Darrick Doerner Interview from the 2003 Towsurfer Vault


Darrick Doerner
Age: 46
DOB: 2-16-57

Height: 5’7″

Weight: 145lbs.

Hair: Brown

Eyes: Green

Marital Status: Single

Children: One son named Tiger, 8 years old

Current Residence: North Shore, Hawaii
Occupation: Extreme Wave Rider and Hawaiian Water Patrol
Years Surfing:41 years
Years Tow Surfing:12 years
Favorite Big Wave Spots: Waimea, Sunset, and Pe’Ahi
Favorite Tow Spots: Pe’Ahi, Backyards, Indo and Tahiti

Darrick started surfing at the early age of six in France. He then moved to California, and at the age of 13, he moved to the Big Island of Hawaii. From there it was school and surf or surf and school. Once he graduated Darrick moved to the North Shore in 1974 and like most surfers, once he fell in love with the ocean he knew it would be a lifelong passion. Today Darrick is recognized and acknowledged as one of the true spirits and pioneers of this amazing sport that is known as tow-in surfing. Known as Double D., Darrick has tow surfed some of the largest and heaviest waves ever on this planet. With over 12 years of R and D (what he calls research and destroy) and literally thousands of waves towed from all parts of the world, when Double D. voices his opinion or makes a statement, most if not all will listen with respect and honor to what this man has to say. Double D. is a vein to Laird’s and Kalama’s soul as they are to his. These three pioneers are visionaries as well as the heaviest waterman in the world. They have a bond and commitment to one another that is so strong and pure it will forever remain as one and this is because of brotherhood and loyalty for one another and what they have created. I am putting my last buck on the table that says Double D., Laird and Kalama are going for the long haul and if you’re willing to listen to what they have to say, it might save your ass one day including mine.

Tow-In Surfing and the beginning:
With the inherent dangers involved and the ever growing interest in eXtreme sports, tow-in surfing is and has become one of the most exciting competitive water sports in the world. It didn’t happen overnight, in fact it’s a well-known and documented fact that Laird Hamilton and a few of the boys from Hawaii, such as Buzzy Kerbox and Darrick Doerner were the first to take an inflatable Zodiac raft with a 40 h.p. motor out to a spot called Phantom’s on the North Shore of Oahu in the very early 90’s.

  Their approach was simply to check it out, Kerbox said, “We didn’t even tow that day. We just went out in the boat, checked it out and drove around, while dropping into a 15-footer that almost ran us over. “It was a little creepy and if we’d been caught and flipped with the engine blazing, it could have been nasty,” said Kerbox. It wasn’t until the next go out in 1991 with a 60 h.p. Mercury Outboard when they started to get the hang of a motor assist 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 on Maui’s North Shore (JAWS) to tow into surf even bigger and more powerful waves with the assistance of a PPWC.Towsurfer.com:

So let’s get to the present and talk about your recent move this year. What happened to the house at Backyards that you were renting? I heard that you no longer live there.
Basically my landlord sold the house I was living in. I am in Haleiwa now and it is nice and quiet, just the way I like it. I originally moved to Backyards to get away from the crowds and people. As the years went on, people started hearing about all the fun we were having with all the great waves and solid wind. Eventually, a lot of guys started coming around and catching on. Today there is definitely no more privacy in this area. I pulled the roots of my tree and I have planted them somewhere else. This move has been a good one for me, although scary at first, I have excepted this new positive change in my life.

Did the tow surfing get pretty nuts this past year at Backyards? It seems as though many people are towing in this area.
Not nearly as bad as it sounds or people have mentioned. There are a handful of guys that tow backyards and currently, it’s under control.

So what’s tow surfing like for you now that a full explosion in the sport has taken an effect and empty days at Pe’Ahi don’t really exist?
Actually, empty days still do exist at Pe’Ahi! The explosion in the sport is obvious. For any soul surfer, it’s almost always uncrowded. Then there is the contest minded surfer who shows up the day before the event and the place is jamming with skis until the contest is over. I rarely see anyone out the day after the event is complete. Then it’s just the soul surfers once again.

What’s the latest with potential or new sponsors in the big wave world of tow-in surfing for you? Last we read, you had said the last time you heard from a sponsor they weren’t into sponsoring big wave riders.
Sponsors are good for athletes involved with the sport. It allows them to get paid to train hands on and what a dream job come true for surfing and surfers. I am glad we have given them something to do. As for me, I’m just taking it one day at a time and remaining focused to my program and my team.

At some point, in the beginning, you, Laird, Kalama, Buzzy and the rest must have had visions of this day coming?
Back then it was all about the moment for us and not the future. We were so stoked and excited about what we were doing that when we did it, we made it look so easy, and we still do. As far as progression, I can’t deny this because progress is good for people, allowing it to happen and accept the change that comes along with it. At first, we looked at each other and knew we were creating a monster and we never thought that contests would be developed so early on, especially with some of the teams lacking the years of experience required to tow and survive Pe’Ahi. I think surfers are more experienced than tow surfers because of the nature of the sport. A lot more is involved physically with having to just paddle into the lineup and into position, stroking into a bomb takes timing and guts, losing a board requires one to swim in mean currents and deal with a lot of stress and the list goes on. Tow surfing is so much easier and if one has never experienced what is truly involved during a big and nasty wipeout, you honestly have no idea what awaits. Yes, it is easy to get pulled into a giant wave and let go of the rope, but beware of that GRAVEL TRUCK behind you!!!! An inexperienced tow surfer can put himself or herself in a situation that can make them wish they had never let go.

It’s called evolution and it happens with all new exciting and extreme sports. So where does it all go from here? Full mainstream? T.V., Film and all the rest?
Evolution is good for sports and what is being done. As for full mainstream, it is up to the individuals to choose what he or she wants to pursue. Whether it is to promote oneself or have a hell of a lot of fun with it. Make sure it is for the reasons that make you stoked and proud.

What new projects are you Laird and Kalama currently working on?
Some things are best left unspoken. We’re just doing what we love to do and our tow sessions and projects speak for themselves.

What are your thoughts on tow contests at Pe’Ahi?
It is great for contest minded people. Just don’t do something you normally wouldn’t do for money, and or fame. Your surfing actions and abilities will always speak louder than your words. I wish contests were not being held at Pe’Ahi, and this spot were totally off limits. This isn’t the case and I wish everyone good luck and a safe time during this year’s event.

Where and what is the heaviest tow-in wave in the world that you have personally experienced?
Pe’Ahi!!! It’s the biggest, worst and most perfect wave in the world with the most insane corner pocket inside bowl one could ever experience or even imagine. When and if you do make it to Pe’Ahi, position yourself in the channel, watch and go about it in a very careful way. When you go down and you will, it will be the most devastating experience of your life. Or, if you’re in the channel having second thoughts, witnessing someone else go down, this will be the second most hair-raising experience you will ever witness in your life.

Can you share with us your latest tow designs?
We worked hard and went through many years of R and D, which required patience when we struggled with strap and fin placement, rocker design, board lengths and all the rest of the specs. Today, guys can pretty much get a tow board that will work well in any situation and they don’t have to worry about all the R and D time. We don’t ride boards that work well, we ride boards that work UNBELIEVABLE! This is because our designs today, are perfected almost to a science and we have made the decision to keep our newest and latest developments in the house for obvious reasons. Part of understanding fully what tow surfing is and understanding how and why your equipment works in different situations is so important. Guys have got to put the time into their own R and D, which will make them a more knowledgeable and experienced tow surfer. Besides, a board that works for me may not work for you.

Do you feel the tow designs can change much more?
I believe so, I think wherever you look you will see new designs and changes taking place with towboards. One must make those changes with their boards frequently so that they can fully understand the sport and why one design works better than the other. There are so many technical aspects to tow boards. It would take me 12 years to go through them all.

Are you still as passionate about tow surfing today as you were 5 years ago?
I am absolutely passionate about all ocean big wave activities. Yes, Yes, Yes!

Tell us about your new surf Camp of Champions that you have started.
The camp is geared up for surfers to pursue their dreams in advancing their skills in the ocean. We train individuals with respect to culture, fitness and most of all the sport and art of surf riding.

Thoughts on Ryan Rawson and Makua Rothman?
When I first started working with Ryan, I instantly saw his potential. When Makua starting showing interest, his Dad and I decided to put the two guys together. Their surfing knowledge and waterman skills and capabilities were unsurpassable. They have become one of the best teams in the water today. Their surfing speaks for itself, they know how to have fun with it and they are so young.

You must have been stoked for them when they won the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards last season!
I was so proud of those two guys and what a giant accomplishment for them It is hard for me to explain and to put into words. I am just really stoked for them!

In your opinion, does there seem to be a lot of politics in tow-in surfing with respect to contests and those athletes that are opposed to getting involved.
There is always too much politics for the smart athletes with respect to contests. Whether they choose to compete or not is an individual choice one has to make.

It seems like Pe’Ahi is turning into a big media circus and gold pit. Is this a fair assessment of a spot that was once so pure and empty? If so, how does this make you feel?
The ocean will always be the boss and it will always remain pure and empty. As for the media circus and the gold pit, people will always chase the golden carrot for reasons of their own.

With all the focus and attention on Pe’Ahi during the winter months, this also attracts those that are not ready to push their limits. What are your thoughts on this?
Some people can make things look so easy, but it really isn’t when you come face to face with the monster that I call JAWS. There is so much commitment, preparation and surfing knowledge involved in this sport. I recommend that each team have 25 years combined of surfing small and big wave experience before you come to Pe’Ahi. I also recommend that each team have at least 3-5 years towing experience with a responsible partner before coming to Pe’Ahi. Here is a little story. During a heavy day at Pe’Ahi, I saw a guy with no bathing suit on or wetsuit, lying on the back of a sled and his driver was nowhere to be found. This guy was in the impact zone and so was I during a heavy situation and we were both right in front of the rocks. My decision, based on many years of experience and knowledge of ocean safety and awareness, was not to make an attempt to get the guy but to pass by him because I had literally seconds to protect myself and my partner from going on the rocks. The guy could have died, but fortunately, he didn’t. More importantly, had I gone in for him, it could have been bad news for all three of us. Bottom line, this guy had no business being out there and especially with a partner that was clearly nowhere to be found until later.

How important is training and ocean safety in the world of extreme surfing?
It is the maker or breaker for extreme safety and extreme surfing. The guy I was just referring to in my last answer, clearly needs to rethink his plan and train harder.

What was the closest time you ever came to death while towing?
It was a 12’-15’ small day at Pe’Ahi. I fell into my friend’s track and couldn’t get out. The wave pounded me so hard I couldn’t see straight for a week. I was extremely deep and it was as black as black can get! This wave wouldn’t let me go for a long, long time and I had to fight to get back to the surface. God, that was a close call for me when I think back. That wave pounded me harder than anything I had ever felt or experienced before. Amazing, because it was a small day out there.

How do you prepare for a bad situation?
I know my limits; I am prepared for the worst and like our brother, EDDIE would say, “Never turn your back on the ocean”.

When you experience fear how do you channel this energy?
I have learned to channel this energy into a direction within myself that helps me to remain calm and relaxed. This place within is different for everyone else and some may never learn to find it. It is hard to explain unless you know how to do it and get there.

What advice would you like to give someone who is considering getting into tow-in surfing and what are the first steps to getting there?
The first step is to be able to paddle surf small and big waves. Be smart and respect your fellow surfers. Don’t tow where there are other surfers surfing. Don’t be a loose nut behind the wheel, because if you are a loose nut behind the wheel, beware of your surroundings always. Be safe, don’t become someone’s problem because you will be sounded upon.

What are your thoughts on the new law in Hawaii that all tow surfers have to take a six-hour classroom course being taught by Jim Howe, Brian Keaulana, Archie Kalepa and Ken Bradshaw?
Continued education on water safety, laws, and other aspects to the sport of tow surfing is great and always welcomed. I will be taking the class in the near future….

What are your thoughts on the newly developed Association of Professional Towsurfers (APT)?
It seems as though there is a very impressive Advisory Board list of highly qualified experienced and professional individuals that can have a positive influence. APT is the first truly developed association for the sport of tow surfing and I feel it’s a must for contests and the promoters to have the association supporting its competitive athletes with rules and safety guidelines. On the other hand, for all those that join APT, they need to realize that they will be held accountable for bad decisions made while towing. Whether you become a member or not, each athlete needs to represent the sport and the common rules of tow surfing every time he or she gets on that ski. Laird, Kalama and I see APT as a positive step for competitive tow surfing, but we have chosen not to get involved because we are not in the sport for competitive reasons.

Thanks for your insight and it was great talking with you.
Have a good day Eric, keep up the great work and remember, never turn your back to the ocean. Aloha!

Please visit Darrick website at http://www.campofchampions.com

© copyright 2003 Towsurfer.com/Eric Akiskalian