Jamie Sterling Interview from the 2003 Towsurfer Vault
|Intro: “While I know death is a factor in surfing big waves, I just do all that I can to prepare my body and mind for when something does go wrong. You need to be in the best physical and mental shape possible to attempt these waves. Knowing that I am, allows me to ride the biggest waves in the world.”
TS: You have been on a major role for the past few years always managing to hit the biggest and best swells that are blowing up. What inspires you to keep the big wave hunt on?
JS: I have a big heart for big waves and I’m very interested to see how big the waves are in other places of the world. I want to prove that there’s another reason for becoming a professional surfer and other creative ways to market yourself.
TS: This year you won the Billabong XXL Big Wave, Men’s Performance Award. What was going on in your head while you were up on stage?
JS: I knew I was going to either win the biggest paddle award or the MPA award. I knew they wouldn’t give me both. I was prepared with a full speech and it was great voicing my thoughts in front of the whole surf industry.
TS: Tell us about your Chile adventures and the Red Bull Big Wave Event this year.
JS: Chile has been big and glassy. It is the “cold-water Indonesia” because the waves are so perfect. I have been there twice now this season. On my second trip to Chile and at the last minute, the Red Bull Big Wave Africa event was called on. I had to turn around and fly into Cape Town where I landed at 9 AM and drove straight to Dungeons. I had 45 minutes before my heat started. Talk about hitting it hard. I ended up 4th place and receiving the Best Performance award in that event as well.
TS: How was your tow session in Chile last June? You picked off some bombs and took some major donuts as well. Tell us about the two-wave hold-down.
JS: Yes it was my first two-wave hold-down while tow surfing. I’ve handled another two-wave hold down at Sunset beach but never with a life vest on. It was my second wave of the day. Just Greg Long and I out towing and I went for broke and pulled in really deep and didn’t make the barrel. The waves were probably 15 ft and super hollow. While in the barrel I almost got trapped in my straps but luckily I escaped that situation. Then the wave just pushed me deep, way down past all the turbulence. That is when I knew I was kind of in for the long haul. At that point, I had to decompress my nose as I started breast stroking to the top. Right, when I almost got to the surface the next wave passed over and shook me violently before kindly releasing me. When I came up I was a bit disoriented and it took a few seconds to figure out where I was and what just happened. Greg quickly rescued me and I was all psyched that I had survived that one. It was the moment that hunts all big wave surfers.
TS: Talk to us about paddle vs. tow. For you personally which is more gratifying?
JS: Paddling is so much more gratifying for the soul. You do achieve this feeling through towing only on those rare really big days like when you’re at Jaws or big Phantoms when you know straight out you could not paddle into those waves.
TS: Share your thoughts on safety and training for the sport of tow-in surfing.
JS: You have to be extra safe when towing because egos and fast four strokes don’t mix. When you’re towing remember to go super wide back out through the channel so you don’t wreck the other guy’s wave with your jet ski wake. Go paddle into a 25 ft wave before you try to tow into one.
TS: How important is it to have a solid tow partnership and who are your main partners?
JS: Your driver is the brains of the sport. It is good to go with someone that’s on your same level as a surfer because then he will know what you’re capable of. I trust only a few guys in the world to tow me into waves. [Guys like] Mark Healey, Troy Alotis, Mikala Jones and Donny Darnell, and the chargers on the Red Bull team.
TS: What are some current projects you are working on?
JS: I have recently worked on two TV productions. One in Chile and one in Samoa. I am working on shipping a Red Bull jet ski to Tahiti and that in itself can turn into a big project. I am also doing a big wave documentary on four young, big wave surfers.
TS: Who are some of your mentors in the sport of big wave surfing?
TS: What are your thoughts on a global tow-in circuit and how do you see the key people working together to make this happen?
JS: It will happen. We have to start it small and it will blow up but the surfers need to get reps from each country and region and we need to have a global meeting. Whoever doesn’t show up for this worldwide announcement meeting, will have to sit out and wait until the following year. There will always be followers and those that just simply get shit done. Those that are capable of getting it done need to step it up!
TS: Tell us about your big score in Puerto, Mexico this past June.
TS: Talk to us about your tow-in equipment. What type of PWC’s do you prefer and tow-in boards?
JS: I’m a Yamaha guy. Been riding them since ’98 and they’re what I’m used to. Tow-boards lately have been the 4 fin Stretch design. My boards are around 18 lbs, Future fins, and 5’5″.
TS: Tell us about your worst wipeout ever towing?
TS: Where are you at right now?
JS: Currently I am in Tahiti getting my new Red Bull ski dialed and waiting for a swell.
TS: Any last comments or words?
JS: All the serious big wave riders need to start brainstorming on a Tow-In World Tour. I believe the Association of Professional Towsurfers has a strong foundation that can be utilized for such a tour. We should consider building upon APT’s efforts for the future of the sport.
TS: Right on Jamie! Thanks for your time.
If you or your company would like to contact Jamie Sterling, you may drop him an e-mail at, Sterls@pipelineposse.com
© Copyright 2003 Towsurfer.com/Eric Akiskalian