My full name is Tom Robert Lowe, but Loweys what my friends call me. I think this is the first time I’ve ever written about my life in depth, so try and bear with me.
Its kind of strange to think back to my roots instead of looking forward. This professional free surfing thing all happened so fast and unexpectedly for me it still seems a little surreal even now. One minute I was a 20 year old traveling to Ireland for Autumn with no set path to follow. Then, everything changed meeting Mickey and Fergal Smith out amongst the kind of waves I had only dreamt about before.
My path to turning professional wasn’t exactly standard even to begin with. My family dont surf, so it was down to me to get to the beach from a young age. Mum always said that she literally had to drag me back out of the sea to dry land even as a toddler. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by some of the most beautiful beaches in the world as a kid though. I was raised in the small, sheltered fishing village of St.Ives in Cornwall, which wasn’t exactly an ideal place for me to get into riding big waves, but growing up there I know I had it a damn sight easier than most when it came to learning about the sea. Learning was a slow process at home mind,it took dedication,determination and a lot of energy to enjoy the shitty wave conditions, winter storms and flat spells. I rode bodyboards at first in the shore breaks around home, so actually didn’t start stand up surfing till I was 14, which seems really late compared to most professional surfers these days. All my peers were already sponsored and doing alot of comps at this stage, most were on a mission to win comps full time. Perhaps because I started later and skipped all that,its been a strange thing for me connecting surfing with competition ever since.The two just don’t seem to sit right together, I’m all for healthy competition in sports, but to me, surfing is different.
In my school days I found myself in trouble lots, running away was one of my specialities,and surfing was my outlet from the stresses at home and in school. There wasn’t anything my mum or dad could do to make me interested in school, if it wasn’t skateboarding or surfing I just didn’t give it the time of day. I’d given up all sports apart from surfing and skating by the time I left school. Anything else just lacked that natural pure buzz and head space I could only really get from surfing. Im not saying don’t try and get yourself an education here though. The way school was set up didnt work out for me personally is all, it just didn’t seem to cater for individuality, back then at least. When school was finally over I felt like I could start to build as a person, and to me travelling to find bigger and better waves felt like the key to life experiences, to be able to grow as an individual. After a Summer of work, with a crew of mates I headed on a 4 month trip to Indonesia and Australia, and I dont think I’ve ever looked back since. Basic style living by the coast with people you love is still what its all about for me.
My rhythm was always the same for years – come home for summer to work as a lifeguard and save, then pick a cheap place where I could progress my surfing or just hit the road and see what was out there. To be honest I was happy doing that, lifeguarding and labouring for a living were fine with me. I guess it was simple fate that me and two of my best friends decided on living in Ireland one Winter then. I have always been the one out of my crew of mates to do the dares, and I love the feeling of being out of my comfort zone. It makes me feel more alive than anything else. Being uncomfortable regularly was certainly heading my way when I arrived on a solid swell that first trip to ireland, and I soon ended up meeting two people that would change my life.
I was insecure about my surfing back then, probably still am a bit now really. I come from a grounded family, and a small town where as soon as you get a bit of a head on you, people are just around the corner to shut you back down. It was natural growing up to think of your surfing as personal expression and never claim a thing to anyone. Even saying you were just surfing for the soul would get you ripped raw by the boys. It just wasn’t the done thing to talk about yourself or your skills, we were encouraged to let what you could do in the sea speak for itself and that was that.
Anyways, after surfing another heavy Irish spot one day with Mickey and Fergal Smith I ended the session feeling more alive than ever before. That evening Mickey cornered me and asked some serious questions about my surfing. He said that he’d not seen many people in the world attack heavy waves like I had during that swell, and the images he had shot backed up what he was saying. He also said that I would be silly not to take surfing more seriously and to try and get a sponsor. That year I ended up with 3 cover shots and became the first european featured on the cover of the industry benchmark publication – The Surfers Journal.
After all this I took what Mickey had said a little more seriously, and thought lets give it a try, so he put together a website with his mate Ally to try to help me get sponsored. Mickey helped me design a brochure which we sent out to a few companies. I remember at that point I had never competed in a surf contest in my life, and I have only been in 5 comps to this day since, so I literally came onto the scene from nowhere. Ripcurl, Relentless and Vans picked me up, and Ive been with them ever since.
The rest has been a beautiful blur of long harsh heavy northern winters in Ireland, and long dreamy Summers chasing waves of consequence elsewhere during the Southern Winter months.