Ian Walsh Interview from the 2004 Towsurfer Vault
August 22, 2004
by Eric Akiskalian
From: Rhode Island
Current Residence: Maui, HI
Years Surfing: 11
Years Towsurfing: 5
Occupation: Professional Surfer
Sponsors: Billabong, Globe, Kazuma, Boost Mobile, Red Bull, Zest Surf, DaKine and Version Optics
Current Titles: A few…..Most recent, 3rd Place Biggest Tow-Wave 2003/2004 International Towsurfer Awards.
Towsurfer.com: Tell us about your recent 3rd place title win with The International Towsurfer Awards. This must have been a nice little bonus!
Yeah! I was stoked to just be up for an award like this. I wasn’t out there trying to win anything, so to be nominated for any kind of an award, is a total honor.
The January 10th session out at Jaws was one of the biggest days ever towed. Did you have any bad hold downs or any close calls that made you question what you were doing?
Yeah! I went down really hard around noon. I tried to fade this one wave and I ended up loosing a lot of speed in the process. At that point, all I could do is pull up into this big heavy barrel and as soon as I did that, the wave jumped up and clamped shut on me. As soon as the wave hit me, it blew my vests wide-open, unzipped it and I knew at that point I had to remain mellow while I was under. After what seemed like the longest hold down ever, I opened my eyes, started to swim to the surface and all I could see was pitch-black darkness. A second later I surfaced, so my guess is that I was really close to blacking out. Right away I took one more on the head and here I am. It is nice to know that I can take a few bombs on the head and survive. It only makes me want to get a BIGGER one!
Tell us about your tow partner and how long you have been training together?
I have a few really good partners; Ahanu Tson-dru, Levi Siver, Shane Dorian for the Billabong stuff, and my brother Luke Walsh. I don’t really train, just surf a lot and get along with all of them really well. We have all been friends for a long time and know what each other want.
Are you good friends with Makua Rothman and Ryan Rawson the other young guns out at Jaws? Any potential rivalry?
Yes, I am very good friends with Makua and Ryan and get along with them well. We all surf the North Shore of Oahu in the winter and just have a really good time. There is no rivalry at all. We just really push each other to go bigger and surf better. All the young guns push me the most because they are the craziest!
Who are some of the guys that have been training with you and helping you to get prepared for Jaws and other big wave tow spots?
I don’t really train for jaws I just surf every day and when I am at home I will go tow with my friends if it is big or small and glassy. We pretty much pick up a lot of practice in that stuff. Just by knowing where to be. Luke Haragraves showed me how to drive the ski and everything I know about using a jet ski when it is really big when I was about 17. I learned it by going out with him and picking up little pointers.
So you’re doing a lot of traveling this summer. You were just in Japan and now you’re in France. Are you surfing, working or a little of both? Tell us, what’s up?
I am just surfing and that is my job. I am doing the World Qualifying Series to get on the WCT and all the big wave stuff is just because I love doing it. I travel like 9 months out of the year.
What spot is going to be your main focus for towing this winter?
Jaws and some secret spots on Maui.
Being that you are so young, it must be a very exciting time in your life right now knowing that you have at least three or four solid decades of big wave surfing ahead of you.
I am really happy with where I am in my life right now. I am looking forward to every year to see if I can get better and bigger waves than I got the year before.
How stoked are you on this whole tow-in thing?
The tow-in thing is cool but everyone can’t forget where it all came from, the guys at Waimea charging on single fins made out of wood. I still love paddle surfing when it gets huge and getting some bombs. Jet skis are just letting us surf the big waves like we would surf small waves, high performance.
Who shapes your towboards and what size boards are you riding?
Matt Kinoshita of Kazuma surfboards shapes all of my boards from 1 foot to 70. They work really well. I ride a 6’3 at jaws and it seems to work sick.
Rumor has it you are getting a new Yamaha 4 stroke from Red Bull. How did you get hooked up with them?
Yes, Red Bull has given me a 1200 Polaris and I just got a new 4 stroke Yamaha from them. They are one of the most supportive companies ever. I am really stoked to be a part of their family and I like the way they run their program. The team guy Matt Barbour is just a really cool guy and gets along with all of us good. I got hooked up with them a year ago in Tahiti when Matt was down there and it has been sick ever since.
It seems like your family really supports you and your love for surfing. How has their support added to your growth and successes?
My families support is pretty much everything to me. I have 3 younger brothers, Luke 19, Shaun 13, and D.K. 13. They all surf so good. All of them push me to points I didn’t think I could go to. I am in France with Luke right now and he is ripping. Watch out for the twins in a couple of years out at Jaws, they can already fully operate a ski. It is crazy how fast they learn!
What are your thoughts on water safety and training for this extreme sport?
Safety is a big part of all big wave surfing. I don’t think guys should be out there if they can’t handle big waves with just a board and a leash.
What kind of training or workout program are you on?
I do some stuff at a gym on Maui called Lift Gym with a friend of mine, Ben, who is the owner. Ben has helped me a lot in the last few years.
Congratulations again, on your 3rd place title in the International Towsurfer Awards, and thanks for the interview.
No worries, thanks for everything!