This week’s conversation is with Tom Carroll on being a maverick, honesty, and risk.

Tom is best known as one of Australia’s great surfers and sportsmen. I have known of Tom since I was a grom (stoked little kid who flat out loved surfing).

With two world professional surfing championships and three wins at Pipeline (one of the heavier waves in the world) under his belt, you’d be forgiven for thinking he’s just a champion athlete.

Rather Tom is a maverick — in many ways.

Reaching the professional level of any sport has its fair share of challenges, but in the modern era, there is generally some sort of path or map to follow — like in baseball or gymnastics, or soccer — there’s a variety of developmental clubs / teams / or university systems that help cultivate and weed out those that have “it” and those that don’t.

Coaching and feedback along the way would be assumed; as would physical training.

Tom emerged in an era where none of this existed and essentially had to figure it out as he went. He was part of the beginnings of the action sport and surf industry, before it was an industry. He was making the map, or at least looking for the bread crumbs that other legends before him left behind.

Tom won 2 titles before he ever saw footage of himself surfing.

That is just hard to conceive in the world we live in today.

This conversation is with a man who fell in love with the water at age 7 and has lived it ever since.

Tom has a relaxed and engaging way of sharing his experiences: as a kid falling for the wild elegance of the waves, as a pro surfer ripping and partying his way around the globe with a bunch of like minded maniacs in the days before social media, as a big wave charger hunting down unridden mountains of water, and as a man who fell into heavy drug use and almost tore it all to bits, before embracing sobriety and re-discovering his better self in the process.

For Tom, rediscovering his better self, came down to honesty. Once he was able to be honest with himself, he could start working on being a better man.

When we think about mastery, I think we are learning there are many paths, many triggers for what drives each of these unique people to go the distance for what they want most.

What I love so much about Tom and this conversation is it’s raw authenticity — his humility — his vulnerability — his ability to take risks (some to progress his skill, others on the darker side of humanness) — and his track record of going big on the world-stage. He’s earned and is still earning his insights.

It’s easy to get caught up in what you should or shouldn’t be doing. The norms of society: how much money you should make, when you should get married, whether you should do this or that.

Tom has carved his own path.

In this conversation it feels like we get to go back to a simpler time where we get to learn about a journey of a man engaging in the purest forms of life.

Tom is authentic, he’s genuine, and he has an incredible story to share.

I hope you enjoy this conversation.

“Honesty is at the very center of our chance for growth.”

In This Episode:

  • Learning to surf in a world where there was little coaching, feedback, and no footage to see what he looked performing
  • The impact of losing his mother at 7: she bought him first surfboard, how that led him to surfing and living in the water, and not fearing it
  • Why deep focus and finding rhythm were key to his continued success in competitions
  • How he turned his passion for surfing into a profession
  • A major turning point for him: tearing his ACL in a wipeout and learning about the importance of proper physical training
  • How his environment shaped his behavior: a culture that was vibrant and cutthroat and why it was a catalyst for risk
  • Why he was able to go so much bigger than some of his friends
  • The dark side: becoming addicted to cocaine and how he came out a better man on the other side
  • Why honesty was the #1 factor in his recovery


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Surfer |

Tom Carroll is an Australian former professional surfer from Sydney. He won the Australian Junior Title in 1978, the Pro Juniors in 1977 and 1980, the 1983 and 1984 ASP World Tour, and the 1987 Pipe Masters.