both Oahu and Maui. On Maui, ou had Pete Cabrinha, Mike Walsh, Rush Randle, Brent Lickle, Buzzy Kerbox, Gerry Lopez, Lyon Hamilton and of course Dave Kalama and Laird Hamilton. Sorry if I’ve missed anyone.
Share with us your thrilling day at Log Cabins in 1998. The day that became known as the biggest day in 10 years. After training as hard as you and Ken did for four years, it finally paid off.
The winter had started out as a really good one, lots of 20 ft. days leading up to Jan. 28.That morning, they had called the “Eddie” to be on at Waimea Bay. It was a zoo. Everyone was there. George Downing wanted guys to start paddling out but nobody wanted to. If you could have made it out you might have been able to ride the smaller ones, but when the sets came, the whole bay was completely closed out, 30 ft. plus. Huge. Ken was invited to surf in the event so I was stuck to wait for him. When they finally canceled the contest headed up to my house at Backyards loaded up the 1100 wave runner and proceeded to go check it out. It was bigger than we’ve ever seen it. We almost didn’t make it out, flying over sets while falling off the machine and climbing back on.When we got to Log Cabins there was no out yet. We sat and checked it out for a while, it was insane, 30 ft. and perfectly glassy. Not a drop of water out of place. All of the creatures on the ocean floor had joined hands and were singing “We Are The World”
Is there one wave that you rode on that day that sticks out in your mind still to this day?
We went through two tanks of gas that day. I had so many good ones that day each one was as good as the next, it’s hard to remember just one that stands out. I only got stuck behind a section on one wave which really worked me good and when I came up, it was all about the stars.
How did this the day change your perspective on the whole sport of tow-in surfing?
I remember being really let down on almost every swell the rest of that winter. After surfing waves that big and that good it changes your whole perspective on what you call big waves. We’ve become extremely jaded. Twenty feet doesn’t seem very big anymore.
Then in 1999 you and Ken went over to Mavericks and you scored a 25-foot cover shot bomb while towing and forever changed the minds and views on many NorCal guys with respect to what this sport is truly all about. Did this feel like another huge accomplishment and step forward for you and Ken?
I remember that day as being very heavy, big, windy and bumpy. I was having a hard time driving Ken and a hard time figuring out the wave being my first time there. The freaking water was so cold and I had this funky wetsuit on. My teeth were chattering, and my hands and feet were numb. I’ve always been one of those guys that downplay heavy events, almost shying away from the limelight, but it’s not too often you get a photo of yourself on the cover of Surfer Mag. I was more stoked than feeling like we did some huge accomplishment.
When did you first tow Jaws/Pe’ahi and share with us what your first session or first wave was like?
I can’t believe it took that long to get over there. It was last winter we started to go over to train for the World Cup. The afternoon we showed up Laird and boys were filming for the James Bond Movie. It was like Universal Studios at Pe’ahi. They were on a break when we pulled up to their staging boat and there was no one towing. Laird said it was all ours while they were resting. So it was like a dream, 15 ft’ and oil glass. Ken wanted me to go first and I remember being a little nervous. You could feel the eyes watching you. I was riding my 6’ 6″ at the time and the board seemed to work really good in those waves. I nailed down some great waves that day. Now every chance I get, I’m on the plane to Maui and straight to Pe’ahi.
Last year’s JAWS tow-In World Cup really was the contest that showed the world how serious of a sport this is and how far it has come. I believe that last year’s event opened the minds and eyes of not only the up and coming tow athletes but the contest promoters, filmmakers, the industry and the sponsors. What are your thoughts?
I have to agree with you Eric. That was the first time a real tow surfing contest had been successfully run with that kind of prize money. As much as the Maui boys didn’t want the contest at Pe’ahi, it was still a great movement in the right direction for the sport. It can only get better from here.
It seems today that there are some tow teams that are taking this sport very seriously and treating it like a business. Garrett McNamara is a perfect example. He has a great manager named Lowell Hussey and together with a few other principle supporters, they have created what looks like the Garrett McNamara team fully equipped with a promotional website, posters, shirts, film crew and some great sponsors. Laird Hamilton, like Garrett, has all of the above and more, except he has made the decision not to compete in events. Whether competing or not, it is known that this sport is now beginning to offer some financial return for the more serious and committed athletes. What are your personal goals or financial motives from a sport that you enjoy and love doing?
I’ve always feared that when you tried to make money off the sport you love so much that it would take the fun out of it. But everyone needs to make a living and if you can do it with what you love to do, then more power to you. Competing and winning a little money is not a bad thing for me. I really enjoy making tow boards and seeing the amount of fun they bring to a surfer and I have recently gotten involved in the filming aspect of tow surfing.
What can you tell us about your movie project that you are working on with Bruce Jenkins?
I can only tell you we’re working on a movie script. It’s still too early to talk about, when we get closer to its completion I’ll keep you posted.
Tow partners are often referred to as life partners or how it is like a marriage or relationship. At times tow partners can’t see eye to eye and have to split up in search of another partner. You and Ken have had a recent departure after almost a decade of teaming up together along with R&D and now you are teaming up with Mark Anderson. Can you share with us what happened between you guys and how things are working out with Mark?
Another tough question Eric! After doing the contest last year with Ken, I kinda knew and felt his heart wasn’t into it. He sort of struggled with the wave over there and I was determined to compete no matter what. So when they invited us to the event this year, Ken said he didn’t want to compete. I wasn’t surprised, but it’s not like you can just look in the yellow pages to find a new partner. I started to call around and this guy, Mark Anderson’s name kept coming up. So one day I gave him a call, flew to Maui to meet him and we clicked. Mark grew up on Maui and has been charging Honolua Bay for 30 years. He has turned out to be a great driver and a great surfer and I’ve made a new friend. I feel really good about our new partnership. Ken and I are on good terms and we still tow together on the North Shore.
You and Mark got 2nd place in this year’s “Expression Session” at Jaws and his must have felt very rewarding and reassuring towards your decision to team up with Mark!
Yes, it’s like taking a big gamble and having it pay off.
It’s a real bummer that the main Jaws event didn’t happen this year!
Yeah, it’s too bad but there is always next year. Mark and I felt that we were totally ready this winter to become one of the top three contenders for the main event had it happened. We are hoping to carry this enthusiasm through next year and we’re hoping to become a major threat to the other competitors.
It seems that in the past eight months more and more riders are making the decision to go smaller and heavier with equipment for JAWS and smaller and lighter with equipment for California. Why do you think that the R&D took as long as it did to figure out?
This year the level of performance has been pushed up a few notches and therefore tow surfers are now becoming more experimental with their boards in order to be more maneuverable. In my personal opinion, I’ve always been a believer that you don’t need that much weight with tow boards.
You have recently built your own website which seems like the thing to do today if you are an athlete on a mission. What can you tell us about your new website www.outereef.com?
I put the website together with the intention of helping to market my tow boards and miscellaneous tow-in equipment. Hopefully, it would also be an instrumental tool for sharing information with other tow surfers and possibly finding sponsorship.
You are shaping a lot of tow boards these days. What in your opinion is the right board for you when tow surfing Jaws on a 20’ plus day?
I made myself about 6 new boards this season. Out of all those boards, my favorite board is a 6’0″. It’s like the most versatile board I’ve ever owned. It works whether it’s small or 20’ plus Jaws, glassy or choppy. It makes the choice of which board I’m going to use really easy.
Talk to us about the weight of your tow boards for Jaws. Some of the guys prefer heavier boards and you like your boards light.
My theory on this is that a heavier board has a slower reaction to recovery. A lighter board will also be more maneuverable. It’s just a matter of being able to deal with the chop.
What kind of training do you do today?
I work out at the gym 3 days a week. Upper body and legs on the machines. The stair climber for cardio crunches for the abs, and I swim laps in the pool, doing the backstroke for my lower back. During the flat summer months, I kiteboard a lot which keeps your board skills really sharp and keeps you use to the speed factor.
I always ask this question because I feel it is a crucial one. How important is the aspect of training and safety for the sport of tow surfing?
I feel it’s really important if you like the monster stuff. It’s not a matter of if you’re going to be hit hard by one, it’s just a matter of when you’re going to be hit by one and when you are, you don’t want to be some frail, weak and skinny guy.
With the talk about banning PWC’s in some areas of California, along with some groups that are opposed to the sport of tow-in surfing and the safety concerns involved, where do you see the future of the sport headed?
I think the sport has taken too strong of a hold in many areas to be just flat out bad. We’ve been real lucky here in Hawaii. The State has been willing to work with us and we’ve been able to police our own to keep the riff raff down. Tow surfers need to pull together and get involved with their local peers.
Great Interview Dan and thanks again for the tow board. The thing works unreal! Even in small training stuff, it jams and turns on a note.”
Thank you Eric and great job on the website! You have developed a tool that is working for the whole sport, including yourself.