Proving, it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog, surfing legend Tom Carroll is the perfect example of how mindset is everything in life. Known by fans universally as TC, he has chased the highs of surfing and experienced the lows of substance abuse and overcome injury and chronic pain. He is a soulful, thoughtful and generous man who has found the ultimate body/mind connection through meditation, and is now sharing this gift with others.
As you listen to this conversation you will be taken on a journey and put at ease by the way that he speaks. Tom’s life experience, blokey language and metaphors painted by his love for the ocean create multiple penny-dropping moments - even for the most hardened of Kiwi and Aussie men. He talks of conversations with his dad as a kid, his childhood, the rise to fame, a struggle with addiction and his journey to discovering peace in his life.
This journey starts way back where it all began, when TC was a kid. He tells Dom that he was very hyperactive growing up, and struggled at school, but felt alive when he was climbing trees and out in nature. He always had to be up before the sun, which is what drew him to surfing. He says, “The bigger the waves got, unbeknownst to me, the more I felt connected to it. And the more challenging the conditions, the more I felt somewhat charged up and connected.” The thrill out on the waves, and his natural talent led to a realisation at age 18/19 that he could turn his love for the ocean into a real career. From here, his surge to fame was as hard and fast as the biggest waves he’d ever dropped in on.
The highs of surfing and world fame became intoxicating, and soon nothing was quite enough for the young thrill seeker. Chasing the fast life led him down a dark path of drugs and addiction, which almost cost him everything. He gives us a deep insight into the mind of an addict, and with such clarity explains how someone can come through the other side. When speaking of the sea-change moment that turned it all around, he said that he had to be really on his knees at that point, in fetal position, in fact, to really ask for help, and when he did, he said, “all kinds of cool stuff started to happen”.
As he opens up about this time in his life, it becomes apparent how relatable the tools he acquired in this process are for all types of men- not only for those who have been addicts, because we all go through our own cycles of highs and lows. He explains how to see through the cycles and gain control over the waves of life - something he has now dedicated his life to helping men with.
This episode was recorded back in May, just a few weeks after Kelly Slater made sporting history with his eighth Pipeline Masters title, and famously spoke afterwards about flow state, being in the moment and being present. As a best friend to Kelly, Dom asked Tom for an insight into Kelly’s mindfulness practices. He said, “Well, that's so cool because I was with him through that event, just watching his progress. It was so, like, heart-warming because it's the only thing that kind of allows us to be absolutely and fully ourselves”.
He goes on to dispel the “woo woo” in the words ‘flow state’ and ‘mindfulness’, words most tough guys find a little off-putting, even when they are spoken by their heroes, “You know, it's a bit of a buzzword, flow state, but we're there and even like meditation, the whole thing seems a bit weird. But the science is clear. And if we calibrate ourselves in the present moment, if we practice being present with ourselves at a deep level, all kinds of amazing things can reveal themselves and decision making becomes much clearer. And so, what Kelly was doing in the Masters, he was placing himself in the right place at the right time… he had a great command over that break and had something in him to see the opportunity at that time. He had done a lot of work on himself in the previous year or so too. So I think that really played into it.
What you come away with from the conversation with TC is a new perspective on the idea of meditating, and that finding stillness and learning to quiet the mind is the secret source of two of the greatest surfers who have ever lived. These practices are accessible and not as crazy as we might have previously thought. This stuff really works!
Listen to the episode here. Brought to you by AIA Vitality.
You can also hang with him in person at his upcoming retreat. A Journey with Tom Carroll on the NSW south coast of Australia in February 2023. Surfing, meditation, yoga and ocean guidance. All the details are on the website.